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Challenges for international students: How to overcome the hitch!

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful – Joshua J. Marine”

 

Dreams, aspirations and increased pace of globalization makes it easier for students to bag an opportunity to study abroad. Studying abroad is often associated with better career opportunities and higher pay scale. Many students at their early stages tend to forget the challenges associated with studying abroad and underestimate the chances of failure. Being prepared to know what to except in the host country can increase the chances of being successful. In this blog, I would like to discuss the challenges of international students, and later also provide some fruitful recommendations to increase their chances of success.

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The main challenges of studying abroad can be easily categorized as follows:

  • Communication  – Frequently, students traveling abroad have a misconception that English can get them going in a lot of countries. Unfortunately, this is not true for listless number of countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc.! Language becomes the first barrier to communication.Not making enough effort to learn the language of the host country, hinders communication with the localities and makes it difficult to find a support network within the country. This isolates you making the day to day activities seem harder with less or no access to necessary information.Language is one sort of a problem and dialects associated with various languages make the story even more complicated. Have you ever heard of Germans from the North not understanding Germans in the South?!
  • Culture – How many would have heard the term ‘cultural iceberg’? What one can see or feel in regard to the culture of the host country can be only 20%. What you cannot is the rest 80%. Shocking right? The non-verbal communication details, values of the society, perspectives with respect to time, masculinity and power distance in the society. Many more details should be taken into sheer consideration. Lacking to prepare for these details can pose several challenges in the host country.My personal experience acknowledges the fact that every students travels through different stages of cultural adjustment. The initial honeymoon phase when entering the host country is all sweet, but a little later comes the cultural shock that causes irritation, denial and hostility. Unfortunately, it can a longer time to come out this culture shock to adapt to the surroundings and exhibit biculturalism.
  • Education system – The education system from the host country might be completely different to your country. The curriculum, the teaching system and the learning system, it needs few weeks before getting a hang of why certain things are in a certain way.To provide a simple example, in Europe, the education system requires active involvement of the students. The students are given the sheer independence and often expected to approach or question the professor in case of ambiguity. This is different to many countries in Asia, where students are expected to only follow the instructions of the professor without questioning them, which makes the educational system more passive.In Germany, I was initially surprised when (almost) everyone was drinking/eating/using phone/laptop/randomly walking in or out , so casually during a class. I wasn’t used to it since we even had to ask if we could drink water during a class.
  • Conflict between local and foreign students – One cannot deny that there are some preconceived notions (prejudices) about each country in any host country. Prejudices and intolerance from the local students while interacting with international students can cause inconveniences while working in a team(until you are lucky enough to get a class of open-minded, having no pre-notions about your country). More often unfortunately, there can be a higher gap between international and local students due to missing commonalities (in terms of culture, values, activities, friends) between them.
  • Financial issues – Usually, students immigrate to countries with better educational system and higher standard of living. This also indicates that the costs to perceive education in the host country are usually much higher compared to the home country. Majority of the international students are under stress to cater their financial needs forcing them to take up hard and study-irrelevant jobs. This divides the energy and the focus of the student often leading to poor grades and/or even completely failing to achieve the primary goals of studying abroad.

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Probably showing these challenges upfront can demotivate the students to pursue their dreams. The whole purpose is to make the students ‘expect the unexpected’ and prepare for the shocks in advance. I would like to put forward some set of recommendations which can help you to make your life easy studying elsewhere.

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But, the reason why all the above points are called best case scenarios is because – it is not common. And from what I have seen, around 90% of the students I have spoken to and known their situations, it is time to bring out some points that can help in overcoming them to its maximum. Let’s begin:

 

  • Financial – Always have a back-up plan and a realistic understanding of what the situation might be.
  • Preparation – Even before you leave your country, study the host culture and curriculum of the course. Understand the prerequisite knowledge and expectations demanded by the course. You would be much more open to the change.
  • Communication – Getting in touch with present students of the university and alumni. Try to develop social network in advance and practice social learning. If you are going to be the first international student in the region/University, may God be with you!
  • Time – Try arriving in the host country, little ahead before the start of your study program. This time cushion helps you harmonize understanding the system of the host country (finding groceries, library, railway station, bus connections, etc.).
  • Integration – Attending various social activities and getting to know people from different cultures can help you accept the new place faster and in a more healthier way.
  • Interaction – Don’t hesitate to give your feedback to the university or in the surveys. Register for the buddy program at the university (The buddy that I was assigned to, is my first German best friend and we continue to contact each other till date). It can help you in all possible situations and also helps you understand them from their perspective.

 

Hope this helps as many as possible and share it with everyone you know who is planning to study outside their home country.

All the very best! 🙂

Acknowledgement:

This blog is based on the personal experiences of Vidya Sagar Kantamneni and Charu Pathni.

Vidya Sagar Kantamneni: Originally from India, Vidya studied his Bachelors and double Masters in Austria. He is located in Austria and working for Infineon Technologies.

Charu Pathni: Charu studied her Masters in Germany in Chemnitz, graduated in 2015 and successfully pursuing her career at Vector Informatik GmbH.

P.S Do share your experiences in the comments below and you can also ask me any question on “Quora – Charu Pathni” or send me an email directly.

 

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14 thoughts on “Challenges for international students: How to overcome the hitch!

  1. Hi,
    This is Amay naik from GOA,I am Currently Doing my bachelors’ and wanted to do my masters in Automotive software Engineering . Can you Please help me by telling How to proceed with the admission.

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  2. Hi Charu! Thanks for the reply 🙂 I want to add that I wasn’t actually meaning that there was anything wrong in the blog post text.. I found this article by accident and was suprised to see how the other writer is, and got the urge to comment because of Stefan’s comment. I don’t want to go in personal things but as I know mr. Kantamneni well, he doesn’t live as he teaches and has had very negative thoughts about all european countries and bad attitude. That’s why it is suprising to see him writing this… He should learn to be humble (like you Charu quoted your papa, it’s so true) and stop hurting people.

    By the way, am I the only one who never had any culture shock in the host country? I had the shock when I returned to my home country 😀 I’ll keep reading these posts in the future, too.

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    1. Hello Alese 🙂
      I felt the cultural difference too when I went back to my home country first time 🙂
      Although I was there all my life, things still seemed so different and I have different perspectives with same things now 🙂

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  3. I agree with Stefan E.. Don’t want to be rude but chasing your dreams doesn’t mean that you can treat other people how you like and push them down. Also I’d like to add that arrogance is very bad attitude in all situations, alhtough you’d pretend to be so nice and caring… Nothing against Charu 🙂 The article has many good points, and I can agree with them as I was also once studying abroad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Stefan and Alese 🙂
      Thank you very much for sharing your views. Well, I agree with you in all aspects when it comes to arrogance and attitude.
      Chasing dreams should be pure effort and with the right spirits.
      I think that what Vidya tried to tell was in same lines as you but maybe there was some kinda communication error there.
      Eventually, we all work really hard for our dreams and on the way learn a lot too 🙂 But, we must always keep in mind that “The more the fruits a tree bears, it bends down with humbleness”, this is what papa always told me 🙂
      Thanks for sharing your views and hope you stay in the loop to give your opinions in future too 🙂
      Have a nice day 🙂

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  4. @ Mr. Vidya Sagar Kantamneni , Your dreams will no more come true if you Keep posting racist articles and comments in social media (Facebook) and with your misbehaviour, I’m sure that no one from your country is proud of you after that. I wonder if your employer (Infineon Technologies) also knows about this.

    Its really sad that since we are fighting discrimination and racism in Europe, someone who comes from India is behaving in uncivilised and uneducated way.

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  5. Yes.actually I just noticed properly the end part of your post where you give the directions..its really good. I just really noticed the top of the post and added the comment. Hope it doesn’t discourage you.keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. i was thinking charu pathni should write a blog on this before i read above and realised you wrote it. i used to read all your posts…but i think the post is a bit discouraging..
    i came to germany after studying A1 and with no certificates even though my uni required me to furnish A2.they gave me 1 year deadline.also i donot know what is this conflict..in my campus(a small campus of the uni with about 1500 students) there are hardly 10-15 indians and i have had some bad experience and some friends complained too while working in projects but the good ones are very good experiences working with others..i also lived in a house for a semester where everyone spoke german (30+ germans )..i have also been in associations one of which had only german students..everyone is very nice and supportive..if there was anything at fault it was me who was not mingling much with others thinking my german is not good.anyway my german is still not good.but i have attended A1 level classes in italian and a third language in german and also an exchange semester in italy. i have messed up my study plan having taken other subjects.but thats just me.i have even attended theology classes just because i was in love with the education system and never had this opportunity in india to attend so many varied courses.even participated in many volunteering activities. maybe thats the point you mentioned of losing sight of your goal. But thats a choice which people make right.

    when i was doing my bachelors i remember writing a blog on “mba vs mtech ” i was giving ideas like an mba earns money but mtech earns respect but later realised that this is not in my hands..people coming to Germany often have it planned. only a few still asks which course to select in germany..perhaps for them the blog will be an eyeopener..but even then ..they will be serious about getting work and so maybe on studies..so perhaps..maybe this blog can serve only to prove the point on what can go wrong and to inspire others to be better prepared..in that case its better.
    anyway im not anyone to question you guys as you are both working in Germany in good positions. Perhaps i just wanted to add that : Not losing sight of your goal and working hard will certainly help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Jibin,
      I understand what you went through and can relate why would have thought that the blog post is discouraging. But it isn’t like that.
      It was just about what generally happens (not applicable to each one specifically because that range is too hard to cover) and how one can find ways out of certain common situations.
      Your last point is absolutely true, not losing focus is very important during the whole journey 🙂
      Have a nice day!

      Like

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