The Drawbacks of Studying Abroad & How to Overcome Them
written by: Natalia Brophy•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/8/2011
Being an international student has amazing advantages, however it does have its disadvantages too. Wondering whether they are worth going through? Let's take a look at various international students' disadvantages and what you can do about them when studying abroad.
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No matter how much you learn about the country you are going to be studying in and how well you prepare yourself, culture shock is almost unavoidable. The way people dress, the way they eat, talk and think may seem completely different than what you read on the Internet or in travel guides.
Try not to stress out about it too much and not to be overly critical, especially in the beginning. Don’t pack your bags the first week of your stay in another country, because it will get better. As time goes by, things will start making more sense and you will be able to look at the culture from a different angle, which will be less judgmental.
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Culture shock often causes homesickness. You can’t understand the new environment and you don’t feel comfortable in it. You miss your friends, family and your country where everything is familiar and everyone understands you.
Again, give it some time. You may never completely understand the new culture, but soon you may even be able to love it and embrace its differences.
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The Ability to Understand
Another disadvantage for international students includes the ability to understand and speak the language (assuming that the language is different from their own).
Since you may be studying in a foreign language, you are going to have a harder time than domestic students in your class. You will have the same assignments and the same amount of time to complete them and it is not going to matter to anyone that it is not your first or not even fifth language. Coming to a different country and becoming an international student was your choice, so now you are responsible for keeping up with your peers.
Many international students have a hard time understanding their peers, because in many countries students like to use informal language or slang, which is not found in books and dictionaries. It doesn’t even have to mean foul language. For example, international students who study in the United States often have a hard time figuring out what “wassup", “dude" and “da bomb" mean.
The best advice for international students would be not to nod or smile when someone tells you something that you don’t understand, but ask the person to explain what the word or phrase meant. Most people, especially those who don’t speak a foreign language don’t realize that the words they are using may be unfamiliar to someone who learned their language by books.
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Whether you like to admit it or not, we are all guilty of stereotyping. Some more than others, some less, but no matter which country you are from you will probably be stereotyped until your peers will get to know you better. For example, Russian students are often asked about their favorite vodka drinks; Italians are perceived as melodramatic, loud and overly emotional; British – too formal and snobbish. Try not to get offended and not to take things personally. You are probably stereotyping about the natives of the country you are studying in also, so the best way to destroy the stereotypes is to get to know people better and, of course, to let them know you.
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Being an international student may have its disadvantages, but they should not stop anyone from studying abroad. Studying in a foreign country has so many advantages and the challenges that you may encounter will only make you stronger and make you grow.