Leaving home to study is a challenging task for anyone; and doing so in another country takes this to a whole other level. But tackling a language barrier and cultural differences needn’t be scary. It can be exciting and fun, especially when sharing your experiences with the new friends you’ll make along the way. Choosing to study abroad places you in an elite club, and exposes you to life lessons, global perspectives, and multinational friendships which will transform your life.
Different communities speak different levels of English; but one thing is for certain: wherever you go, a number of people will be fluent. And if your course has students from all over the world, chances are you will speak English together.
Furthermore, the more rarely English is spoken in a given area, the more English speakers will seek you out to practice. Expect lots of friendly strangers approaching you in the hopes of having a quick chit-chat.
Throughout most of Europe and Asia, dinnertime isn’t until 8, 9, or even 10 pm at night. Meanwhile, across the pond, our American cousins prefer to go the other way and have early evening meals.
Prepare for lots of pointless conversations fervently justifying your preferred time.
Everywhere on Earth has rude people. They are the exception to the rule; shrug off these people and don’t let them taint your experience.
Instead, most people will rally around you to help you when you need it. Struggling with the language? Locals will happily translate. Lost in your new town? Look at a map with a confused expression for long enough and someone will make sure you get where you need to go.
Everything is harder to do when you can’t take your home language or comforts for granted. Consequently, you will feel like you’re on cloud nine every time you achieve basic tasks, and deservedly so. You didn’t just buy bread from the bakers; you did it speaking a different language, using foreign currency, navigating a strange city!
Accomplishing things for yourself will make you realise your competencies; and doing them abroad will cement lifelong confidence in yourself and what you can achieve.
It’s a fact of life that things go wrong. And if the unexpected happens while you study abroad, it can feel like the world is ending.
But everything always works out. Really! They just do, so try not to fret.
And for those times when you need a little extra help, most universities or schools have departments to help foreign students resolve difficulties, from visa trouble to housing issues.
In many countries in Europe, it’s legal to drink in public places. In the Netherlands, cyclists have priority on roundabouts. Different countries have different attitudes to queueing. You can try to prepare yourself for as many of these little cultural differences before you leave; but we guarantee you’ll have a number of moments when you’re confused if you’re doing the right thing or not.
No matter how busy or intense your course, you will never escape being reminded that you are living in a different country. This instinctively creates an ‘I am on holiday’ feeling and your inner traveller will want to explore. Weekends are about hitting the road with your buddies and seeing neighbouring regions and countries.
Your parents lied to you. Sorry.
Okay, so the science might be a bit shaky on this one, but the theory goes something like this:
Alcohol isn’t actually necessary here (who are we kidding; most of you reading this are students), but partying and having fun will expose you to relaxed occasions where you can speak a language without worrying about small mistakes.
When you study in your home country, you’ll spend about 50% of your time (if you’re a good student) learning your course and 50% learning life skills and hobbies. When you study abroad, expect the latter to rise to more like 90%. By challenging yourself in a new country, you’ll learn more about yourself and your capabilities, the rest of the world and the people in it, and how our differences make us interesting but that we are ultimately the same.
Just remember to go to your course every so often…
People will ask you where you are from; and many will decide your response is an invitation to share their thoughts about your country: good and bad. Usually, if they have something negative but factual to say, they are right. Be humble, accept every country isn’t always the good guy, and learn.
But nothing will make you prouder of your home nation than being abroad, too. The more differences you discover, the more you’ll appreciate the way you do things back home, logical or not.
Do you want to take a holiday before committing to studying abroad? Browse our late holiday deals and book your next getaway.