Do the benefits of studying abroad justify the difficulties?


Studying abroad is an opportunity. An opportunity that not everyone gets in life. This is an opportunity to know and understand a different culture, an opportunity to live outside your comfort zone, face the difficulties and come out with flying colours. This helps in broaden the horizon of learning human behaviour and social interaction. The understanding about the world gets better because one realises that the problems across countries and communities are similar but still different. This is a chance to live with people who may not be wearing similar type of clothes, or eat the same food or behave similarly. And this poses challenges and tickles the brain to stimuli. People learn how to adjust, compromise, deal with challenges at every step, appreciates other people and their culture. And each challenge, makes the person stronger who can face the world with confidence and agility.

These benefits come with greater risks and difficulties. Studying in a foreign land means one may not have the full rights or safety as otherpeople (citizens). There could be several dangers that includes life threatening. Though, students are welcome in most of the countries but some places are just not safe to venture out alone or at a certain time. The food that one is so accustomed to eating at home can be totally different in new place. People open to exploring other cultures, it is still easy for them but not all are ready to eat something totally different every day. The fashion and clothing changes. The living conditions may change too. Different countries have a different style of housing plus rental pricing also influences the student’s accomodation. If the chosen university invites students from all over the world then there would be people of all shapes, sizes and colour, would be roaming around in the campus.

My personal experience has been great. Though there were initial hiccups but everything turned out to be in my favour in the end. The first day I landed in the new country, I could smell the land, the air and the freedom with a tinge of anxiety. While I was walking at the airport towards the baggage pick up location, I was looking around with wide open eyes. This was my first trip to a foreign country. The people looked so different. I felt like an alien. And whenever I saw another human of the same race and colour, there was a glint in my eyes. I smiled at few in the hope that I will get a response. But they didn’t care or responded. It was disheartening. I reached the Visa officer for immigration and handed over my documents and smiled, even she didn’t reciprocate. I was thinking in my own chain of thoughts – Why don’t people respond? No one told me, it’s ‘culture’ and that’s why, different. I picked up my luggage and came out of the door. I had the address in my hand but didn’t know how to go. I had researched on transport options. I had to choose the cheapest as I was  a student and knew that this was one of the most expensive cities in the world.

I took the subway and there was this address in my hand. While sitting on the train I was looking at people. Each one of them was doing their own things – most of them had earphones on, had a smartphone in hand and looked busy. It was so quiet that the sound of the engine was beaking my line of thoughts off and on. The silence around me was scary because I had come from a culture where people just like to talk and argue about everything. One of the stations, I saw an Indian girl who had books in her hand and a bag on her back, she looked like a student. With a little apprehension I approached her and showed her the address, as soon as I opened my mouth to ask, everyone around me in the train started looking at me. I was wondering whether they were actually listening to music or just pretending. I just ignored and focussed on what girl was telling me. She told me that I was on the wrong side of the train and I should get down on next station to catch opposite side train and find a station closer to my address. It was so disappointing and frustrating as it was my first day in the new country, my last meal was on airplane and I had still not figured my nothing was going right. I got down on next station. I wanted to confirm the address again but couldn’t dare to stop passerby. Everyone was rushing or on some kind of mission. I stood at the station for a while and was almost in tears. Luckily I found a lady wearing a red uniform and there was a black stick in her hand. She was guiding people who were boarding the train and asking her to stand behind the yellow line. Luckily she noticed me with the baggage, standing in despair. She came and asked me to go to the counter to check my baggage. Initially I was bit taken aback. Why do I have to get my baggage checked for no reason? Nevertheless, I was new to the country and its procedure so I went and got my bag checked. And then I asked the same lady about the address. She told me the way and after that, I never had much issue reaching the destination safely. “Safely” is a redundant word because this country was/is the safest in the whole world.

So that was my first day but though I had several challenges during initial days of settling in, but then I settled very well. And now almost close to ten years in the same country – completed my studies, got a job and happily married with two kids. I don’t feel an alien anymore. I am doing very well in my life, career and my kids love this place. I have been benefitted a lot more in this country than facing the challenges.

Everyone has to face challenges no matter where they stay. Life is all about challenges. But bigger the risks, higher the gains.

Choosing a country to study abroad can be based on several factors:

1)      The country has the best university in the world. And that is the choice of an individual. A lot of students aspire to be a particular university and they would go any length to be in that place.

2)      One has relatives or kinships in that country. I chose this country because I knew someone here who could guide me during my initial days. Trust me, it is very helpful when you go to a country where you know someone beforehand.

3)      Overall expenses to study in the country is cheaper. Sometimes finance is also a key factor in deciding which country to choose. Because as a student, unless one has savings from the previous job, they are dependent on family or parents for their expenses.

4)      Safety and Security in the country. I come from a developing world where sending girls abroad for higher studies is a big thing. My parents’ biggest concern was my safety and security. Though it kills them from within, but sometimes they have no choice but to bow down to their kids’ decision. It was very hard for them but they also had an assurance that the country I am going to, has the “safest” tag in the world so they have to worry less comparatively.

5)      Job opportunities post-completion of studies. This is an important factor as well because mere studying in a different country will not get you the exposure and life in that country. It is important to work in the same country for a while to get a better understanding of work, life and culture in the country. A degree from any country is valuable when you work in the same country after completing the course. Also a lot of students take loan for studying abroad and it is easier to pay off the loan amount if one manages to find the job in same country. Like I did.

Those are some of the points that I had considered when I planned to study abroad. And as one can see that though there are challenges, opportunities outnumbered them. It shines and grooms you as a human being. And when you return to your own country after gaining that knowledge, you can add tremendous value to your own society. And other people can learn from you and grow.