Sayantan Biswas is the co-founder of UniScholarz, UniAcco, and UniCreds. A collective of platforms that helps students at all stages of their education journey; be it scholarships, accommodation, or financial help. He has extensive experience in the fields of education management and housing with a technical background from his time at IIT Roorkee. Mr Biswas has shared his expert insights about the challenges faced by students studying abroad.
Going to a new country for higher education is just about the most exciting thing that can happen for most students worldwide. After all the exams, essays, and interviews it takes to get selected, the last thing we feel like doing is thinking about the serious aspects of overseas education. However, it always pays to be aware of the common problems students have faced abroad so that you can prepare for them before getting on that plane. While the exact circumstances may vary, here are some of the challenges a student can expect to face when going abroad.
It should come as no surprise that international education is an expensive endeavour. What many are surprised by, however, is the sheer number of ways one’s finances get tested overseas. It is understandably difficult to account for currency exchange, inflation rates, student loans, where you took those student loans from, your investment portfolio, etc. before even considering your daily expenses.
In general, however, financial stability overseas comes down to planning (done mostly by parents) and responsible spending (which is up to you, the student). As you get to know your new surroundings, you will naturally be able to better gauge the expenses and it can be balanced to maintain a decent standard of living without compromising long-term goals.
Know About: How to ace your IELTS Band Score
Thankfully, today all that financial responsibility doesn’t have to be handled by you alone. Various international student finance platforms specialize in guiding students who are going abroad through the technical aspects of student loans, banking, forex, etc.
Accommodation or rent is generally considered to be the second-largest expense for international students after tuition fees. This is perhaps justified, as this housing is what you will be calling ‘home’ for your time overseas. Inadequate accommodation can make life significantly more difficult through various means: having long commute times to your college, being in an unattractive part of town, having unclear rent policies, unpleasant neighbours, or just poor amenities.
Check Out: 5 Tips to make your SOP stand out
The good news is that most accommodation-related challenges can be avoided by sufficient planning. Researching your destination’s boroughs and transport routes can help narrow down certain areas you want to live in. Furthermore, in popular student destinations like the UK, entire sectors of the property market are devoted to college students. PBSAs (Purpose Built Student Accommodation) are a relatively unknown form of student housing which are designed from the ground up to cater to students in terms of everything from the rent to the floor plan to the amenities offered. Such niches of the housing market are only accessible when you look into how the country’s students live in college towns.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the accommodation process is ensuring that what you see on a site is actually what you will get when you get to your destination. A relatively new option for students is international accommodation managers that partner directly with renowned property managers in the country to get the most accurate information about rents, leases, points of contact, etc., and ensure a hassle-free stay for their clients.
Though often overlooked during overseas travel planning, culture affects every part of a student’s life both on and off campus. The language barrier is an obvious example. Depending on where you are, accents, dialects, and terminology can be vastly different even within English. As a rule of thumb, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Understanding the unspoken rules of a city such as which topics to steer clear of and how formal you should be, can help avoid awkwardness and allow for smoother interactions throughout.
Specifically from an Indian perspective, many students struggle with living entirely on their own. This is especially true of students used to large joint-family settings. A few more minor cultural differences include diet, weather (Europe in general, is far colder and darker), comfort around nightlife activities, etc. None of these is very significant on their own but it is advisable to get used to them before they begin taking a toll on your quality of life.
Unsurprisingly, students feel a range of emotions throughout their time overseas. Excitement, anxiety, relief, etc. While most of these are perfectly natural and even useful, there are certain unhealthy patterns of thought that students may experience during their time abroad.
There is no getting around the fact that as a student in a new country, familiar faces will become a rarity. Students can develop acute homesickness, feelings of isolation, or even unhealthy coping mechanisms in response to this psychological pressure. Furthermore, research suggests that international students are more prone to mental stressors and less motivated to seek help as compared to their domestic peers.
Thankfully, such challenges are being mitigated as international students become more aware of these problems and are encouraged to seek help as and when they need it. Most universities now have in-house counsellors to listen to students and assist them clinically or psychologically as appropriate.