Study abroad is the experience of a lifetime but, as with all good things, there can be tough times. Jessie Tan, our Dublin City University Ambassador, shares her experience…
I’m sure you’ve read thousands of articles or blogs about why you should study overseas and you get all excited about creating your own experience because it just seems so awesome. I’m not denying this at all, studying abroad is indeed an experience of a lifetime, but there are two sides to every coin. So here’s the truth that you don’t find everyday…
Friendships will change
This is rather inevitable for those of us who will be overseas for the next 3 or 4 years. Some might think that regular Skype calls would solve the problem but truth is, it won’t. Yes, talking to them regularly do keep you up to date about each other but as time pass, both you and your friend will start to live your lives without each other being physically present. That changes the relationship. Not that it’s a bad thing. You guys are still friends but the friendships will eventually be different one way or another. Don’t be afraid of change. If people change, let them because chances are, you’ll change too.
You’ll miss things you never thought you’ll miss
When I first made the decision of coming to Ireland for my degree, one thing I told myself was I will not miss speaking my national language (Malay language) while I’m here because I have always been so bad at it. After spending about 5 months away from home, I was surprised how hard nostalgia hit me when heard 2 guys talking in Malay on the bus one. Suddenly, the unbearable heat back in Malaysia now seems like paradise in comparison with the freezing winter here. I actually miss the same old annoying Chinese new year songs that played in every single mall repeatedly for over a month. That brand of biscuits that was produced in your country but you never buy them until you’re overseas. All these little things will make you realise how you’ve always take things for granted, and so you learn to appreciate.
One phone call makes a difference
Do not underestimate the effect of one single phone call. Always remember to call your family. Do it. Even if you don’t really have anything to say. Even if it’s just for a few minutes because you’ll never know how dialing a few buttons tapping a few numbers on the smartphone to say hi can brighten up your parents’ day. Sometimes, one phone call to home is what you need when you have a bad day.
Housemates can be fun…. They can be a nightmare too
This is basically just your luck. For those who have not stayed with strangers before, you’ve been warned. The thing is, everyone has they own lifestyle. Some think that leaving unwashed dishes in the sink for the whole weekend is okay because they’ll wash it on Monday but some see that as a big no-no. Others’ definition of the word “clean” might be different from yours. You’ll be surprised. The key here is to always communicate. Have a house meeting and set some ground rules. Don’t expect everyone to follow them because habits are hard to break. Yes, it could be infuriating at times but bear in mind that maybe some bad habit of yours might be annoying them too. Bottom line is to tolerate as you wished to be tolerated.
Internet can save your life
Just a little heads up for everyone. There are times when you have a genius lecturer who could be a PhD and you thought “Hey, that’s great!” then you found out you have no idea what he’s saying. You tried asking him to explain again but you & your friends might still be lost. What now ? Thank God we’re in the 21st century because the internet does help a lot. My personal lifesaver is usually Khan Academy. This is a free website where this guy, Sal Khan makes youtube videos about specific subjects. The subjects ranges from Maths to Science to Economics to Arts & Humanities. There are also some exercises for you to try out after you finish a topic or so. Another online source is Wolfram Alpha. This is a computational knowledge engine (just quoting what they called themselves). You can use this to check your answers for some math problems or any other problems I suppose. For maths, if you are willing to spend $4.75 per month to Go Pro, you get step-by-step solutions if you ever get stuck. Final note, do not use this as a substitute for lectures because the internet, though helpful, is NOT the answer to everything.
P.S. Lecturers sometimes give hints on what’s gonna be in exams.
That’s all for now. If this scares you, wait till you actually experience it. It’s not as bad as it seems. These are what comes with studying overseas, things you don’t get in textbooks. These are also what makes you grow as a person.