When you’re going to study abroad, you’re going into a new culture. A different way of living and doing things that you’ve been used to in your home country. You need to have your eyes and ears open, so you can get by without making glaring errors or miss opportunities to make the most of your foreign education.
Here are five mistakes international students tend to make in a new country.
Only make friends with others from your country
The common tendency to only hang out with others from your own country takes away from the college experience of many new students in an unfamiliar country.
Sure, you’re missing home. You miss hearing your native language spoken. You’re in a new place far from home and you’re missing home food. You don’t know what to talk about with the other students who are from other countries. Especially when there’s a communication barrier, it can seem just easier to stick with kids who share the same cultural background as you.
But it won’t help you if you don’t make an effort to mix with kids of other nationalities. You’ll miss a big point of studying abroad, which is to be exposed to different cultures. Otherwise, you could have just stayed at home and gone to a good college there, right?
You’d be surprised how many international students think (wrongly) that the other native students won’t want to talk to them since they’re foreign. Some individuals may have xenophobia, but you could miss out on valuable friendships if you don’t make an attempt to make friends with the kids who are actually nice.
Always say hi to kids from different countries. Get to know their cultures. You’re exposed to such diversity and have the perfect opportunity to improve your social knowledge and cultural awareness. You’ll feel more confident and enjoy a broader social network when you do.
Spending too much
It’s easy to spend too much (even when you’re on a tight budget) when you’re studying abroad. The foreign exchange rates make a huge difference in your spending power unless you’re going to study in a country where the currency is weaker than your home country. Don’t make the mistake of losing track of foreign exchange rates. You could find yourself quickly running out of cash. Also, look for alternatives to bank transfers, such as Western Union and MoneyGram, that often turn out to be cheaper.
Another way you could end up having to spend more than you can afford is in the international money transfers to your college. If it takes too long, you could end up with arrears. Plus, you’ll be paying bank fees that add up. And if your payment ends up at the bursar’s office with your details having been lost along the way, that’s a whole other problem.
Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking student loans available to local students will also be available to you. Before landing up hopefully at a bank in your host country and being told you’re not eligible for a loan, do your research well.
Bunking your classes/failing them
Many international students are more excited about being abroad than studying. Yes, your professors will encourage you to travel because there’s a lot of benefit in traveling and exploring. But don’t forget that you’re not there on holiday. You’re still expected to attend class and pass your exams.
Not studying or attending classes, falling behind on your coursework, and failing a class or more are the stupidest mistakes you can make when you’ve spent so much money, energy and time just to be able to study abroad.
If you do feel the need to miss a lecture or two, make sure to ask a classmate for notes so you can catch up with what you’ve missed. No one wants to stop you from having fun. But don’t put yourself in a position where you’re doing it at the expense of your classes. Stick to exploring on the weekends and during holidays.
Drinking to excess
You’ll be invited to parties with your new friends abroad. There will be drinking. There will probably be lots of wine available to you to drink. But does that mean you can go at it as much as you like?
The last thing you want is to end up so drunk that you make a scene, pass out in the lobby, or be barely able to get yourself home and end up stumbling drunk around the city. You’d be embarrassed and humiliated. Your program staff will not be pleased. And you’ll probably spend the rest of the semester worrying about what to expect on your record. There have been cases of students being dropped from higher educational institutions, for simple disciplinary actions in their undergrad years.
So, the lesson to be learned is this: just because there’s an unlimited supply of wine doesn’t mean you have to drink yourself to oblivion. Drink for enjoyment, as the Italians do. Don’t do it to get drunk. Even if this is your first chance to drink legally or buy your own bottle of wine from the store.
Not exploring where you live
On one extreme is students who skip classes to travel. On the other is students who fail to explore the new country they are in. If you give up the chance to explore the new culture you’re in, you won’t be able to pick up the international skills that an increasingly global world will demand of you. What could be a life-changing experience of personal growth could become just another college course for you. Think of all the international friendships you’re missing out on making!
I suggest turning up early for your course and doing the exploring before your session begins. It’s a good idea to arrive a month early, so you get time to settle down. Instead of hanging around lazily in your dorm or rented flat, you could spend some time getting acquainted with your new home.
Over and above everything, don’t forget to have fun. And to be yourself! Don’t let the unrealistic standards of eating and dressing of the local Instagramming crowd carry you into debt. And most of all, don’t leave! Even if you’re homesick. You’ll probably never forgive yourself.