Going abroad to study? Here’s a checklist to prepare you for the next phase of student life. ARCHANA SUBRAMANIAN and MADHUMITHA SRINIVASAN
So you’ve chosen your university and got admission. Anxiety levels rise as the joining date seems to be closing in. This already tricky phase poses new challenges as students who decide to study abroad need to adjust to a completely new environment. Going to college abroad can be intimidating yet exhilarating. A few tips can ensure that it is more of the latter!
Know your campus
- One of the best ways is to take a campus tour.
- If that’s not possible, don’t fret. Many universities and colleges offer a virtual tour.
- In case this option is not available, your best alternative is to check out the campus facilities, see what’s available and talk to people from your college.
- There will definitely be a college orientation programme designed to help new students know their home (for the next four years) better. Contact the college administration for more information.
One of the best ways to soak in the new environment is to join student organisations. Each school has student organisation involved in diverse activities. From politics, social causes, historic interests to art, most schools have organisations and activities for everyone. In fact, if you are interested in a particular topic and there are no student organisations already in place, go ahead and form one! So when you join a school, look out for the following:
- On the day of induction, the student senate will usually talk about different student activities. Make a note.
- Other than announcements many schools have the list of activities available in the form of a booklet in the student activities office.
- For international students, every school has a special international students’ office, which will have information on various activities. Subscribe to their mails and you will soon be involved.
- Always keep a look out for announcements on student notice boards, both on the campus walls as well as online. Student organisations usually post upcoming activities.
- Finally, just to list some of the interesting activities: there are all kinds of sports including adventure sports, art clubs from music , theatre, painting to even belly dance, clubs for students from different cultures like African, Chinese, Latinos, Koreans and Indians where you get to celebrate the various festivals of your culture.
- Then, of course, there are the special interest clubs that could involve just about anything.
Staying in a different country is an experience. So, if given a choice, try to integrate into the host culture as much as possible. It helps improve your language skills and helps you get to know the local culture better.
- Hostels: Most universities provide facilities for foreign students in a hostel either within the campus or close to it. It helps you save time on travel.
- Ask around: If you have applied to a university on your own ask local students for help or contact student housing providers directly. Check their websites for details on accommodation options and contact details.
- Paying guests: It’s one of the best solutions as food is taken care of too. Plus the rooms will be fully furnished and you won’t need to buy anything new.
- Rent a flat: Most apartments available for students are either furnished or semi-unfurnished. Split the rent by sharing it with one or more of your classmates. But read the terms before you sign on.
- Student Dorms: Cheaper and much more exciting. It’s fun to interact with students from all around the world but the main problem is lack of privacy.
Some live to eat and some eat to live. As a student in an international country, live to eat. You will learn the culture and the nuances of the new place only when you start to enjoy the different cuisines on offer. Vegetarians, don’t worry; this not a recommendation to change preferences. Try the vegetarian dishes of different cuisines and you will be surprised at the choices on the offer! Here are a few handy hints:
- Every campus will have its own cafeteria in addition to a small cafe and a number of vending machines across the campus. The cafeteria will serve meals and there will always be different choices on the platter.
- The small cafes are good for snacks and beverages
- Vending machines are great for sodas, chips and quick chocolates. Remember to carry change!
- There are usually a number of supermarkets and delis where you can buy sandwiches and short eats within walking distance of the campus. Sometimes these can be a cheaper and tastier option.
- There are always sit-down restaurants around the campus. These usually tend to be a tad too hard on the pocket. Head out when you want to indulge yourself.
- Pack a few packets of instant food, masala and other food stuff that’ll make you feel more at home.
- Finally create a home away from home by using the cooking range at your dorm or room. Eat healthy and save money but also attract a flock of friends who will learn about your culture through the food you rustle up.
Things you’ll need
- Less is more and comfortable too. So just pack the essentials. Remember you can always save on shopping at home and buy more.
- Clothes: Pack clothes according to the weather wherever you are going. Make sure to add clothes for all seasons. Take a few Indian clothes for special occasions. Check if the university has any specific requirements.
- Medicines: For emergency and your regular medication as prescribed by your doctors. Carry the prescription as well.
- Documents: The university documents (Confirmation letters, IDs, receipts, pay slips…), travel documents (passport, visa, travel insurance, medical certificate, if necessary, and your licenses) and financial documents (credit cards, traveller’s cheques, bank statements and local currency).
- The International Student Identity Card (ISIC): A globally recognised uniform ID that serves as proof of your student status and can be used for a range of benefits and discounts across the world. They can be purchased locally in India. For more details, log on to: http://www.isic.org/
- Calling card
- Details of those you need to contact and address of your accommodation or wherever you’re staying once you land in of your destination.
- Label your luggage with your name and contact details.
Now that you’re taking a step outside the homeland, think about cultural differences. Here are some tips to avoid a major faux-pas!
Tip #1: Being punctual matters, especially in Europe and the U.S. Indians have developed an infamous reputation of being a few minutes late (and sometimes more than just a few!). When you’re going to study abroad, the professors’ time is valuable, and being late will be seen as a sign of disrespect.
Tip #2: Understand the nuances. A student from Singapore said that most people can speak conversational English, but what took time for him to understand was the meaning behind their words. This is true of most different cultures. Take time to figure out the implicit meaning of the metaphors commonly used.
Tip #3: Levels of individuality and openness differ. India is a collective society, where groups are considered important, rather than individuals. In Europe, some parts of Asia, and the U.S., you have to respect people’s space and expression. If you see something that seems odd to you, don’t laugh or judge; keep an open mind.
As if accents aren’t hard enough to deal with, different cultures also have different idioms that people use in daily parlance. Get a head start and check these out!
- “Hit the sack” (U.S.A). Meaning: Go to bed or go to sleep.
- “Up a Gum Tree” (Australia). Meaning: In a big mess or in trouble.
- “All talk and no trousers” (U.K.) Meaning: Someone who boasts but doesn’t deliver.
- “Catch no ball” (Singapore) Meaning: You weren’t able to understand
With inputs from AARTI SUBRAMANIAN, THAENPAAVAI KANNAN, SAMVITHA RAM and NIHARIKA MALLIMADUGULA
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