“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
Said Saint Augustine and I totally agree with him. In fact this is the reason I decided to pursue my education abroad in a foreign country. It is exciting to imagine exploring the world on your own. You may have seen cousins or friends who study abroad or work in foreign countries. You may see movies where the hero travels to London for his MBA (remember Hrithik in K3G?). As exciting as it sounds, there are things you must seriously consider before you travel abroad to any country for studies.
In this article, I hope to provide you with the different perspectives and the challenges one must be ready to face while travelling abroad.
- Growing up, taking responsibility– I am assuming that you are in your early twenties if you are considering a bachelors or a masters degree abroad. Usually by this age you have a license and the right to drink. Yet, from experience and comparison I see a major difference between a 21 yeard old in India or Pakistan as compared to a 21 year old in the UK or US for instance. In India and Pakistan, young adults live with their parents until they leave for employment. If they are employed in the same city, they continue to live with their parents. This is not the case abroad. This means, Indians are dependent on their parents for a very long time. Mother does all the household chores, cooks, cleans, washes and father does all the bill payments and earnings. If you want to travel abroad, you must know that you will have to take responsibility for every single dirty sock on your bedroom floor. You cannot leave dirty tea cups or dishes behind after meals. You cannot keep asking others for money. Being independent is not so much fun as you dream. It carries a lot of responsibility to make the right choices. You may be tempted to spend time exploring new places or drinking at the fancy night clubs of the town while you are supposed to study and make good use of your foreign education. It gets difficult to draw the lines and there is no one to stop you. Only you can stop yourself. Can you handle yourself?
2- Mental preparation– You have to prepare yourself mentally before even applying for admission abroad. Feelings of isolation and loneliness creep in from the moment you enter your new room. The flight, the new sky, new roads is all fun and distraction until you are behind four walls. You will make friends in a while and have some counsellors ready to welcome you and talk about any issues that you may have but its easier said than done. You will miss your family and think about vacations even before beginning of the new semester. Some people are very flexible with new things. They show least resistance to change and get mixed up very easily. While others, mostly introverts, take time to mingle with new people.
“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”
Consider the language issue. If you are travelling to the UK, USA or France, you can get by if you are fluent in English and or French (for France). But you must know that the English used in India is pretty different from what is used in UK or USA. The terminology, slangs, usual everyday vocab, everything differs. You will find it very difficult to understand the accent of different regions. In the UK, people in London speak in a completely different accent than people in Wales. If you are not very good with the native language of the country where you want to study, either get a course or watch movies and videos to understand accent, tone and slangs to get accustomed to it.
4. Foreign relatives-
It is a common practice for IndianPakistani parents to send their children for education abroad to countries where they have friends and relatives. There are many nice families who commit to take care of their relative’s kids when they come abroad. For some people this could prove to be very helpful as it is a relief to know that there is someone to recieve you at the airport, a home to rest in and people with whom you can speak your own language. Nevertheless, it is not obligatory. I personally never prefered to ask anyone for help. The best thing is to go fully prepared. If you do need help, ask but very limited. Depending on others will strip you of respect and dignity. Never overstay your welcome if you do decide to go to a relative. Always clean behind you and hep around house chores because unlike India/Pakistan, there are NO maids and servants in the UK and Europe to do those things. If you decide to travel abroad for education, do not dodge the bullet by resting your gun on someone elses shoulder.
5. Food issues-
Indians and Pakistani have two major issues with food. Muslims need Halal food and non Muslims might prefer vegetarian food. Eating in the UK is different from India. There are various restaurants and takeaways but you cannot rely on them as it may cost you a lot. For a quick meal you can log in to http://www.just-east.co.uk or Hunger House and order a meal straight away. If you want to cook your own food, almost every city has Asian grocery shops where you can pick up spices and Asian ingredients for home cooking. It is not difficult to find these. They also sell fresh Halal meat so you would not have to compromise with your religious values. But be prepared for some tough times. When I travelled to Switzerland for the first time for my MBA, I survived on vegetables for 3 months before I found a Halal meat shop!
6. Long term goals
Think about your long term goals in life. Where do you want to settle? What sort of visa regulations exist? How far from your family can you live? If you return back to your home country, what would be your options like? Why are you actually considering going abroad if you can get the same education somewhere close by?
Be very particular about your ideas and make sure you dont feel lost in the middle of your journey. Of course, not everything can be planned and there are chances you will change your plans but have a big picture vision in your mind. That is most likely to remain the same.
Thus, it is pertinent to think about all these aspects of your personality when you plan to fly to a foreign country for a degree.
There are many other aspects and resources that you will read in this blog, so hang on. If you have decided this is what you want to do, keep your own on further posts.
One thing that I can say for sure is that there is no feeling like returning home after getting an education abroad and meeting your family. By leaving your home behind, you learn a lot more than just a degree. You grow up, mature, learn about the realities of life and value what your parents did for you while you were growing up.
“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.”
Love and Light