March 3, 2011

Education Abroad – 10 Tips to Survive in a Foreign Environment

Education of the highest quality is most often the key that unlocks many doors in life, and this is why many of us are willing to do whatever it takes to gain the best of this most valuable asset. We burn the candle at both ends, we burn the midnight oil, and we even cross the seven seas if it means we are admitted to the best universities abroad. 

However, the downside of studying in a strange country is that your emotional wellbeing or lack of it plays a significant part in determining how successful you are academically. It’s only when you’re able to overcome homesickness and loneliness in a foreign environment that you can not only survive, but thrive in a challenging and competitive academic setting. So if you’re headed abroad for higher education, here are a few tips to help you cope:

1. Plan ahead for your stay abroad – it could be for a year or two and you may not be able to come home before your studies are complete because of time and financial constraints, so prepare yourself emotionally for a prolonged separation from your friends and family. 

2. Research the country you’re going to, the place you will be living in, and the university that is going to be your home for the next year or more. The more you know about a place, the less foreign it is to you. Find out what the climate conditions are, what food is readily available, what modes of transportation are used, how the people react to foreigners, and if there are many folks from your country around. 

3. If you are not fluent in the language that is predominantly spoken in the country you’re going to, take a few classes before you leave so you don’t feel completely like a fish out of water. 

4. Ensure that you have the right kind of clothing to weather the local climate – it’s often cheaper to buy what you need in your home country. 

5. Make sure you have adequate funds to cover your education and your other expenses – you would need to pay your tuition fees upfront and keep aside an amount for your boarding and other expenses.

6. Check if your visa allows you to work abroad – most countries permit students to work part-time for a certain number of hours during semesters (or terms), and full-time during vacations. This could provide a source of additional income.

7. Reach out to students and others in the community who are from your country – this should help you get settled in without feeling too homesick. But also remember to make other friends too instead of limiting your circle to only people you’re comfortable with.

8. Don’t let your loneliness or working hours distract you from your lessons – you’re in a strange country mainly for your education, so focus all your attention on your grades and ensure that you keep your nose to the grindstone to remain in the competition. Set aside a few hours every day to revise your lessons and complete your assignments instead of leaving them till the last minute. 

9. Invest in low cost options to keep in touch with people back home – Skype and other video conferencing solutions over the Internet allow you to communicate effectively with your loved ones without eating into your bank balance. 

10. And finally, obey the laws and respect the customs of your temporary home – you don’t want to offend people or get on the wrong side of the law when you’re a student in a foreign country; the legal and long-term implications could ruin your life forever. 

This guest post is contributed by Paula Dierkins, who writes on the topic of Online PhD Degree. Paula can be reached at her email id: paula.dierkins[@]gmail[.]com

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