HOW TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES IN FOREIGN LAND
For those who are dreaming of studying abroad or is all set to fly to study abroad, for you, along with loads of advantages awaits numerous crucial challenges that every international student would face!
Yes! Studying abroad is a really exciting experience and a great opportunity to learn many things, such as new languages, culture, customs, etc, and to visit places of interest, to be independent and to make new friends and much more.
But these may themselves become troublesome. Yes! Studying abroad is not like a vacation it is real life! And it needs a lot of adaptation, adjustments, responsibilities, and much more from you. If you couldn’t manage to face certain challenges that are common for all international students you will really be miserable in a foreign land!
These Challenges are Universal
The challenges that come on your way are universal, in the sense, that every international student in a given country and institution will undergo them, while very few are specific that depends on the institution which one undertakes to study and the individual personalities and interests, etc., Hence don’t feel that you alone have all such challenges, there is a huge population that undergo your pain.
List of Challenges in Foreign Land and Suggestions to Overcome
Challenges may be related to your social, emotional, physical, financial, academics related and much more, we have listed almost all the major challenges that international students would face in the foreign land and some of the best ways to overcome them, read on to find out what challenges that you may face as an international student and the way out!
Challenges of Bureaucratic Procedures
- Bureaucratic Procedures
The formalities that you have to take care of after arriving in a foreign country will indeed be frustrating. Every abroad education destinations heartily welcome foreign students, but still, maintain strict laws concerning every aspect of a foreign student.
From your application for the student visa, resident permit, to other legal procedures concerning the duration of stay and study in the designated county is not as easy as we list it, and especially if you have to converse in the foreign language.
The Bureaucratic procedures after entering foreign land are another list of challenges! To open a bank account at the regional bank, applying to a state driver’s license, etc are some of the examples. It is a must for you to obey the set rules and regulations, the laws of the foreign land you go to study.
- Do not panic
- Know on the procedure handy
- Make sure you have all documents
- Last moment hurries can lead to stress and frustration
- Manage your time well both before and after reaching the foreign land, so that you will not miss out anything, documents, certificates, letters of permission, etc.
Stay calm, and take a deep breath, those are just formalities, if you have all the sufficient documents in hand it will be the easiest thing ever!
- Language or Communication Barrier
The most common & obvious challenge in a foreign land that every international student would face is language or communication barrier. You will face this challenge in your classroom, in making new friends, travels, shopping and almost all everywhere and all the time.
In cases of moving to a country where people speak completely unfamiliar languages, you may experience moments of frustration. Even if you enter the country with the language skill that you need, it could be difficult to understand the strong local accents.
Yes! It is highly difficult to communicate in a foreign country! But it is not something that is not possible at all!
Think positive: Take the situation to be an opportunity to learn something new, instead of worrying over and over.
Make an honest effort to learn: Download a language app, take up intensive language learning courses, etc., and try to learn the language that you will have to use in the country to which you are moving in to study even before you reach there.
Practicing will help you be perfect: Any new language that you need to learn or use in communicating well, you need to practice well.
Yes! Practice more, approach local people, be bold in seeking help from locals, ask them to pronounce the words again, use the language in your daily life, watch native channels, use books to translate and for learning the new language, etc, there is a broad range of initiative that you can take up to boost your language skills in a foreign land.
Stay calm and work hard!
- Cultural Differences
One of the immediate challenges that you will face in a foreign country will be a culture shock. The process of learning and adapting to a new culture can be challenging as it gives you a completely new perspective and understanding of other people’s beliefs, traditions, ideas and point of views which would possibly bring about emotional and physical discomfort to you.
Yes! It will be a time taking the process to understand the cultural differences and the cultural nuances and to adapt yourself to the environment. This may bring in you the feeling of being isolated or separated which may be confronting to you. This is entirely a normal reaction toward such a challenge!
These cultural differences can be seen or experienced everywhere you go in the foreign land while greeting someone, food, religious belief, dressing style, body gestures, languages, etc.
Remember that, You are Here for a Change: Have in your mind that you are here for a change and take things in a positive way and try your best to adapt in spite of any prejudice about the people and their culture.
Show Learning Attitude: Show a positive and learning attitude; take this as an opportunity to learn about different customs, traditions, and religions that will allow you to gain a broader view of the world. Reach out for help through locals, ask them about the social norms, you can also learn through thorough observation of what and how others do, do some research on the internet and find a way to know more on the culture of the foreign land you are in.
Do Not Criticise: Do not criticize the practices of the people out there in the foreign land and tell them things are done differently, instead, just try to adjust to them. Know that this is your responsibility to try and to understand the differences and jell as quickly as we can.
Keep in Mind: Keep in mind that there are many aspects of the foreign land that you love, that work far better than where you lived earlier and that makes living in a foreign land an excellent experience.
Learn attitudes that help you to tolerate the cultural differences!
- Making friends
Making friends is a good way to keep away many of the problems and challenges in the foreign country, what if itself turns out to be a challenge? Simple! You have to face it!
Yes! The first day of the university may be daunting enough for everyone, being let alone as you are from a different country will be adding on more to it. It becomes more challenging if you are shy or introverted.
- Stretch your hand out with just a hello, initiate a conversation.
- Join a sporting or social and activity club or student society at your university
- Try to get to know more people, pushing yourself out of your shell and into social situations.
- Commit time and effort to make friends and getting to know well about those who you already have.
It needs your willing efforts to make friends, but it is not just enough to make friends, make a trustworthy and true friendship that stays with you for a long time, even after leaving the foreign land.
- Fear of Missing out
The Fear of missing out or FOMO is when a person feels increased anxiety or stress from missing out on social events or not being invited to attend. It is also a consequence of doing something else instead of something. This is a common problem for all of us, but it gets worse when we are in abroad, yes, when we are thousands of miles away from home!
This happens to you if you are a frequent visitor of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., where you see a continual stream of pictures, videos, and comments of parties, events, outings or other life activities that you might have not been invited or not being able to attend.
Such fear or feeling bad for being missed may make you feel sad, worrying about being lonely, thinking of being ignored and much more.
Minimize the use of Social Media: It is actually to say don’t overuse social media! Social media is the root of the problem, it offers a fantasy world. So, Instead of seeing the figuratively fantastic posts in spite of realizing that the posts don’t really offer a realistic view of what the event is like, take a break from scrolling through social media and focus on what you are currently doing.
Learn to be content: Think of the opportunity of what you have in hand now instead of what you missed out, or missing, don’t drift to “What if this or if that” this will make it hard for you to be content with what you have! Just go out and explore opportunities to utilize while you are still in a foreign land, and don’t make a chance for yourself to regret later over what you are missing at present around you!
Learn to be OK with not being able to do it all: You have got only 24 hours a day and have many things to do as a study abroad student. You need to pick and choose things that for which you can actually make time for and which actually matters to you, you can’t be everywhere at a given time! So, be sure you have nothing to worry about not being able to make out for a party or event! If you are worried that you may not be invited the next time for denying the invitation at present, try to explain to them your situation and learn to balance!
- Disagreeing with the customs
It is tough to get fit in perfectly and actually, you need not to, Yes! you are not obliged to fit in perfectly or be necessarily wrong for disagreeing with the majority on the customs!
But when this comes as a challenge to you in the foreign land during your study abroad, you have to overcome this to socialize with the locals and your classmates!
- Respect the people around you.
- Limit your contact with the groups those who pressurize you in a way that you don’t like or disagree about.
- Find individuals with whom you feel safe, and spend more time with people who respect you as much as you respect them.
Learning a custom and adapting to it is highly difficult compared to understanding it and cooperating with people.
- Answering the same question (Where do you come from?)
The flooding questions about your home country and about you in the foreign land may be frustrating.
Yes! The repetitive questions such as where do you come from? Tell us about your country, blaa blaa.. may be eating your head up!
It is very common that people are quiet very curious about those who visit their country, it is a chance for them to explore other country staying on their own.
What will be more tiring is, correcting the incorrect myths about your country!
Take it as a chance to learn to be bold: Talking about something you know more than anybody will make you sound and feel more confident. And take this as a chance to be more patriotic and at the same time to you more about your, in the view of others too.
Take this opportunity to educate: Take it as opportunities to educate the strangers about your country, and enjoy sharing what you know, but make sure of not to explain things in a condescending tone or of making the other person feel stupid.
- Emotional Burden (Feeling Anxious or Depressed)
With no place to doubt you will have mood swings during your time in a foreign land. Yes! You will experience different phases of emotional wellbeing during the stay abroad.
Yes! Of course, in the beginning, you would be enjoying your new city with overwhelming excitement and happiness of the huge change, and like a tourist, with high curiosity trying to know everything around, about the city and its people, forgetting the hardness of being separated from your loved ones.
As the days pass on, you will start to feel lonely, homesick, and ignore the life that actually exists, the danger of such feelings is, it may put you in depression, and feelings of anxiousness, and make you disoriented to the situation that you are to actually to be in and if you are really weak in this, or don’t face this challenge on your way there are high chances of you packing your bags back to home!
The reason for such feelings might be more than missing your family and friends, say for the problems with adjustments to the new culture, climate, customs, languages, classes and much more that triggers anxiety or depression or other such negative thoughts.
Look for the cause: Immediately when you start feeling anxious about something or feeling depressed, think about what could be the cause, find out the cause and try to rectify it as early as possible, you can take the help of your family, friends, local support group in your area, or seek out for a counsellor or psychologist, visit your nearby mental health clinics, and make a way to feel better, remember to treat your psychological wellbeing the way you would treat your physical wellbeing.
Your mental wellbeing is more important in a foreign land to overcome many other challenges and to survive there as long as your coursework needs you there!
- Feeling like an outsider
It is obvious that you as an international student in a foreign land will end up feeling like an outsider regardless of your home country and the country you are going to. This challenge comes on your way as soon as you land in a foreign country.
Yes! You may start to feel out of place, with your looks as an international student your food habits, language, culture, and many things will show you entirely different from the locals.
You may look around only to find that you are all alone in a foreign country, you might have never felt so out of place or disconnected like this before. But this feeling will not, actually, should not be retained for a long time.
Understand you are not purposely made to feel like what you feel: Try to find peace in understanding & knowing that it is completely unlikely for the locals to deliberately make you feel unwanted or uncomfortable.
Give time to yourself: Though it might be tiring at the beginning, give time to yourself, yes, as a stranger it will take time for you to feel comfortable in the new place.
Make friends from among the locals: Try to establish friendship among the locals, find at least one local friend to have the feeling of belongingness, safety and relaxed in the foreign land, instead of the separateness or a strange awkward look.
Know that you are not alone: Yes! You are not experiencing this alone here! Don’t feel like something bad is happening to you and only to you!
Most of the universities abroad have students from across the world, with different cultures and nationalities, and they may probably be going through the same feeling.
The feel that it is not happening only to me will relieve you from this feeling of an outsider right? Good! It is the basic human tendency!
- Loneliness & Homesickness
When everything is going well, it’s really a great experience in a foreign land, but when things around you go wrong, you will feel like having someone next to you to share your feelings and find none who knows you well, that is when you will realize what is loneliness and will be feeling homesick!
The memory of everything that you quiet neglected, and were fed up with, like your mom’s cooking, sibling’s fight over silly things, dad’s advice and scolding, outing with friends and much more will be taunting you and will make you miss home!
Yes! Having your friends and family hundreds or thousands of miles away when you badly need them is really a challenge as you will have intense feelings to quit your dream of study abroad and return back to home, this is likely to be high during the first few months, in the holiday seasons of your study abroad and before you establish your new social circle and a support network in the foreign land.
It is actually healthy and normal to feel homesick, but don’t let it become a destroying part of your study abroad experience.
Make new friends: Making new friends is the best way to overcome loneliness and homesickness. Look forward to all the possible opportunities to make friends. This will help you to see things in a more positive light.
Search for the people like you: Find people who share a common interest with you and spend time in some extracurricular activities that help you feel better.
Stay Emotionally Balanced: Don’t be highly overwhelmed by emotions, don’t be moved by your emotions, learn to be emotionally balanced to face the challenges that come on your way.
Stay Connected: Keep in touch with your family and friends regularly through Skype and Webcam, and other means to share things that are happening around and get advice.
Think of the purpose: Remember the reason for why you are here, hold on to the positive reasons you have and the one purpose of achieving your degree in the foreign land. Stay focused & active and be more engaged in your academics wherein you will have less time to worry about the things that you have left behind.
Practice Self Awareness: Practice yoga, meditation, reading books and other self-awareness techniques or activities that will keep you mentally strong to avoid emotional imbalance because of loneliness and homesickness.
Avoid Spending more time on Social Media: Spending more time on Facebook or other social media websites feeds your feelings of homesickness and triggers more emotions than eradicating them.
Be emotionally well balanced!
- Wanting to stay forever
Finally, after getting settled with all the problems in getting adjusted to the foreign land in all the possible ways, the next challenge that awaits you is, to leave the country!
Yes! After staying in the foreign land for the year-long or more, and having fallen in love with this new place and people, and having settled in the all the way possible with lots of friends, a home for yourself, your college campuses and the city life you enjoyed these days in the new country will altogether pull you behind to stay back! And leaving all this behind is going to be the last and the toughest challenge ever in your foreign land for study abroad!
Yes! It is really tough, your love for the freedom and adventure will never end, but on the other side, you have to accept the reality that you are to return home to encounter the family pressures, expectations, and responsibilities that are well defined by OTHERS.
Be in reality: Remember that everything in life is an opportunity to learn and returning back to home is a highly crucial part of your study abroad experience.
Take home all the joy you had in the foreign land: Take home all the happiness, ecstasy, the freedom that you had found and enjoyed here in the foreign land. Take all your stories of adventure in the foreign land to your family, friends, and neighbors, who will be eagerly awaiting your return.
Do not be confused: Do not confuse yourself with the two locations that are being contrary to each other, wherein in one you are your best self and in the other you are just pining for the former!
Try out some other way: If you really can’t come out of the foreign land, look for the possibilities to stay there, check with the visa rules and regulations, talk to the concerned person, try to secure a working visa that allows you to remain there and find employment, or study your further courses in the same country, but before anything check for the rules and regulations there!
Academics related Challenges
- Academic difficulties
Even after coming up with and overcoming almost all the challenges that come on your way in the foreign land, there is the academic side of things. Yes! The inability to cope up with new learning style, academic workload, managing effective time for personalized studies, projects and much more will be a great challenge indeed!
You may miss out things during the process of adaptation to the new learning styles or the teaching methods at your preferred university and may be lagging behind in your academics which will make you stressed and burdened with the heavy loads of academic-related works.
Hesitation to question in between the classes, reaching out to lecturers for help, fear of being made fun of while answering the question and much more will be overwhelming to you and may find it difficult to overcome.
Work Smart: Plan your day with a to-do list, calendar, and planner apps to manage time for studies, prioritize your academic-related works and remember that you are here for study abroad, the rest are only secondary.
Seek out for help: Help is available in various ways, ranging from additional tutoring and study groups to manage your time outside of university more efficiently. You can also speak to your lecturer or tutor and seek help. Make use of your professor’s office hours extensively.
Read more: Read books related to your academics ahead and prepare yourself to answer the questions that may be asked in the classes or discussed on, as this will give you confidence in answering during class and will help you keep engaged in the class.
- Staying Motivated to Attend Classes
This period of transition to a new university is quite difficult. Yes! It might be a challenging experience as you will be missing motivation to attend classes, as you are living and studying abroad.
Yes! Staying motivated along the side of taking up classes in your second language, controlling your impulse to go out to explore and check on new places, spending time with your new friends, etc, will be a difficult task indeed!
Spending more time in other activities rather than studies may result in poor academic grades as you may find it harder to take up your exams after missing out many classes, sometimes may result in losing your scholarships and even being kicked off from your program altogether, such problems that may ruin your studies abroad.
Remind yourself of the purpose: Remind yourself of the reason why you are here, it is important to use this opportunity to explore things and enjoy your study abroad experience, but it is equally, actually more important to utilize this opportunity to your best to achieve in your academics and career. So, keep yourself reminded of the actual reason and the purpose for being here!
Stay committed: Stay committed to your coursework, force yourself to classes, definitely you will have much to enjoy, learn and explore in your classroom!
- Time Management
Being in a foreign country and managing the maximum of stuff all alone as an international STUDENT, you will often and at the maximum struggle with time management issues!
Yes! As a student, you will have more responsibilities and academic coursework more than that of high school as universities require a lot of intensive work if you fail to manage your time you will have a tough time with your academics in a foreign land.
It may be difficult in the beginning but will be fine by the way, but during the adoption process, you may feel frustrated, tensed or be impatient.
Learn Time Management Skills and adapt it according to your situation in Foreign land:
- Plan and prioritize things to do
- Avoid doing unnecessary things
- Avoid spending more time on social media
- Keep yourself organized
- Use your time productively
- Make or give yourself time to do something that is fun and relaxing
It will be easy and enjoyable in the foreign land once after you learn how to manage your time efficiently!
- Financial Problems
Financial issues are a major issue for all students, for students studying in a foreign country this may be a crucial issue. Yes! running low on cash, budgeting, managing finances, getting used to currency differences, banking, the list goes on and on.
The struggle with finances that begins with the planning of studying abroad ends only after you return home after studies.
Hence it is important that you be more aware of managing your money otherwise it will be really overwhelming and may make your study abroad a worsening experience.
Planning ahead and Budgeting: To manage your money better in a foreign land, plan your budget ahead before moving and also while living in the foreign land thoughtfully, keep a track of your expenses, prioritize your expenses, watch for any deviations and have a control over it. Be aware of the cash inflow and outflow.
Get Used to Currency Differences: This itself will be a challenging process, Yes! Staying in different country adapting to its exchange is quite a difficult to process, but if you can get used to this you can manage your financial problems, yes, sometimes you may spend a bit more on items than your set budget or expectations, even without realizing.
So, use some currency conversion application online, work out a quick conversion system for yourself so that you could mentally figure out prices during shopping and can keep your expenses on track.
Banking: Arrange for a bank account before you leave for your study abroad destination as this will make the currency transition easier and will be useful in transferring money from your home country to you and vice versa.
Manage your Extra or Unwanted expenses: Try & find a way to minimize your extra expenses, such as cooking at home, reducing travel expenses by using the cheapest means, purchasing only necessities and avoiding desires, etc., and pay your bills on time to avoid fine.
Find a Part-Time Job: Find a part-time job that will cater to your extra expenditure. You can check your campus classified and job boards for openings. But be informed about the set rules on working in part-time as an international student.
Keep aside for Emergencies: Make sure you keep money aside for emergencies, this is highly important while staying in a foreign land. It may be hard for you to find some financial help immediately in case of need in a foreign land.
Hunt for a Scholarship or Financial Aids: Try to find any scholarships or financial helps that can relieve you from educational expenses and keep you & your parents relaxed about it.
Be wise and plan things ahead!
- Finding your products
Finding your products, ranging from food, drink, ingredient, cosmetics, your brands and much more may be a huge challenge in front of you in the foreign land. You may find it hard even to find an equivalent and even if you find one, it isn’t quite the same!
- Check for the items that you are allowed to bring and how much of it can be bought with you from your home country and bring a supply.
- Check for small, niche shops which sell what you are looking for, if you are living in a culturally diverse city, you may find it!
- Check online for the product, probably you may find.
- The easiest way is to ask another international student from your country, whether they know where such items can be bought.
Try your best to find, or consult a specialist and use other equivalents even if they are not 100% the same.
- Dealing with Foreign Climate
We know the reality that different regions experience different climate and weather, and you should also know that it is one of the biggest challenges to you to overcome in a foreign land. Yes! No matter how much you have researched on the climate of the place and how much advice you received, but you will know the reality only when you actually get there.
You may often feel sick due to the climate changes as your body is trying to adapt to the climate there, this may not happen overnight, it will take time depending upon your mental state and physical strength along the side of some safety measures.
Change Dressing Style: Change your dressing style to adapt to the new climatic conditions.
Build in Resilience: Develop the ability to adapt to changes, anticipate what might happen next and be prepared & absorb shocks.
Try to Adapt to the Climate: Don’t panic or be much worried of climatic changes and its effect on you, stay calm and try to enjoy the new climate in all the possible way because, you should any way stay there for the rest of your study abroad program period so try to adapt to the situation as early as possible. And be informed that, in every country, there is enough number of medical centers with good specialists.
Take up Safety Measures: Get health insurance that suits all your health needs before you leave home, take proper medications if you are already on some medication routine and keep a track on your health and its related issues.
Reach out for help: Every university has departments for international students where you can approach the officials for advice related to healthcare providers to choose, local health system and availability of medicines, etc.
- Time Zone annoyances
Time zones vary from your home country to the foreign land depending upon the distance and will become a challenge if you are really very far away from your home.
With the huge changes in time zone, initially your biological clock or cycle will be severely affected and your body will take some time to get used to this new lifestyle.
You will have to call your bank in the middle of the night to connect at their working hours and wait to talk to your family till midnight or early in the morning or so. It will be frustrating to navigate two time zones of opposite ends, which will result in sleepless nights, feeling of loneliness and much more challenges if not managed properly.
Reach out to your Smartphone: Add relevant time zones to your timekeeping apps in your Smartphone.
Get used to it: Try to memorize the time difference, that is, get used to the time differences as soon as possible so that the things will be easier on your end.
Put away all your frustration caused by time management problems due to the differences in the time zone and look forward to being on alert to resist the challenge!
- Getting Lost
Getting lost in a new place is quite very common, but if these happen very often and in spite of your efforts, such as having and using maps, memorizing dozens of street names and landmarks, etc will be highly challenging and will make you feel frustrated.
Yes! No matter how much efforts you put in to travel safely from one place to another, without missing out, you will inevitably find yourself stuck or lost in unfamiliar surroundings. This disorientation in a new place is common.
Yes! Completely different rules of the road, set up like left-hand drive, etc., may leave you perplexed at times.
Do not Panic: Do not panic at any cost whether it is late hours or if you are in a sketchy part of town, believe that you will get through this. Freaking out may result in unwanted troubles.
Plan ahead and conform more than once: Be prepared for the adventure around, Plan your mode of transport and make sure to check the route map before leaving, learn helpful phrases in the local language to seek help and make sure you are on the right platform if you are traveling by train before getting on or off.
Use online apps and reach out for help: Search for useful online apps for travelling in your foreign land and make use of it, as it will be a great help, but at the same time don’t neglect to ask for help from your fellow travellers or locals, they may know routes far better than the applications.
Have extra cash in hand: Make sure you have some extra cash in your hand while traveling, as that may be helpful in case of getting lost of way or finding a taxi or other means of transport if you lost the way.
- Housing Issues
Being in a foreign land, surrounded by unfamiliar places and people it is really challenging to find a place to settle down for as long as your stay in the abroad country. This is a challenge faced by most of the international students in a foreign land.
This challenge needs to be faced immediately after reaching the country on the board! It may be a tough time finding a place for you to stay, but you have to.
Ask for the help through locals, try finding any housing app or website for the country, but before anything and everything enquire in your university for accommodation facilities that they have for their international students, they may be providing you accommodation at the reasonable rate and can reduce your stress of finding one for yourself.
Take every opportunity to learn something from, make friends, enjoy and at the same time try to stay focused. Things don’t happen overnight, at the beginning of your journey to study abroad you may find it difficult, just stay calm and try your best to overcome with patience! Patience is one of the keys to facing all the challenges that await you in foreign land! Once you get a grip you will be ready to face and beat all the challenges that you will not be able to avoid once you step your foot on foreign land.