Don’t get us wrong, studying abroad will probably be the best experience of your life. However, there are some study abroad challenges you’re likely to face and we want you to be prepared.
Studying abroad not only gives you a newfound sense of independence, but also prepares you for adulthood. However, like all worthwhile adventures, it will be a bit scary and maybe even overwhelming at times. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one to feel this way.
We’ve pulled together a list of the most common study abroad problems you’re most likely to run into while away from home, along with tried and true tips on how you can deal with them.
Struggling with the language
Even if you choose a country that speaks your language, unique dialects and sub-cultural slang can still be an issue at times. For example, if someone said, “Yeah nah, spose,” what would that mean to you? Most people would have no idea. It’s actually Australian for “I don’t completely agree or disagree, but I see where you’re coming from.” To blend in with the locals, you should soak up your new environment, have conversations with people and consume free-to-air TV and radio.
Dealing with a foreign climate
No matter how much online research you do before you study abroad, you’ll never really know what the weather is like until you get there. Indoor climate control, city infrastructure and even regional quirks can affect what you might wear day to day. Plan to bring only the bare minimum and buy the rest when you get there. If finances are a concern, keep an eye out for secondhand clothing stores known as “goodwill” or “op shops” in some countries.
Getting sick before a deadline
If the flight over doesn’t make you sick, public transport or crowded campus spaces probably will, unless you’re superhuman of course. Make it a priority to know where your college’s medical facilities as well as nearby pharmacies are located. If you are unable to complete your work, don’t hesitate to reach out to your lecturers as early as possible to negotiate an extension. Most importantly, be sure to keep your immune system in tip-top shape with proper eating and regular exercise.
Staying on top of your work
Let’s face it. New experiences will always be more interesting than homework. And, living away from home, you’re bound to have plenty of new things you want try out. There’s no way around this one — you’ll need to buckle down and work smart. You’re there to “study abroad” after all. Take advantage of the many calendar, to-do list and planner apps out there like Google Calendar and Evernote. Your brain will thank you for it.
Running low on cash
Even if you’re managing your money well, you can still find yourself with less than you need. But before you apply for a job, double check the rules around your student visa. Depending on which country you’re studying in, you may be restricted in the type and location of work you can take on. Check campus job boards for opportunities. Keep an eye out for paid focus groups, surveys and human intelligence tasks. Finally, if you’ve got creative talents to offer, try freelancing as a side hustle.
Disagreeing with the customs
This can be a tough one to navigate. You’re never obliged to fit in perfectly, nor are you necessarily wrong for disagreeing with the majority. However, you chose to study abroad, and must respect the people around you. If certain social circles are pressuring you in a way you don’t like, limit your contact with those groups. Find individuals you feel safe with, and spend more time around people who can respect you as much as you respect them.
Making friends in a new city isn’t always easy, especially if you’re shy or introverted. Start with the social and activity clubs at your university or college. Then browse Meetup.com for local hobby, professional and networking groups to expand your circle. If you don’t mind the possibility of romance, try Bumble, Hinge, Tinder, eHarmony, OKCupid or one of the many dating and friendship apps you can get for your smartphone.
More common in the first year and during holiday seasons, homesickness comes with the territory of being away. It’ll hit you hardest when you’re bored, so try to stay active. Connect with people, especially fellow students who may be feeling it too, and embrace as much of your new locale as possible. The more engaged you are in where you are, the less time you’ll have to worry about what you left behind.
Feeling anxious or depressed
Your moods will undoubtedly fluctuate during your time abroad. Exams, assignments and life in your 20’s in general will have an impact on you. Treat your psychological well-being the way you’d treat the well-being of your body. Take note of on-campus or nearby mental health clinics, lean on good friends or join a local support group in your area. If needed, seek out a counselor or psychologist to talk through what might be triggering your anxiety and depression.
The struggle of laundry
The struggle is real. Fortunately, once you know the tricks, you’ll be set for life. Contrary to what your mom says, you can mix your lights and darks provided your darks have already been through the wash a few times. Mind your water temperature, as some fabrics shrink with heat. Heed the labels on your expensive and delicate garments as well as the directions on the detergent packaging. If washing machines/dryers are tough to come by in your living space, utilize local laundromats which are typically pretty affordable.
The benefits of studying abroad definitely outweigh some of the issues you may encounter while traveling, and if you fall in love with the city you’re in, hopefully none of them will faze you. Get involved, explore new places and don’t let money hold you back when you can always take advantage of our discounted flights, hotels and tours!