Our lovely intern Polina will share some of her very honest thoughts about what she has learned while studying abroad. Sit back and enjoy! 😉
I just decided that it could be quite useful for you to know what I have faced while studying abroad and what lessons I got from that experience. I hope those 7 tips will help you.
7 things I learned while studying abroad:
People are different
That statement seems to be a bit too obvious, I know. However, this is the very first thing I realized, and also the first thing caused me millions of problems, especially when I was on exchange in France, living in the same house with 12 people of 10 different nationalities. You cannot even imagine what we sometimes had to handle there – starting from simple misinterpretations and ending with fights over of stolen food and dirty kitchen. How many times I heard that my way of thinking is “just so typical Russian”! Especially concerning the topics “Men should be like…” and “Women should be like…” =)
Even within one culture you can meet people with different views, values and opinions. Just imagine how huge that difference is between people who speak different languages and come originally from different cultures! What makes a challenge here is to understand that there is no right and no wrong way of thinking. If you want to study in an international society, you simply need to take something as a rule: keep all your opinions, express them when needed, but never EVER expect anyone to see the world the same way you do. And, what is even more important, never try to persuade people to change their opinion, unless they come to that on their own.
It is very difficult to work in an international team
If you ever had any problems while communicating with people whose views and opinions are slightly different from yours, then during first weeks of studying or working in an international environment you will definitely face a following dilemma: “Should I continue my attempts to prove something to my teammates or it is easier just to give up and later, when we get a bad grade, appear suddenly from the shadows with my favorite I-told-you-so?”.
Being serious, that second point comes directly from the first one. It can cause you a lot of problems, but that is why we have those teamworks; to gain important so-called people skills, learn how to express yourself, how to keep your point of view till somebody proves you it is not completely right and, finally, how to work with people. How to talk to them. What team role to choose. All that becomes quite easy after the first year, trust me.
By the way, working in teams is the best way to meet new boys and girls to go and have a party afterwards!
Studying in foreign language requires additional effort
Once again, a little bit too obvious, but you will have to accept the fact that after each class you will have to go through the lectures with Google translate or dictionary and also search for additional sources of information like books or articles. Well, of course, that is if you want not only to pass all your exams, but actually also learn something.
The ugly truth is that you will never have enough time to get ready for an exam. At least I never had. Especially while being on exchange in France, where we had one course lasting just two weeks and then we had an exam, I always promised myself to start getting ready a week before, but of course I ended up starting the night before. Anyway, going through lectures afterwards helps you to understand and memorize information.
“What-is-important-in-studying” accents also differ from country to country and from field to field
Some countries are more practice-oriented, as well as some fields of study. Others are more theoretical. Each university, each specialization, each subject and every teacher will wait for a special and unique approach from you. And you definitely will not be able to pay enough attention to everything. Life abroad will be full of various studying, working, entertaining opportunities, and that’s why it is also of high importance to:
Understand what you would like to do in the future (at least have a slight idea).
That basically depends a lot on what you enjoy doing now. Student life offers us a huge choice of activities, events, competitions to take part in, and you definitely should be able to prioritize. If it is still difficult for you when you are entering the university – try as many activities as you can in the beginning and then it will be much easier for you to decide.
Never try to take part in everything: you will suffer from lack of time, will miss all the fun and won’t be able to enjoy the activities fully.
Moreover, understanding your preferences helps to think of your career plans and even start actually building your working life. It is actually even scary how quickly the time runs. You can have all the fun and have a feeling that just yesterday you had your first day… And then find yourself standing with your diploma with absolutely no idea where to go. Things like that happen way too often. Do not let them happen to you as well.
Life is too short to be shy (especially when studying abroad 😉
I do not even have much to add here. I am shy myself but still I think that the worst thing about studying abroad is the fact that one day you will have to say goodbye. It is unavoidable. And you will never be ready for that. So what is the point of wasting time on being antisocial and sitting alone waiting for others to say “hi”? What is the point in not doing crazy things while you can?
The only thing you will definitely regret afterwards is that you either didn’t take part in something or didn’t spend enough time with somebody. So, never be afraid. People in international environment are very nice, and you will definitely have an awesome time while being around them, because:
You would be surprised how many amazing, nice, kind and interesting friends, coming from all over the world, you can find.
They will be with you no matter what and will help you no matter where you are. Those are the kind of friendships that last a lifetime. And this is probably the best thing about studying abroad – all those people you meet.