Common Challenges to Overcome When Choosing to Study Abroad
- Fear of a Language Barrier
One of the many fears that students have before going abroad is that they will have trouble communicating or getting around because they may not know the local language. Some students go abroad to enhance their language skills, such as students going to Spain to study Spanish, while others go to countries where they do not know a lick of the language. Yes there will be times where the language barrier will prove to be quite trying, but you will be amazed at how quickly you will learn how to overcome this obstacle. Many foreigners speak English to an extent, or even just a few words, and also, even if they do not know English, many will try to help by using gestures and hand signals. During my time in Ukraine, I got REALLY good at playing charades as no one spoke English, but not only did I gain the ability to communicate interculturally, I came back to the states and was unbeatable in charades. Anyone want to play me?? Go practice abroad and then I will take you on.
- Fear of the Unknown
Going abroad with the potential of not knowing anyone or not knowing much about where you will be living and studying can be quite intimidating for some. For others, it is part of the adventure. On some education abroad programs, you may be staying with a host family. It can be quite nerve-wracking to accept that you will be living with a family for an extended period of time that may or may not speak much English. What will the home look like? What will the rules be like? Will I be able to communicate with them? Will they like me? These are all common questions asked by students before they head to their home stay. Though I cannot promise this to all home stay situations, for the vast majority of students who have been abroad and stayed in a homestay, they say it was the most memorable and impactful part of their experience abroad. When else can you say you lived with a local family and got the local experience? Take advantage of it. Another housing situation on education abroad trips is dorm life. You may be nervous or afraid of who your roommate will be or who all will be on your program. I will tell you this: some of my very best friends to this day are friends that I met while abroad. Be open to meeting new people and you may just find friends for a lifetime.
- Fear of Expenses
How am I going to pay to go abroad? This is the question almost every student faces when looking at education abroad programs. It can be quite scary looking at the price tag of a program, but there are many ways to help fund education abroad programs. First and foremost, be sure to look at any and all scholarships being offered. There is a LOT out there. Yes you may have to write an essay here and there to apply, but trust me, the time it takes you to write that essay is well worth the money you will receive to go abroad. There are also many ways that you can fundraise. Write letters to your family expressing how your education abroad experience is going to help you grow as a person and better your academic experience and you would be surprised at how much aid you might get from those who love you and want you to be able to experience the world. Never give up on going abroad just because you see the price tag. You never know what kind of funding you may get until you try. Studying abroad is so worth the effort. The experience you will have abroad is truly something you will never forget.
- Fear of Homesickness
Lets face it, not everyone is ready to be thousands of miles away from home. That’s okay! It is part of the experience. Yes you may miss your friends from home and wish you could take part in the experiences going on back at your home institution, but think about how lucky you are to be experiencing a new culture! Study abroad is a great time to meet new people from all over and begin to explore. It is time for you to branch out and see the world. Your friends and family will be there for you when you get back with open arms. Homesickness is a good feeling. It means you are so lucky to have something that you miss.
Photos and post by Courtney Smith
Courtney is an Education Abroad Peer Ambassador studying Psychology. She is a Junior at Transylvania University, and she participated in a Semester at Sea Program.