(Studying abroad holds great promise for opportunities, experiences, and more. But the admissions process comes with questions. What are scholarship opportunities for international students? What are colleges looking for? -what sets an application apart? Is going abroad an opportunity for a select few? Every Friday, The Indian Express invites an expert to offer tips, advice and answers to these frequently asked questions in the “Study” column. abroad”.)
Every year, thousands of Indian students go abroad for higher education. The United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and Australia are among the favorite destinations for Indian students. After gaining admissions to their favorite universities, students begin their preparations months before the big departure. Most students seek the help of professional travel agents to make their arrangements. Travel agents are seasoned professionals and provide students with as much information as possible about their destination. However, traveling to a new country is just the beginning, students still need help with setting up accommodation, banking, phone plans, etc. Some, but very few, study abroad companies also provide support for this part of the process, such as Halp.co. Students also make preparations and research themselves. However, despite all of this, being away from home is tricky and students often experience unforeseen circumstances. This article will discuss some things that students can expect when going abroad for college.
Academics: more freedom and flexibility
Traditionally, in the Indian education system, students have to focus on courses that are part of their major studies. The courses to be taken for a particular specialization should also be predefined. However, at most international universities and colleges, students can combine their courses. In addition to major courses, students are required to take electives. These courses are usually unrelated to the main field of study and provide a great opportunity to explore other interests. Although electives are not tied to majors, they still have a strong impact on the college learning experience. Some programs also require co-ops or internships – this is when a student gets a job as part of their college course.
Another pleasant surprise Indian students often get is the flexibility in timing their classes. This too obviously can be done within certain limits. In India, class times are usually fixed and cannot be changed. However, at most international universities, students can opt for early morning or afternoon classes depending on their daily routine.
Class sizes can also vary greatly. Depending on the course, the number of students can be as low as 30 or as high as 500. Students should be mentally prepared for this gap.
Social and cultural differences
Needless to say, there are big differences between most cultures. How people dress, eat, or interact with each other can be entirely different from where a student grew up. More importantly, there is a language difference. Different cultures use many different terms, slangs or jokes – something funny in one culture may be an insult in another. It is important to keep this in mind when you arrive. The use of words like please and thank you is not very common in India but in western countries especially in USA, Canada, UK and Australia these words are used routinely and daily. In some countries, people can take a very individualistic approach and not be so welcoming to strangers. Don’t let that deter you from wanting to go abroad, most countries are also embracing new cultures as a way to experience the world. For example, Canada is extremely multicultural, most major cities even have different neighborhoods that celebrate different cultures, such as Koreatown. Students should enjoy their time abroad and embrace the new cultures they discover.
Being independent is encouraged
In India, due to cheap labor, help is readily available for almost everything. For most students living at home, family members are there to support them on a daily basis. Even for students living in hostels or PGs, helpers like cooks and cleaners are readily available. However, in countries like Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, employee assistance is much more expensive. It may seem like a big change, but it’s part of the study abroad experience.
In most Western countries, public transport is the predominant mode of transport, especially for students. In India, many people are hesitant to use public transport. Even many students prefer cars and motorbikes for traveling. Taxis and autorickshaws are available at relatively cheap rates. However, in most western countries, access to a car is difficult and parking can be limited. Unlike India, taxis are extremely expensive. Learning about public transportation systems in a new country can be difficult, but once students have experienced it a few times, it will become much easier.
India is the second largest country in the world
India’s population is huge – moving to a new country like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia will be a big adjustment. The population of these 4 countries together represents only 30% of the Indian population. Feeling lonely or homesick in a new place is completely natural. To deal with such situations, students can join societies and clubs in university or college and start building a network of friends and people to rely on. Each university or college has the opportunity to create its own community through different clubs, events, sports teams, etc. Most institutions have culture-specific clubs – almost every campus in Canada has an Indian student association. In these clubs, students can find mentors who can help them adjust to new cultures and lifestyles, while still celebrating events and holidays from home.
Traveling and staying in another country can be a rewarding experience. However, it also means that students should adjust their expectations and be excited to learn more about where they are going. All governments understand the value of international students both as a source of revenue and as contributors to society. They are ready to accept international students with open arms. There are materials that can help you prepare for life on campus in a new place – like Halp.co – whose international experts have lived and studied in the countries that students are most interested in. A little preparation and a few adjustments can help students succeed in their term in a new country.
(The author is the Global Student Success Manager)