Is a study abroad experience right for me?
In today’s globalising world, studying abroad is an equal option to studying at home for many. Thus, it sometimes comes as a surprise when some say it is a waste of money and a waste of time to do it. Yet over two million students leave their home every year in Europe, taking part in the Erasmus-Exchange program and there’s over a quarter of a million students going abroad from China every year. Surely there is something in it that makes these people move to another country?
It is a huge, life changing decision to make up your mind about where to go and what to study – and who are you going to do it with, or if you are going alone? But do not be scared of trying. Today you don’t even need to be afraid of losing connections to home: there is so many ways to keep in touch with your closest ones, even if you live and study your whole degree abroad – if Skype does not work, you can always try Facebook, Whatsapp and in the cost-doesn’t-matter-mood, call or send traditional text messages.
Learn from other people’s study abroad experiences
And no matter what you decide, there is usually an option to change your mind – if you feel like it is not your cup of tea to study abroad – you can always book a ticket back home. However, it might feel like too difficult of a decision to make even to figure out whether it is your thing to go abroad in the first place. In this matter, hearing other people’s experiences helps. Those who have already done it can objectively tell you how it really is – in Scotland you might think the locals sometimes speak German instead of English and when you are from Brazil, the lack of barbecues in the land of haggis can feel devastating.
So here you go, some personal experiences from those who have gone abroad to study in Scotland– and seen the light at the end of the tunnel.
An insight to exchange from Brazil
Pietro Andrade Pastro
BA in Production and Civil Engineering, Federal University of Technology – Paraná, Brazil
1-year exchange in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
I decided to go on exchange to take advantage of the infrastructure of the United Kingdom universities, as well as learn more about European culture and improve my English skills. In my opinion, studying abroad improves the person immensely – both in the personal side and intellectually. You will have an opportunity to meet many people from different cultures and also represent your own country in a foreign institution. I also had the opportunity to travel around the rest of Europe, which put me in several situations in which I had to adapt and solve simple problems in order to keep going. In summary, going abroad is essential for the development of a person in personal level! The best thing that happened to me was learning the new culture: the local way of living, the history of the country and also some chances to live with the locals.
I don’t think there’s really any disadvantages in studying abroad, apart from the financial part. It makes things easier if you get a scholarship, but even if you don’t I don’t think there’s any possibility to have regrets. After I came back from the exchange, everyone looked at me differently – I was the one who studied abroad for a year, learned so much new things and had gained a fluency in a foreign language. It’s something that helps a lot in job interviews as well!
From Austria to a global journalist
BA in History & Journalism and Creative Writing; 4 years in University of Strathclyde,
My decision to go abroad for my degree was mostly based on the job-opportunities: being a native level English speaker would open a much greater world of journalism opportunities. Studying abroad has enabled me to travel and experience a new culture and see many new places, and also understand the world from a different perspective. For me studying abroad was always much more of a gateway to the world as a whole than just a sole wish to go to a country specifically. Also, for me studying in Scotland was the only financially affordable option in an English speaking country.
Since I first heard about the possibility of going away on exchange I wanted to do it, (I don’t remember when that was, probably in junior high) I’ve been away on exchange for the first time when I was 15 and have never looked back since. I used to say I am addicted to leaning new languages, new cultures and ways, meeting new people. Having intercultural debates and conversations is extremely valuable to me.
It is also more challenging than staying at home, as one is more or less alone with the often very new responsibilities of living in one’s own household, having to additionally build up a new social network, study in a foreign language etc.
It can also interrupt or end friendships back home as it is harder to stay in touch and one has fewer things in common. But the best friends survive the challenge and stay, and that’s what counts in the end. Overall my experience has always been overwhelmingly positive and I wouldn’t do it any of it differently if I could choose again.
Firstly, I notice my English skills are extremely valuable, as I am much more employable just for that. Also, I’ve been able to engage politically as I had two close up views in Euro politics. I get to act as an ambassador of both my home country in my host country and vice versa when I visit home, share experiences, explain cultural differences. I get to live with the perks of both countries being able to take use of services and opportunities in both countries most of the time (exchange programs, internships, jobs, organisations).
The best things that have happened to me because of my study abroad decision, besides the many great people I have been able to meet and become friends with, getting involved in organisations like the NUS (National Union of Students) and the feeling of freedom, and that I am able to work towards my dreams…
A future naval architect from Malaysia
Jason Tan Yi Sheng
From Malaysia, full MEng Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering degree in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
I decided to pursue a degree abroad due to the limited availability of my course, which is unavailable in my home country, I also chose to study abroad in belief that they provide a better education. I started to think of going abroad since I was a senior a high school, so it can be considered a dream of mine. By studying abroad, I have gotten to experience a different culture and learned to be more independent. For the downsides, well major disadvantage I would say is the higher tuition fees and living costs, in addition to the fact that you also need to make sacrifices such as being apart from your family and friends.
The thing I love most in studying abroad is seeing the Northern Lights! Before coming here, I wasn’t aware that the Aurora is visible from where I study, and I have always wanted to see it. To be able to see it is just amazing and an unforgettable experience. It is really a perk of studying here. I was aware of other students’ opinion of various universities, however in my case, I am virtually not affected by opinions at all as the course itself has already made the choice for me. (only a handful of universities offer my course).
A football fan from Morocco
Mohamed Amine Belabbes
Full BA degree in Computer Science in the University of Strathclyde
Going abroad was a way for me to prove to myself that ‘I can do it’. I am thankful to my parents who provided me with this opportunity, I know not everyone can afford to go abroad and I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away. I have been to the UK a few times before and from a really young age, I had made up my mind: I just wanted to go there for my studies. Moreover, I felt like going abroad would allow me to get a taste of ‘adulthood’, I wanted to be able to take care of myself on my own and see how comfortable I am in a foreign country.
Studying abroad is a great opportunity to meet people who have different backgrounds and different cultures.
I have a funny story from my first year, I was teaching French to 2 Scottish girls and one of them asked me if I had tried Haggis and I answered that I didn’t and asked her what it is. So with her accomplice, they started explaining to me it was a three legged animal, it went on for 15 minutes. When I asked for a picture, she got a drawing of ‘a haggis’ from Google…Then at that moment, I finally realised it was a joke and there is no animal called Haggis. Later, she explained to me that her parents got her to believe it when she was a kid.
The only disadvantages are that sometimes you wish you could spend more time with your family and see your childhood friends.
Getting to know people from different cultures and trying to learn their languages is a unique experience, it’s fascinating!