Studying abroad can be a dream come true for many, but there can be anxiety and fear related to many aspects of it.
However, there are ways to overcome those fears before they paralyze us. Being uncertain and worried about change is natural. But we often tend to allow these worries to grow to immense proportions and they may make us forget why we even started this whole thing.
So I wanted to dig into some major study abroad fears that students tend to have and here they are.
1. Can I afford it?
I know that has always been the biggest worry for me. But it’s all a matter of good planning and rational approach to money. Research all the options you have and chose the degree you can afford, most conveniently without getting a loan. I ended up in Scotland , because the universities in the rest of UK charge much more for the degree.
TopUniversities put together a list of 10 of the Most Affordable Places to Study Abroad so you can start your research from there if you’re on a budget.
Save as much as you can before going to have some amount of money to feel safe at the beginning. Take into account rent, any deposits you will have to pay at the beginning, books and some basic supplies.
Get a part time or summer job and start saving right away. You can have a look at my post on balancing university with a part time job. When researching destinations, take into account the possibility of working during your degree as well. I am able to support myself from a part time job. I knew before I started my degree that the uni workload should allow me to work part time.
If you don’t know the local language enough to work there, you can work remotely online doing freelance copywriting, translations, programming, etc. Lifehack has a list of freelance jobs for students to make money AND boost your resumé.
2. Won’t I be lonely and homesick?
This is difficult, especially if you haven’t travelled alone before. The first weeks on your own can be a struggle. Don’t let homesickness take your life over, try to fully embrace what you’re feeling. You can find my post on embracing homesickness helpful.
Nowadays it’s easy to keep in touch with your friends and family so don’t be afraid to call them every day. I used to spend half my life on Skype during my semester abroad.
Joining activities on campus, clubs and societies, will keep you busy and make you feel less homesick. Those are also great opportunities to make friends, so jump into uni life right away!
GoOverseas has a great guide on How to make friends on your year abroad.
I understand that it might seem a bit harder if you’re an introvert (like me!) or have anxiety regarding your time abroad that stops you from going out so much. Don’t worry, respect your own boundaries, find the type of people that seem more suitable for you. Don’t get discouraged!
3. Will I manage to study in a foreign language?
If you’re studying in any language that is not your first, try to take every opportunity to brush up on your skills. This is a unique opportunity to be totally immersed in the language and culture of the country!
Most universities will offer language courses for exchange and international students or some kind of language support. Find out what your university offers and take advantage.
There will most definitely be language exchanges- meetings of people who want to practice speaking foreign languages. This is by far my favourite way of combining language learning and making friends! Look for language or international societies on campus or groups on Facebook or Couchsurfing.
4. What if I get really sick?
Research the health system of the country you’re going to beforehand. Know what you are entitled to as a student, what are the potential costs of basic treatments. If the country you’re going to has a system of registration, register with a GP at the beginning, don’t wait until something happens (learn from my mistakes).
If you have a chronic desease, research into the ways you can get any medication necessary while abroad or the rules for transporting medication.
5. What if I fail?
Well, just like if you were studying in your home country, you may fail an exam or entire year. Research (a lot of research, I know) into all the universities and countries you’re interested into: what conditions do they have for failing exams, what happened to your funding and degree.
Remember that there is no shame in failing and you can always get back home and figure out something new. Don’t let anybody put you down and learn from your own mistakes.
6. Will my friends at home forget me?
This may be a major concern for many students. You have ties with people from your hometown, maybe friends you’ve known since kindergarden. As long as you take care of those friendships, they will not forget you!
There are so many ways to keep in touch, you can even go old fashioned and write letters.
I meet with all my friends every time when I am visiting home. Sometimes it gets overwhelming to see everybody during only a couple of days, but I make it a priority.
I found out that people are also really keen on visiting me abroad. My friends and family have already visited me many times in Scotland and in Spain. It’s cause we can see each other and they can enjoy a short vacation time.
7. Will I manage alone in a foreign country?
This one actually sounds more scary than it is. Depending on your level of local language it will be more or less easy, but don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
Take one step at a time. If you have to call your mum to ask how to put the laundry in the washer- do it, next time you’ll know.
Here’s How To Survive Living in a Foreign Country from Thought Catalog.
Emulate what the locals do- listen to how people order coffee, watch the way they behave, talk to people- they will be happy to talk about themselves and their country, I guarantee. You will be like a baby learning to speak and walk only by imitating the adults- you will learn in no time and won’t even notice.
What are the fears you would had or would have before going to study abroad? Let me know in the comments!