June 29th, 2012

Survival Tips from a Used-to-Be Expat College Student

Some of us had to move a lot in our lives. As children, parents’ employment (or lack of) might have been the factor. Political or religious freedom may have caused others to relocate. Career Army service in the US, for example, requires families to move every few years, when the soldier in the family gets a new assignment.

Others did not move at all. They grew up in the house they were born in, went to school with the same group of people, and never left the state’s boundaries. For those students, and others, wanting to experience something new by studying in another country, just thinking about it might be daunting, scary and downright foreign.

Lucky for those new candidates, the road has been plowed for them. Many have done it before and found the experience very rewarding.

Here are some survival tips from used-to-be expat college students:

Be prepared. Do your homework about the country you are going to study in. Learn about its history, culture and languages that are spoken. Learn about the currency and which documents you’ll need. Find out where your nearest embassy is and have their number handy.

Read some local papers online to get a feel of the place. You are moving to another country, but the local sentiment may be different. What do they deem important enough to appear on the front page? Follow the University’s website and look for contacts through social media. Maybe a friend of a friend studies there?

Try to learn the local language. It might seem obvious but apparently many students going to study in the UK do not speak English. Many Asian students discover upon studying in the US that their level of English is not sufficient. This is especially important if you are going to study in a non-English speaking country. Even though English is a popular language it is not spoken in every corner of the world. By learning some of the local language at least you’ll get an idea what people around you are talking about.

Have realistic expectations. Realize that studying is not going to be a breeze, especially if you study in another language. It will take you more time to understand what others get very quickly. Some professors put thire lectures online, to help those who are slower to learn. Continue learning the language while you’re there.

Don’t give up. It might not be easy, and at times very lonely, but as you get to know more people it will get easier. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to live in another country so make the most of it. It will open your mind to endless possibilities and many paths will be revealed.

Keep your passport and money in a safe place. Remember, if a thief can see your wallet, he most likely can lift it. Avoid exposing your money in public places.
Have a positive attitude. Coming from a ‘developed’ place to ‘less developed’ might be a culture shock. Don’t brag and compare and feel superior. You might be an American, but Europe has been here for much longer. Have respect.

Travel the country. Take some time to know the place and the people. Travel the countryside, be curious and open minded and that might be the best experience of your life.

Patrick Del Rosario is part of the team behind Open Colleges. It is one of Australia’s pioneer and leading providers of online TAFE courses and Distance education. When not working, Patrick enjoys blogging about career and business. Patrick is also a photography enthusiast and is currently running a photography studio in the Philippines. If you have a blog and would like free content, you can find him on Google+.

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