You are in a new place, you don’t know anybody, there’s no one to look out for you, it’s cold, and the food is strange. As an Indian student who lived in the UK for over three years, I know what I’m talking about. I also know well the range of problems that students abroad face – academic, financial, emotional, and social. But the good news is that it gets better with time.
In this post we will look at the major difficulties faced by students abroad in their first year and how to deal with them to the best of your ability.
Finances are a pain
Most people who choose to study overseas are from Asian countries, paying thousands in fees in currencies that are much stronger than their own.
That alone puts the spanner in the works considerably. One is always counting their pennies in the currency of their country of origin and as a result feels guilty over making unnecessary purchases. Which, by the way, are inevitable. One does hang out with one’s classmates, right? One does pop over to the local chippy’s and sample some yummy fish and chips, right?
You are in a new country, surrounded by new cultures and cuisines, it would be criminal not to partake any of that!
And yet, it costs money.
To make the most of the money they have, the student resorts to cheap living. In fact, she takes it to an all new level. She only buys the cheapest milk, the cheapest bread, the cheapest eggs, and so on and so forth. One starts holding rice and noodles in special regard because they are so cheap, easy to cook, and very easy to find. They tick all the boxes!
The result of all of this is that you do end up looking like someone who has been ignoring their health. The cheap living encompasses all areas of life. That includes buying the cheapest shampoo, the cheapest makeup, the cheapest clothes, the cheapest shoes, and you end up looking like, well, no points for guessing really.
And that in turn may end up hurting your self-esteem.
How to deal with it:
Take up a part-time job so that you can take some pressure off yourself.
That job doesn’t have to be about flipping burgers or delivering pizzas. If you are good with writing, you could work remotely. Ghost writers are always in demand and freelancers can command good money. Look to your skills for the best guidance.
Keep on reminding yourself that this is a temporary situation.
You are currently sacrificing for a bright future. If you begin to feel depressed due to your financial situation, remind yourself of your goals in life and how everybody home would be proud of you of chasing your ambitions.
Look for healthier alternatives.
A kilo of apples aren’t necessarily more expensive than a packet of crisps or a few packets of noodles, but certainly a lot more healthy (and you don’t want to fall sick in a foreign country). Bananas are even cheaper. Check out the daily half-price section at your local supermarket for regular, affordable deals. Be smart with your money, but not so cheap that you fall ill.
Emotions are more painful
It’s natural to get homesick when you are studying abroad, especially on birthdays, anniversaries, and big yearly celebrations. The period of Christmas is especially tough to take since all around you people seem to be going “home” to celebrate the occasion with their loved ones and yet you can’t do it yourself since you are a thousand miles away, already in debt, and won’t be able to afford the ticket. It’s also natural to get bored and depressed at times, especially during the colder months and during weekends when establishments shut early or if you are not able to go out because you are watching your spending.
How to deal with it:
- Get a cheap calling card for your country and each time you get emotional and homesick speak to folks back home openly. They will do their best to cheer you up.
- Cultivate a good circle of friends where you live, and make it a point to go out with them regularly. It’s important to stay in the loop regarding what is happening but it will also take your mind off troublesome thoughts.
- Cultivate a hobby. Learn cooking. Or painting. Or a new software. Or yoga. Learn about the country you are in, take an interest in their culture. Doesn’t have to be expensive and free tutorials are available online. YouTube is an awesome source of excellent tutorials. Polish your skills, learn new ones, and have a great time doing all of that. The idea is to keep yourself busy and productive.
- Meditation is a life saver. Won’t be an exaggeration if I said that this thing helped me from dying when I was in London. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration actually, but only to make a point. Nothing diffuses tension, anxiety, negativity, distraction, and plain bad thoughts like meditation does. It’s easy to learn (online tutorials again!), you can do it anywhere, and if you do it regularly you will be much calmer, positive, clearer in your mind, and better able to focus on your studies.
- Start a blog based on your experiences of living abroad. Talk about your travails, joys, and sorrows. Give your readers a sneak peek into your mind and life. Who knows, you might end up inspiring others!
- Accept that some days will be worse than others, but also accept that it’s just an emotion and it will pass.
Friends are extremely important
Students abroad often tend to stick with the ethnic groups they are a part of. Nothing wrong with it. But don’t shy away from socializing with people of other ethnicity and cultures as well. Most people are friendly, and deep down people are all the same.
In the meantime, continue being in touch with friends back home or in other places. Thanks to facebook, skype, and whatsapp, this has become very easy. Make the most of this wonderful technology.
Participate in different types of cultural programmes. Visit churches and temples (if you don’t mind). Celebrate different types of festivals with your friends of different backgrounds. Keep yourself surrounded by well-meaning people. A good friend circle will become an excellent support system when you are far away from home.