There’s no doubt that studying abroad is a rewarding experience. After all, you have the opportunity to meet new people, try new things and experience a new culture, all the while furthering your education. But as with any big step, there will always be challenges.
For many international students, one of the main challenges is coping with their newfound independence. Some students struggle to cope with independent living, missing the support of parents and friends, while others take on independent living wholeheartedly — at the expense of their studies.
No matter which group you fall into, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you cope if you start to feel overwhelmed.
Embrace independent living
Living away from home isn’t easy, but you can make the transition a little less stressful by embracing your situation. If you need to find part-time work during your studies to support yourself, you can use this as an opportunity to meet new people and improve your language skills. Likewise, if you’re adjusting to keeping a budget for the first time, try to remember that this is an essential skill (and one that will stay with you for life).
Ensure that your priorities are in order
Some students struggle with suddenly having too much independence. If you had parents watching over your shoulder during your high school studies, it’s easy to embrace the social side of your university experience while abroad… at the expense of your academic record. If you worry that you may fall into this trap, ensure that your priorities are in order by setting yourself goals (such as turning in each assignment on time or maintaining a certain academic average).
Try to overcome homesickness
Feeling homesick is normal and healthy, but you shouldn’t let it spoil your time abroad. If you start to feel homesick, try to stay busy (perhaps by joining a student club) and immerse yourself in your new culture. Remember to stay in touch with family and friends back home as well (try using free software and applications like Skype and Viber).
Ask questions and take advantage of support services
Adjusting to life in a new country isn’t always easy, so it’s important to ask questions and seek help when you need it. Your institution will run an international student support service, where you can seek help with just about anything — from financial services to accommodation advice, through to travel tips and how-to guides for your city’s public transport system. If you don’t want to drop in to ask a question, you will most likely find the answer on your institution’s website or by asking a fellow student.