Your experience studying abroad can depend on many factors: friends, the local culture, the university, the course… even the food can make or break your time overseas. If you get this feeling that you’re “just not doing it right”, you’ve probably got a point. But don’t start running home, swearing to never return to academia, just yet!
Here are three common mistakes that international students make while studying abroad. Check to see whether you’re making one or all three of them before throwing in the towel.
1) You expect everything to function just like it does at home
As a Hong Kong person who’s used to underground trains running perfectly on time and maintained to a spotless standard, using the tube in London for the first time was a life-changing experience.
- Why are the cabins so small? Why am I sweating profusely when it is snowing outside? Why are the seats made of material? How do you even clean that?!
I’ve lived in London for five years and still ask myself these questions every time I step on the tube. But now, I’ve come to accept that it’s just “how things are” here and there’s just no point making a fuss about it. You don’t need to love everything about your new study destination, but complaining about it and comparing it to home will just be pointless and make you miserable in the long term.
When faced with something you hate in your new temporary home, the best thing to do is to try and learn to love it for what it is. If that fails, do as your parents would tell you to do and chalk it down to “life experience”.
2) You’re bored to tears (but you only leave the house once a week)
This town’s SOOO boring; there’s absolutely nothing to do!; all the fun things cost too much!; it’s too cold to go out… I’m so bored!!!
While these can all be legitimate reasons to complain to an extent, I truly believe that life is what you make of it. If you insist on being bored and blaming your study destination, then that’s your choice, but don’t blame me when you have no response to “Grandma/Grandad, what was the most exciting thing you did at university?”
If you want excitement in your life, go and seek it out! Ask around; what are the locals doing? See if there are any meet-ups that interest you. Go to the student union and check out the notice boards. There is no excuse for being a boring old fart while you’re studying abroad!
3) All your friends are international students on exchange and you’re there for 3+ years…
Of course it’s natural to hang out with like-minded people who are finding the study-abroad experience exciting. International students on exchange know they’re only somewhere for a semester or two so naturally, they’re going to be amazing to hang out with. Their year abroad probably doesn’t count very much towards their overall grade so they’re the ones who will be partying the hardest.
But what happens when those international students leave? You’ve still got another few years to go! Who are you going to hang out with then???
Diversify your friendship portfolio a little. Make friends with people that will stick around for a few years as well to avoid singing “All by myself” when the new semester starts, à la Ms Bridget Jones…