We are used to hearing institution-based advantages of going to university abroad. Most of these are university-dependent, such as a specific department having an excellent faculty or good research facilities. That is all well and good; after all, it is important to find a place that will give you the best tools to pursue your academic and professional goals. However, being an international student is not just about studying. Here are four of the best things I have experienced in my years of studying in a different country.
- Experiencing a new culture
Even if you end up at a university with an overwhelming majority of home students and very little diversity in the international student community, you would still end up living in a completely new environment. Sweeping stereotypes are cast aside – it shocked me to find Brits who do not like tea – and you assimilate yourself with nuances like humour and popular culture that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. It’s a great way to learn about the world.
The UK is an amazing country to be studying in just because of the sheer range of places to visit. Whether you want the natural beauty of the Lake District, the hustle and bustle of London, the history of Edinburgh or the relaxation of Bath, there is quite literally something for everybody. Most universities also arrange trips for international students in groups at a discounted price through the international office or a travel society. Make sure you take advantage of that.
- Different education system
If there is one academic aspect that university brochures and websites do not talk about, it is that international students usually end up studying in a system they are not used to. While this is challenging – especially during one-year courses that provide little time to adjust – it is a great way to learn adaptability, a skill that helps in all aspects of post-education life. Most universities are also very supportive when it comes to letting you adjust; just make sure you ask the faculty about their options.
- Appreciation of your own heritage
Growing up in a place where yours is the majority language, culture and way of life sometimes makes you complacent about what you have. Studying abroad gives you the chance to have a deeper understanding of your own heritage because you will inevitably be assailed with questions from local residents, both in and out of university. Answering the local grocer’s weekly questions was what gave me a wonderful appreciation of the eating habits back home, for instance, something I would not have ever thought about if someone was not curious enough to ask me.
These are all aspects I would never have been able to appreciate unless I experienced them first hand. Believe me, studying abroad is very rewarding and a lot of the best things are not advertised. Just remember that there are some challenges too; I still need to get used to the weather here!
What are the benefits of going international? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo: Justin Henry / Flickr