Study Abroad

Traveling abroad can present its problems under any circumstances. Try being an international student in the twenty-first century and you will realize the challenges in a different light.

Definition

According to Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), international students include anyone who travels to a country other than their own with the intention of tertiary study. However, there may be some variables in the definition of international students depending upon each country’s expectations.

Obtain a Passport

The first thing one must consider is obtaining a passport. This is a rather simple process, but a necessary one. You should go to a site such as Travel.state.gov and follow the criteria listed.

Overcoming Family Obstacles

You have learned about an exciting opportunity to study abroad but your parents have some serious and legitimate concerns. First, consider the obstacles from their perspective. Acknowledge their concerns and have a plan to address their concerns. Show your parents that you have a well-thought out plan to address all safety barriers. You will most likely have been in touch with a study abroad advisor. Offer to have your parents meet with your advisor with you.

Your advisor is experienced with addressing parental concerns and will be able to help to dispel the many misconceptions that may hinder your parents approving your experience abroad. Prepare a list of online sites for your parents to visit prior to attending the meeting with your advisor. This will demonstrate to your parents that you want them to be informed and comfortable with their decision. Your advisor can help you with a list of good sites that are educational.

Be prepared to respond to your guardians in respect to what is motivating your desire to study abroad. Ensure that you have a list of long term benefits from the experience. Discuss how others have benefited from participating and studying abroad. Explain how the world is becoming increasingly global and such experiences will open doors in almost every employable opportunity.

Faculty Adversity

Often times it will be the faculty of the institution that you are attending that will offer some objections. The resistance may be that the professors contend that you will be better prepared by remaining at the home institution. You would be well served to speak with the study abroad office. If your institution does not have one, visit the humanities department and speak to a foreign language specialist. Ask for their help in contacting your academic adviser. Most of the foreign language instructors or study abroad faculty will be adept in explaining the benefits of studying abroad.

Financial Aspects

There are now more overseas students studying abroad than ever before. However, the area that seems to hinder most students who wish to study abroad is their fear of how to finance the potential experience. There are many factors to consider such as transportation, lodging, currency exchange, and of course, the cost of tuition abroad.

You may be surprised to determine that the cost may actually be lower than remaining at home. You financial aid may actually be transferrable. There are scholarships that are solely available for students studying abroad. There are locations where currency exchange may work in your favor. College tuition is often higher in the United States than in foreign countries. With appropriate planning, fund raising opportunities also exist in order to raise the money to sponsor your trip.

Culture Shock

Culture Shock is a very real phenomenon. Preparing for culture shock is wise. Understanding in advance that while at first you may be excited about the newness of such entities as new foods, different forms of transportation, and making telephone calls in a different format, you may not realize how numerous changes may add up and may lead to a feeling of frustration and perhaps even feelings of depression. Actions of isolation may follow. All these reactions can escalate into negative views and a desire to end the experience. Knowing that these reactions are a very real possibility and a plan of action to overcome such
responses will be most beneficial. Connect with others who can identify with your experience and help you in your adjustments by walking you through the changes will help immensely.

Personal Apprehensions

One of the largest but not often addressed blocks to traveling abroad are the barriers that the individual may set for themselves. Change is always scary. I have a favorite saying, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” If you have thought through all of the obstacles above thoroughly and still have objections, you may need to reflect on what is truly at the heart of the issue. First, accept the fact that you will have some fears. We all fear the unknown. Realize this is natural. While this may be helpful to realize, it may not be sufficient. Take the time to speak to others who have traveled abroad. Ask them how they felt prior to the experience. Identifying
that they too felt the same fears but were extremely happy that they overcame those fears will help you as well.  Allow them to share their experiences of culture shock and how they overcame those issues. If you have not done so already, study the culture of your destination. Read online or books that are available any literature related to your potential experience. Watch movies or documentaries that help you to feel a virtual connection to your designated destination.

The idea behind all of this is to get a better understanding of the place where you are going. Probably the best option for allaying your fears is to talk to other students who have already studied abroad, particularly with the program or in the area that you’ll be studying. Students who have already been abroad can tell you what it was really like. They understand your concerns because they’ve been in your shoes. They can tell you what the classes and people were like, how they dealt with culture shock and embarrassing situations, what they learned, and how their lives were changed by their amazing experiences. While no two people will have exactly the same experience abroad, you can learn a wealth of information from those who have been there before you. Study ahead of time on the various reactions dependent upon such factors as age, gender, or even your own level of differential cultural experiences. If possible, try to take on the new experiences a few at a time and make a gradual transformation.

Reflect on the Benefits

Reflect on the benefits of experiencing new cultures, interacting with those from a different background and generally seeing a different way of life. Realize how much you will be intellectually and spiritually enriched. Think how much confidence it will build in your abilities to adjust to new situation. Such experiences will not only help you to gain a tolerance of differences, as you experience and acquiring the skills of cross-cultural communication, but it will help you grow within yourself in additional immeasurable ways. Think of the feelings of well-being you will acquire in knowing that you have given as much as you have received. Your visit to another country will assist others in gaining the cross-cultural experience as well. You will be helping to dispel many myths about your native country as well.

You will be more attractive as a potential candidate for a perspective employer as you have clearly demonstrated that you are not afraid to undertake a challenge, have a sense of adventure and are someone who will step out of your comfort zone if a situation commands the need.