Studying abroad opens a world of opportunity to learn about new cultures, make friends from all over the globe, and gain an internationally recognized education. But as an international student, there are certain challenges you’ll face such as language barriers, cultural differences, and homesickness. You’ll also eventually have to decide whether you want to study and settle down permanently in your host country or return home after graduation. Here are six other important things you need to think about before embarking on this journey.
1. Your host country’s education system
Every country’s education system functions differently, and as an international student, you must familiarize yourself with your host country's system. In some countries, like the United States, students can study at either a public or private university. There might be rules governing international students you need to be aware of. In China, for instance, only a certain number of international students are allowed to study at each university. Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations before you start the application process.
2. The cost of studying abroad
If you're a US student and want to study abroad, the cost can be a huge deciding factor. In general, studying abroad is more expensive than staying in the States. This is because tuition fees at foreign universities are generally higher than at domestic schools, and you also have to factor in the cost of living and travel. However, scholarships and financial aid are available for students who want to study abroad. Do your research and explore all your financial options before deciding. If you’re an international student looking to study in the US, figure out how much you’ll need to sustain yourself comfortably. Consider the cost of tuition and fees, which can differ significantly from one university to another.
Related: 6 Smart Financial Plans Before You Study Abroad
3. Learning the language
Even if English is the primary language of instruction in the country you're studying in, there may be times when you’ll have to communicate in a local language. In general, studying abroad presents an excellent opportunity to learn a new language through immersion. Whether you’re studying in France, Spain, or Japan, you'll need to know how to order food, ask for directions, and speak to locals in their native language. Learning the basics of the local language will make your stay more enjoyable and help you make friends.
4. The culture shock
Cultural differences can be one of the biggest adjustment challenges for international students. Be aware of the customs and traditions of your host country before you arrive. This way, you'll avoid cultural faux pas and adjust to your new surroundings more easily. For instance, it's considered rude to make direct eye contact when speaking to someone in some cultures, while in others, it’s considered more respectful. Knowing the local customs will also help you make friends more easily and avoid accidentally offending anyone.
Related: My Weirdest Lessons from 3 Months in a Different Culture
5. Your career goals
Before you study abroad, think about your long-term career goals. If you want to work in your host country after graduation, make sure employers in that country recognize the value of the degree you're planning to get. Immigration policies can also be a deciding factor. If you want to work in the United States after graduation, you must apply for a work visa. And if you plan to retire in your host country someday, you must also consider additional immigration policies and regulations. Some countries like Spain have a retirement visa income requirement you should be aware of if you plan to study, live, and retire there.
6. Clubs and societies
Joining a club or society on campus is a great way to make friends and settle into your new surroundings. It's also an excellent way to learn more about the local culture. Be sure to research what kind of opportunities are offered at your schools of interest before studying abroad. If you're interested in sports, look out for club teams and student gyms. If you're more of a culture vulture, look for book clubs and art galleries. There are groups and facilities for almost every interest, so you're sure to find ones that are perfect for you.
Related: 6 Questions to Ask About a University's Cultural Fit
Studying abroad is a big decision, but it can one of the greatest experiences if you're fully prepared for it. Keep these things in mind as you plan your studies, and you'll be on your way to a successful and enriching life in a new country.
Still not sure which country you want to study in? Check out some of the best places with our article on 4 Great Destinations for International Students Pursuing Higher Education.