There are so many great things about studying abroad however, there are some challenges that I face on a regular basis that has made the transition harder for me. So, these are things you might have to deal with if you’re considering studying abroad. Please note that because I’m studying in Australia, I haven’t had to deal with language barriers and strong differences in culture which could be challenges you face depending on which country you study in.
Money is a challenge for many reasons. Firstly, you have to get used a new currency and a new cost of living. For me, it was hard to get used to how expensive Australia is and I quickly had to wrap my head around the fact that the normal price of a chocolate bar is over $2 when it really should be around $1. Secondly, you now have to deal with the ‘natural’ fluctuations of exchange rates. This can be especially annoying when you have to transfer money from your home country and the exchange rate is uncharacteristically low so you end up losing out on money you could have had. And third, Brexit makes all these challenges worse so I have to get used to the fact that every time Theresa May speaks about Brexit, the pound drops which makes Australia even more expensive and sometimes forces me to exchange money at a much lower rate.
- Academic Differences
When you study in a different country the workload may be different to what you are used to, they may ask you to reference in a different style than you are used to, there may be spelling differences, a different coursework to exam ratio and they may even require you to study more modules than you are used to. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with a difference in spelling or studying more units but I have had to deal with the others which has forced me to adapt the way I study. This is hard because I’ve been studying the same way for the past couple of years so it’s difficult to try and adapt quickly just so I can stay on top of things. Plus, it is likely your new university will have a different grading system which you would have to get used to for example in Australia, to get a grade equivalent to a first, you would have to get 85% and not 70% and to pass you need 50%. So you have to work harder to get the same result.
I think it’s almost guaranteed that everyone will experience this at some point of their time abroad. It’s kind of like the immediate loneliness you feel after you’ve just been dropped off at University in your first year but worse. I say worse because it doesn’t necessarily hit you straight away. Usually, when you first arrive you’ve got so many things to sort out and you’re busy making friends so you don’t feel it initially. But once things calm down, you start to realise how far away from home you are and you can no longer easily visit your friends and family when you feel homesick. Furthermore, you may be in a different time zone to your support network which can make it especially difficult getting in contact with your loved ones. I think for me that’s one of the hardest things about being here in Australia because I’m eleven hours ahead of my family and 16 hours ahead of my best friend (who’s studying abroad in Miami) so it’s not always that I can contact them when I really want to because they may be asleep or at work/university and I may be busy or asleep when they are free to talk so it’s hard to coordinate. And of course you’ll make friends who will be around to support you but obviously, they can’t replace the people you miss the most.
- Living with half your wardrobe
This may not be an issue for everyone because some airlines allow you to take two suitcases however I was only allowed one so I seriously had to cut down the clothes I would normally take to university with me as well as most of my shoe collection. So for someone like me who really likes having options, it’s been very difficult for me to make do with what I have and refrain from buying the things I left at home. The only good thing is that it has taught me to pack light, however, I’m not enjoying the fact that I have to do laundry more often.
- Getting used to Australia
This actually hasn’t been too much of an issue, especially because they drive on the same side of the road, the accent where I am isn’t too strong, the food isn’t too different to what I’m used to and the transport is pretty good here (in comparison to London). So in general, there weren’t too many major differences I had to adapt to apart from the weather and the slang. In my opinion, the fact that Australians feel the need to abbreviate (almost) everything is just annoying. Most times, when written, they won’t even explain what the abbreviation means so I end up having to google it (this has happened on more than one occasion with my lecture notes). To fully understand my pain, check out the video link Kitty posted on her blog under number 3 here: https://studentblogs.le.ac.uk/study-abroad/2016/09/14/getting-to-know-aussie-life/
Now the weather in winter wasn’t too hard to get used to, the only thing is that I didn’t expect it to be as cold as it was. But now summer has arrived, the real struggle has begun. Having to adapt to near 40°C weather has been tough and there have been some days that I have literally done nothing because I didn’t want to move around in the heat. Moreover, it has been constant heat, as in day after day it is over 30°C with only one or two days of cooler weather (around 25°C) as a break. To be honest, you just learn to live with it; after a while, 30°C doesn’t feel too bad (because you know what 39°C feels like) and 25°C is like a walk in the park.