Dr. Rajika Bhandari, international higher education expert, shares important things students need to prepare before studying abroad.
When I started to leave my home country of India to study in the US, I was a naive 21-year-old young man, full of ideas and dreams about America but barely understanding what was to come, the challenges when it comes to being an international student in a different country and culture, as well as all the wonderful opportunities that studying abroad has to offer.
Most international students know what it takes to study abroad, but there are many other factors that are important to your success and happiness while studying abroad. Here are five things I find important but not many students think about when starting a new education. My advice comes not only from my personal study abroad experience, but also from my work over the past two decades as a researcher, observing the experiences of international students, and from meeting and teaching. , mentoring many international students from all over the world.
1. Different classroom culture
For students from many parts of the world - as was my case - the sense of power in the classroom is very different from that of Western countries like the US and UK. How many of you struggle with the thought of calling your professors by their first name, raising your hand in class, or even asking your professor a question? I was too shy to speak up because I was constantly worried about being seen as stupid.
As an international student, you have a unique voice, so push yourself and try to turn this mental conversation into a real dialogue with your professors and classmates. Participate in the exchange of information, find ways to work individually and ask all the questions you are trying to ask.
2. Experiment with learning
Education systems in countries like the US encourage flexibility, experimentation, and interdisciplinary learning. The advantage of this incentive is that you can broaden your interests and explore different disciplines while still a student. Do not underestimate this opportunity.
I originally came to the US to study Psychology but my majors and interests took a different path. This is because I am first exposed to certain ideas and subjects and decide where they lead me. Therefore, do not pass up the opportunity to experiment with different subjects, studies, and disciplines than originally intended during your study abroad period.
3. Scholarship opportunities and grants
One of the harsh realities of being an international student is finances. Student visas often limit the number of hours you can work while studying abroad so it won't help much financially.
However, if you expand your network and do your research thoroughly, you will often find a lot of scholarship opportunities available to international students. In addition to the famous and highly competitive full scholarships, many universities have smaller grants and grants to support international students in a variety of ways. Remember to do your due diligence and don't be afraid to email external organizations and your higher education department or international office to inquire.
4. Studying abroad is not just a learning opportunity
When studying abroad, remember you are not just starting an academic journey. This is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in a completely new society and culture.
Our understanding of other countries is often based on the media we use, which can be misleading or incomplete. How much do you really know about the society you're about to enter? Do you know anything about the history of that country? How aware are you of social injustice or inequality in that country?
Leaving your home country gives you the opportunity to face your own biases and realize the injustices in your home country or in the country you came to study in. The American study abroad experience challenged my ability to think and assume in ways I could not have imagined.
5. Opportunity to become a global citizen
Finally, as you begin your study abroad journey, think of yourself as an unofficial global ambassador - a diplomat from your home country, bringing cultural insight to classrooms and corners of the country. you come to study abroad.
You can bring what you have learned back to your home country or elsewhere. As you prepare to study abroad, consider your future place in the world and how best to shape your education and time abroad to become a global citizen.