« I’d like to study abroad, but… »

Although there are many good reasons to study abroad, which should always be considered an investment, there often are some obstacles that might prevent you from taking the step. Because you’re reading this, you’re probably not in a place where studying abroad is completely out of the question. You only might be slightly hesitant, for whatever reason. In this article we’re going to go through some of the more common obstacles and objections to studying abroad, and see if there’s anything you can do about them.

Airplane up in the sky during sunset
Going abroad can be frightening for many but once you have done it, you realize what an amazing experience it all was. Photo by Nils Nedel / CC BY

What are some of the more common obstacles to studying abroad? When we’ve asked students what they consider their top challenges for studying abroad, the following are the most common:

  • Not having enough time
  • Being afraid that you won’t progress in your studies and graduate on time
  • Not having enough money to study abroad
  • Afraid to step outside of your comfort zone
  • Not finding the right courses to study
  • Fears about leaving your relationships behind
  • Thinking you’re not a good enough student to go study abroad

If you can identify with any of the above, you’re not alone! Now let’s go through some of these obstacles and see if there’s anything to do about them.

dog wearing a blanket on a bed
Do you feel like this when planning your semester abroad? Photo by Matthew Henry CC BY

1. Not having enough time

Between studying, working and other demands on your time like hobbies and family, where do you fit time for studying abroad?

Studying abroad is like an investment, and like any other investment, it comes with trade-offs. When you invest your time, effort and money into something, you have less to invest in something else that might also be valuable.

If you find yourself thinking that you would like to study abroad but at the same time wonder if you have the time, take a moment to weigh the pros and cons of each option: going to study abroad or doing something else.

Studying abroad usually takes a maximum of 5 months of your life. During those 5 months, you’ll have opportunities to learn and experience things that you might not be able to experience anywhere else. Studying abroad is not only once-in-a-lifetime experience: because of everything you get to live through and see, it can sometimes literally feel like a whole another lifetime unto itself, condensed into the span of just a few months. Like one student put it:

“I can honestly say that during the last 5 months I’ve learned and experienced more than I have in my whole life, and it’s been just incredible.”

– Barbora (Czech Republic), studied abroad in Phuket

If you truly have a lot going on in your life and simply find it impossible to squeeze in a few months of studying abroad, you can always sign up for a shorter, 4-week summer school session. A summer school is like a condensed study abroad experience, where you get a glimpse of a new country and culture and earn some study credits as well, without committing months of your time.

You might also be interested in: 7 Best Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad

red calendar with a motivational text
Studying abroad is always a meaningful investment of time, even if it’s only a few weeks. Photo by Manasvita S CC BY

2. Being afraid that you won’t progress in your studies and graduate on time

It’s common to think that studying abroad means you will fall behind in your studies.

Often though it’s possible to earn as much or even more study credits abroad than at home. At most of our partner universities, you can earn 30+ ECTS (around 15+ US credits) per semester, which exceeds the requirements set by most universities around the world.

Studying abroad is also an opportunity to expand not only your personal worldview, but your academic horizons as well.

You can study subjects you wouldn’t necessarily even have the chance to study at your home institution. This will make you a more versatile and creative thinker, because you’re able to think beyond the narrow scope of your own field.

3. Not finding the right courses to study

Every university, college and degree program has different requirements on what courses you have to complete and when. Sometimes these requirements might be quite strict, and you might have less room to take courses abroad which don’t fit your major.

Other times,getting the courses you take abroad included into your degree is often just a matter of creating a Learning Agreement and negotiating things with your home institution. Even if you have taken courses outside of your major, it’s often possible to get them accredited as minor studies. Ask the study abroad coordinator at your home institution for advice.

4. Not having enough money to study abroad

While there are lots of expensive study abroad programs out there, studying abroad doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A lot depends on where you want to go. Asia has some of the most affordable study abroad destinations, where you will be able to live comfortably even on a student budget. See here for a calculation of the overall costs involved

There are often many opportunities for scholarships which can help cover some of the costs of studying abroad. See here for a list of resources per country

pink piggy bank
Studying abroad doesn’t have to break your piggy bank. In fact, studying abroad in Asia is more affordable than anywhere else. Photo by RawpixelCC BY

5. Afraid to step outside of your comfort zone

Often we might want to go for something, but feel uncertain about whether we are up to the challenge. The only way to find out what we’re capable of something is taking the leap and doing it. We might encounter some things we are not used to and may at times feel our capabilities being stretched, but that’s how we grow. It’s like going to the gym: you have to strain yourself in order to grow stronger. In some ways, going to live abroad is like entering a hero’s journey: you enter into strange lands, face challenges and ultimately become a better and wiser person as a result of your experiences.

« The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. »
– Joseph Campbell

6. Leaving your family, friends and significant other behind

We might fear that if we take a leave from our regular life at home, our relationships might suffer. Maybe we feel our family needs us, our friends might forget about us and if we’re dating someone, he or she might decide to move on while we’re away.

It’s true that going abroad might put your relationships to the test, but if your loved ones really care about you, they will support your choices and be there for you even after you return. And if they don’t, that also tells you if the relationship was worth it or not. At any rate, you’ll be guaranteed to find many new friends while abroad.

7. Thinking you’re not a good enough student

Some universities or colleges might not allow you to go abroad unless you have a good enough average grade. Like finding the right kinds of courses, this is not always a definite obstacle. To qualify to apply to study abroad in most of our programs, you don’t have to have certain grade point average. We believe studying abroad is too valuable an experience to be restricted only to the above average student. What matters more is your open-mindedness and your motivation and willingness to learn.

silhouette of a person standing on a rock
When going to study abroad, it’s more important to have an open mind and a sense of adventure than excellent grades. Photo by Aziz Acharki /  CC BY

Find out more about studying in Asia or Asia Pacific

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!


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