On education in Europe and the USA

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Fears vs Reality: Stereotypes That Shouldn’t Stop You From Studying Abroad

Getting Started: Why Going Abroad Feels Exciting

Often there comes a moment in life when you crave changes, wanting to leave the town, the country, the continent, the hemisphere, indeed, the globe that very same night. At least, this is what happened to me at a relatively tender age, as I felt the freedom to make paramount life decisions related to my education. However, as I was packing my suitcases, and then was carried away by the plane to begin my studies in the United States, I was overtaken by many fears. The visions of the awaiting enormous school building, the comfortless student accommodation, a series of new acquaintances, essentially, a new life, made me numb with distress. Maybe not so intensely, but this is what many of us feel just envisaging, or already having a clear plan of studying abroad.

Staying Connected: Keeping in Touch Across Miles

Some widely common stereotypes about being an international student include many things, but here we will consider a few that haunted me the most, and maybe you as well, and I’ll tell you why they are not worth going into terror for.

The first, and the worst, was my fear of starting a new life, despite the fact that this is what I strived for, signing up to study far away from home. Losing special connections with those you love seems like an inevitability when being three thousand (or more) miles away. However, studying abroad is not for the fearful, it is for the bold. Therefore, I want to reassure you that it is definitely possible to maintain strong connections with people over a long distance, as long as you discuss your communication needs. It is not as effortless as sustaining personal connections while living in the same town, but we part to meet again. The best advice here is to make a communication schedule, in spite of how foolish this sounds. For example, if communicating over a video call every Monday at 8 pm suits you both, keep it up and stick to your ‘meeting’ times whenever possible.

In any case, it is also crucial to maintain your independence. Your community does define you, but it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of an inseparable unit. Being alone and your own person is a useful skill to have. Even though humans are social creatures, solitude can often be beneficial when thinking about your feelings, ideas, hopes, problems, and experiences. It is also an opportunity to appreciate the existing connections and even improve relationships.

Finding Your Place: Making New Connections

Nonetheless, a great mistake that many new international students make is spending most of their free time online communicating with old acquaintances, instead of making new connections and discovering a present-day place of living. In this manner, you’re going to be drained not only by isolation and despair but also by the fact that your potential is unreasonably managed. Try joining societies and clubs at your place of education, or obtaining friends among those who speak your first language, which can be easier at first. It will inevitably bring originality into your life, so it will sparkle with new colours.

Throughout my path, I indeed lost contact with people that were close to me due to misunderstandings and miscommunications caused by distance, yet, I found something better - the beginning of a long journey that led me to hundreds of wonderful outcomes. So it is important to remember to do what is best for you.

Adapting to New Cultures: Embracing Diversity

The second fear, which I think is quite common, was staying alone in an unfamiliar place. What frightened me was the differences in mentality and culture that could’ve potentially blocked me from creating strong and meaningful connections. However, when you find yourself in a melting pot of cultures, it inevitably transforms into a beautiful network of friends. Where else would have I met people from every continent if not in an international school or university? Even though the process of adaptation is always burdensome, no matter how often you’ve moved or travelled, it is vital to understand that there is going to be a lonesome period of time before you make new acquaintances. Yet with time and effort, you’ll arrange yourself a friend circle.

Exploring Alone: The Joy of Solo Travel

To be fair, this next fear is not mine. Living in about six countries (somehow I managed to lose count) taught me the resistance to the fatigue and anxiety that often follows new travellers. It is something that I often hear from friends who want to repeat my journey and begin studying abroad. They all asked me the same question, “How do you not get exhausted travelling so much?” What not everyone comprehends is that travelling is a major part of my education. Even though travelling alone can be daunting, especially if you're not used to being on your own, you’ll learn so much just by completing a long journey all by yourself. Over time, travelling independently will help you discover an inner strength by experiencing plenty of “firsts” and developing the ability to put yourself out there. As a sense of self-reliance and boldness in your abilities start to evolve, the established confidence can translate to other areas of your life, helping you feel more capable and self-assured in your daily routine and studies.

Overcoming Language Barriers: Learning Through Immersion

The next scary stereotype I want to talk about is the language barrier. There is a good probability that you’ll encounter a language barrier in spite of how long you’ve studied the language. Before I went to a boarding school in the United States, I was studying in a British School with English being the classroom language. Nonetheless, the variations in accents and local slang made me struggle to be one hundred percent certain that I was aware of everything that was going on in the lesson. Moreover, assuming that your dream school’s classroom language is not English, the language barrier probably makes you feel bewildered and confused or gives you the impression that you are inevitably going to miss crucial information. As a result, studying abroad today sounds less like an adventure and more like a challenging experience, isn't that, right? Yet, I hasten to gladden you, that as you’ll be immersed in the community that speaks the language, the process of learning will be a hundred times more rapid.

In pursuit of my dream of being fluent in Japanese, I spent a month living in Tokyo, taking language classes and being fully immersed in the language-rich environment. As a result, regardless of Japanese being one of the most complex languages that I encountered, I soon noticed speedy progress. Of course, no one is saying that dealing with a language barrier will ever be simple, but that should never stop you from following your dreams.

All in all, choosing to work or study overseas, be it at a boarding school or as part of your degree, can never be a poor choice. It will help broaden your horizons and allow you to gain a global perspective. Being able to travel to another part of the world and explore a new country develops useful life skills, while the cultural exchange you experience will contribute to your personal growth. Remember, the stereotypes that you will inescapably hear shouldn’t turn into fears, as there would never be difficulties that you won’t be able to conquer on the way to achieving your goals.