How to overcome challenges while studying abroad

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Apart from forcing you to live outside of your comfort zone, it builds your resilience so you become more independent and stronger than ever. Like in a hurdle race, crossing every hurdle brings you closer to the finish line, similarly, when you face challenges in your study abroad journey you get a step closer to becoming the new version of yourself.

Apart from the academic qualification some of the most important and less talked about skills you will acquire are soft skills. Skills such as being adaptable to change, flexibility, humility, teamwork, critical thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, and stress management are a few of the added bonuses of challenging yourself abroad. These important qualities set you up for success in the professional world beyond your academic qualification and will set you apart from those with less developed or lacking soft skills. Studying abroad equips you to be brave and to approach problem-solving with determination and confidence. Here are some tips for overcoming challenges while studying abroad:

1. Language barriers

English is an international language so if you are already proficient in English you are a step ahead but if it’s not your native language you are about to get a fast-track course in mastering English. Immersing yourself in a country where English is widely spoken will ensure you are surrounded by the language and will be using it every day for communication. This is the best way to learn any language. Practice makes perfect! Learning the language and local nuances is always helpful. In no time you will be communicating like a local!

2. Cultural adjustments

Moving to a new country can bring about many cultural changes, which can be a challenge for study abroad students. As an international student, it is best if you get up to speed with the history, customs, and traditions that are followed in your host country and have a respectful attitude towards them. Take them as a part of your learning and you will easily adapt to the atmosphere.

3. Networking

Building a network is a very important aspect of studying overseas. Problems become easier to solve when you develop a strong network. Your network can support you with accommodation, food, finding jobs, understanding cultural differences, and transportation. Building a good personal and professional network expands your opportunity to interact, connect and understand many people.

Start conversations with people in seminars, conferences, fairs, and other networking events. Exchange contacts with professors, business professionals and other people to build a comprehensive network. Look for an opportunity to strike a conversation, by trying to find some common ground. Network building can be a slow process, let it happen at its pace without making haste.

4. Finding accommodation

There is no place like home and when you are living away from home finding accommodation that you can call “home” should be at the top of your list. As an international student, it is important that you find somewhere to live that is close to the university premises. A Google search in the area or the University Housing website will provide a detailed list of all of the options. Alternatively tap into your network and find people willing to share housing. Keep your options open and decide what is best for you.

5. Managing finances

Managing your budget is important from day 1. Taking note of your expenses for the initial few weeks will give you a better idea of the potential expenses for the time you are abroad. Stick to the budget that you create for yourself. Spend wisely and look for a part time job to earn money while you study.

6. Combating feeling homesick

This is unfortunately an inevitable feeling when you are away from home for an extended period of time. Don’t be overwhelmed, recognise it for what it is and check in with your family at home on a regular basis. Technology allows us to feel close to family so reach out and talk to your family members as often as you need. Share with them how you are feeling. Find a roommate so that you have company. Stay positive and productive by involving yourself in activities like sports, and cultural events. Go out and make new friends. Socialising gives a feeling of belongingness and community.

7. Adapting to the climate

A new country comes with its own weather conditions. Do some research before leaving home and prepare as much as possible beforehand. You could potentially be leaving home in winter and arriving in another country in peak summer. Preparation is key. Make a list of all the things you would need to settle into your new surroundings and prepare for all seasons!

8. Ensuring safety

Understanding safety precautions and tips in a foreign city is very important. What not to do is just as essential as what to do. As you won’t be familiar with your new surroundings, do your research or go places with a friend if you can. Understand what to do if you run into trouble and memorize the paths and routes in and around your area. Be alert but not alarmed. Once you are more familiar and confident with your surroundings you can relax a bit more.

9. Be prepared

You have embarked upon a new journey, and you should be ready to take on all of the adult responsibilities that come with it. Prioritize your tasks according to their importance. Plan your time and days for domestic chores such as grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning, without compromising on your study time. Don’t forget to also schedule time for adventure and relaxation. Remember one thing, this experience is going to change your life. So, go for it!

10. Understanding the food options

What food options are accessible to me? Is it suitable for me? If the answer is NO, then it is better learning to cook the dishes you like. The point is that you should be able to have a good number of food options when you start staying in your dream country. In multicultural countries you can get access to every kind of food product that you would need to make home cooked food. Instead of relying on outside food, start cooking easy-to-cook, healthy meals that you love and you will feel so much better.

There is so much to do, see and learn when studying abroad so don’t be surprised if it can feel overwhelming at times. If you refer to these tips and seek help when you need it you will have the best experience!

Want some more tips to have an exciting study abroad experience? Contact your Gradstar Dream Maker now!

Date Published: Dec-21-2022

Our Dream Makers are expert listeners, educators, career consultants and student supporters. They co-design your study abroad experience with you to empower you to reach for the stars. Because dreams deserve a helping hand.

About the author

Gloria is an educator and a writer with over 8 years of experience. Being an educator she has always enjoyed understanding students' goals and aspirations and guiding them for their paths ahead. Working with higher secondary students has given her a flexible perspective on the ecosystem of education. Apart from being an educator, she loves writing blogs and articles. She stands today as an educator and a writer to explore more of herself.