Many students have their own reasons for studying abroad: higher standard of education, better facilities on campus, and better employment opportunities than those in the native country. Along with new opportunities, there are specific obstacles to comfortable studying and living in a foreign country. Budgeting and expenses, missing family and friends, cultural and language differences are considered the most noticeable difficulties that affect the socialization process as well as the academic performance.
Most students who plan on studying abroad think of it as sheer fun and delight. But even though it definitely is an invaluable experience, adaptation to the local culture often takes a great deal of time and efforts, and many people feel the so-called culture shock. Is it exactly what you are going through at this moment? Ask yourself these questions: Are you feeling anxious and disoriented in the new surroundings? Are you grumpy and depressed for no obvious reason? Are you suffering from insomnia these days even though you had no sleep problems at home? If your answer is yes, you are most probably experiencing culture shock, which is quite a common occurrence among international students.
The high cost of studies in the foreign country is a frequent stumbling block. Study abroad programs often cost more than those at home institutions. International students have to pay more than local students pay for tuition fees by a certain percentage. In addition, plane tickets and apartments for accommodation are expensive. Money for telephone or internet connection with home is also a component of fixed costs for a foreign student. Nevertheless, financial help such as scholarships and grants can be asked from different foundations and commissions. Financial obstacle to studying overseas becomes so obvious because it is linked with other constraining aspects, including family limitation.
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Obstacles to Comfortable Studying and Living in a Foreign Country
While studying abroad, one misses his/her family members and close friends caused by the familiar environment. Family and friends play the role of mentors, trusted advisors, support buddies, and even cheerleaders in one’s everyday life. The safety, support, and comfort come from their proximity. One cannot teleport to friends from the new country or phone family member any convenient time, despite the difference in time. As a result, one can feel indecisive, lonely and lost out of the country (Byram & Feng, 2006).
Both women and men are worried if their previous social contacts can be reestablished. The first steps into new social arena and finding like-minded persons are difficult tasks. The freedom to be ourselves and trust people takes time to be built, not mentioning deep friendships. Therefore, missing family and friends is the main psychological barrier to studying abroad.
The cultural obstacle
Cultural obstacle is another effect that results from studying abroad. International students face a wide range of challenges: from academic language expectations to cultural differences. Language barrier is a significant difficulty, when students are unable to communicate in the official language of the foreign country. English may be widely spoken and understood, but the national language has the main position. Local dialects are also spoken by a large percentage of the population in certain areas. Moreover, understanding of slang and accent increases the problem, but knowledge of language stands as an integral part of successful study that cannot be undervalued.
Problems of communication
In fact, students get to know each other through language. Effective communication in the study process means quicker and better results. It develops relationships, and at the same time serves as a tool of preventing conflicts. On the other hand, insufficient knowledge of language can create the negative studying environment. Good knowledge of language is also beneficial in dealing with people outside the college.
However, one international student emphasizes that language difficulty is not as big as a cultural one: “So it’s like cultural would maybe at the top, and just the newness, newness of being in a new place, homesickness, different expectations and then not understanding sort of the culture of a particular educational institution” (Martin, 2011). The cultures can be quite different from each other like African values differ from Western ones. This can make students feel alienated, because of the cultural shock. Learning the new culture can go as far as undermining one’s native culture. For instance, a student may end up forgetting his original culture and language.
Understanding of country’s culture plays a vital role for strong professional relationships. When one is studying abroad, knowledge of cultural peculiarities is one of the keys to academic success. The variety of opinions about things and personality can cause problems such as cross-cultural conflicts. As a result, language barriers can also appear Cultural and linguistic barriers can limit one’s expectations. The fact of studying abroad does not mean that the student can learn a foreign language automatically. That is why one should make efforts to be familiar with people from other culture, for avoiding the uncertainty in the group, future orientation, performance and human orientation.
Attention must be paid to foreign cultural aspects as components of everyday life. Such cultural differences affect people’s relations, behavior, and intercourse. Cultural adaptation encourages personal relationships and collaboration among individuals in college (Laughlin, 2011).
Language and cultural differences, nostalgia for family and home are persistent reminders of the fact of studying in the foreign country. Thus, adaption to foreign educational system can be stressful for international students. When students study thoroughly to attain their goals, they realize that there are many challenges and obstacles. Consequently, stress starts to develop in those students. Unfortunately, nowadays stress becomes a way of life for many students and its effects need to be prevented. Generally, pressure in college causes stress situations, but inner fear also becomes the reason of stress for foreign entrants.
Tips on How to Overcome Culture Shock
1. Learn your host country before you go there. Read some articles or books about it, talk to those who have been there already or to locals if an opportunity occurs. This will prepare you to further assimilation into the new environment and help to avoid confusing and embarrassing situations.
2. Bring some of your personal items with you. These can include anything, from photos of your family and friends to toys and jewelry. You will feel at home having such things around you.
3. Learn the local language. The ability to freely communicate with locals will make your stay much more comfortable. What’s more, it will help you to succeed in your studies since they will most probably be in the local language. For those who are learning English for their studies, is a very helpful resource.
4. Make sure you interact with locals as much as possible. This is the most effective way to overcome culture shock. Do not fear to ask them questions. The natives are usually more than willing to introduce people to their culture and help them in all ways possible. Whenever you need advice on this or that matter, turn to
5. Remember to keep an open mind. Do not see everything unusual and alien as negative. Get to know about local customs and tradition and strive to find out background of every phenomenon before you form your opinion on it.
6. Maintain regular contact with home using phone, email, Skype, Facebook, and even snail mail. There’s nothing like talking to your nearest and dearest when you feel lost or misunderstood.
Of course, there is always the possibility that you will not feel the culture shock at all; however, if you do, remember that it is just a temporary state. You definitely can cope with culture shock and turn your stay abroad into an unforgettable experience!
Fear is a common part of student’s hesitation to study abroad. Students are worried about leaving their family and friends and learning a new culture and language. This fear as well as other barriers can be overcome by researching a new country with its traditions, language, reading books, watching films or listening to music of native authors, making new personal relationships with those who study abroad from the same country. Students must also remember that there are many advantages of studying abroad that overweight difficulties: “It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities” (Noume, 2011).