5 of the most common challenges you might face while studying abroad

Studying abroad is always an adventure filled with excitement, fun, joyfulness and challenges. In this blog post we’ll cover the most common challenges, practical and emotional, you might be facing while studying abroad. 

Girl flying to Malaysia
It´s normal to feel emotional when traveling towards an unknown destination. Photo By Ethan Sykes /  CC BY

Challenge #1: Culture shock 

The most commonly occurring challenge that exchange students face is definitely culture shock. Culture shock is what you’ll experience when you feel disorientated in another culture to what you are used to, another way of life and other set of attitudes. It may occur in normal situations, such as driving a scooter in left-side traffic in Malaysia or Thailand, only to realize that the western traffic rules that you might be focusing on and used to don’t apply here. Or when you are queuing to pay at the supermarket in Bali people will cut you off in the line without hesitation and not apologize because it’s normal behavior for them. The best cure for culture shock is learning and understanding about your new culture.

Here we’ve covered 8 tips on dealing with culture shock

Teacher in a classroom in Thailand
It might be frustrating to adapt to your new professor’s teaching methods. Photo By Tra Nguyen /  CC BY

Challenge #2: Difference in academic practices 

Not only can the culture shock be experienced in everyday situations but also at your university. You might find that the professor has a completely different method of providing information to you to what you are used to. The assignments and tasks might seem odd in addition to the fact that it has to be written in a likely different language from your home university (English). Bear in mind that you are at a different university, different country and culture, and the professor is probably not teaching in their first language either. 

Passport with stamp to enter Bali
Make sure to have the specific visa required in order to enter the country where you will study. Photo By Agus Dietrich /  CC BY

Challenge #3: Visa

As you’re most likely a non-resident at your exchange country you will need a specific visa in order to study there. It is a common challenge for exchange students, and its importance cannot be undermined. Research what kind of visa you’ll need for your destination and apply for it in good time before your planned flight, you do not want to leave it for the last day and possibly miss out on having it before arriving! Once in your destination you might need to extend your visa in order to have the right to stay in the country, and to avoid penalty fees (which can be surprisingly high). 

local ceremony in Bali
Learn as much as can about the local custom and traditions when you are studying abroad. It will give you many advantages. Photo By Florian Giorgio /  CC BY

Challenge #4: Language Barrier 

Speaking English with your fellow students is normal and conversations can possibly be held in-depth without challenges but traveling out from the tourist hotspots to rural areas you might find that nobody speaks a common language with you. Of course you can always use body language to show what you mean but it makes interactions smoother if you know even the basics, such as “hello” and “how are you” in the local language. Top that off with a smile and your friendly attitude will most likely be met with equally warm behavior. If you become a bit more fluent in the local language you’ll have an superb advantage in your destination as it will help you developing more meaningful friendships, it’s easier to bargain and avoid paying the tourist-prices, and you might even develop business relations. 

alone on top of a hill
It´s common to feel lonely in the beginning of your travels. Photo By Dustin Groh /  CC BY

Challenge #5: Feeling lonely or left out 

Before you’ve made any connections you might have a feeling of loneliness arriving to your new destination. Staying in your hotel room not knowing what to do or where to go is more common than thought. Especially if you’re traveling alone and arriving to your university it might seem that everybody is in groups and talking in different languages, and you might feel like an outsider. Don’t let fear take over you, all the students are new there just as you, just as nervous or even more so – there is no need to stay in that uncomfortable state. Step out from your comfort-zone and approach those who are also standing alone and make conversation, introduce yourself and build your own group. If you are feeling like an outsider it is nice when someone comes to make conversation so be that person! 

Study Abroad in Asia? Find out more and apply now! 

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This article was written by our Digital Marketing intern Emil!

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