Although studying abroad is an exciting experience, you must be prepared to face some challenges as well. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common challenges that African students face when studying abroad.
#1 Language Barriers
Language difference is one of the biggest challenges for students who want to study abroad. A language barrier comes about when the language you speak differs from the language that is spoken in your desired study abroad destination. For example, if you are an Ethiopian citizen who only speaks Arabic but you wish to study in Japan, you will have a very hard time in that country if you don’t understand Japanese. In fact, most universities will not consider your application unless you can prove that you have a certain degree of proficiency in the language that they use as a medium of instruction.
In your first months in a foreign country, you may also discover the way that the local language is spoken is more challenging to understand compared to the formal version you may have learned prior to your travels. For example, the English language as it is spoken in South Africa slightly differs from how it is spoken in the United States. As such, it will take some time before you are able to understand all the nuances.
#2 Currency Differences
Moving to a new country often means adopting a new kind of currency. For instance, if you are an African student from Uganda, you will be more familiar with the Ugandan shilling as the basic unit of measure when paying for items. However, when you go to study abroad, you will have to use the United States dollar in all your transactions. In your first weeks, it will be challenging to understand various denominations but eventually, you will get the hang of it.
#3 Managing Personal Finances
Traveling abroad for studies is usually an expensive affair. If you factor in the cost of visa, flight and ground transportation, meals and accommodation, shopping, and books, the total expenditure is significant. If you fail to budget properly, you may end up stranded. As such, it is important to carefully plan for your expenses as early as you can. There are many free online tools that you can use to budget for your expenses.
#4 Culture Shock
Culture shock is the phenomenon you encounter when you visit a place with different customs from those you are used to. For instance, if you come from a country where people dress conservatively, you will encounter culture shock when you visit a place where people dress liberally. Another example is if you come from a country where people always speak quietly and politely in public. If you come from such a country and you visit a place where people are chatty and loud in public, you will experience culture shock.
Just like language barriers, you will eventually overcome culture shock with time. You will slowly get used to the fact that people have different customs and that there is no single correct way to do things.
Homesickness is one of the most common challenges that African students face when they are studying abroad. Homesickness is a deep yearning for the comforts and familiarity of your home country. Homesickness comes about because you are no longer close to your friends and family and you probably don’t have access to the foods and forms of entertainment that you are accustomed to.
While this is a difficult hurdle to overcome, being around other international students and keeping in touch with your folks back home can help you feel more content in your study abroad destination. With the abundance of communication tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Zoom, and Google Meets, you can comfortably stay in touch with your family and friends back home.
While studying abroad is a wonderful way to meet new people and build great networks, the experience can be alienating. This is often true for students who are not outgoing by nature. In some countries, for example the United Kingdom and Canada, the winter season can be tough because most people stay indoors throughout. If you don’t already have friends, it becomes even harder to meet them during the winter season.
# 7 Insecurity
Living in a foreign country can bring unexpected security risks. For instance, the recent war in Ukraine has displaced more than 16,000 Africans. For students who are studying in universities located in big cities such as London and New York, security risks are more acute.
To stay safe, international students need to follow all safety precautions recommended by the authorities in the countries that they are studying in.
Although studying abroad comes with its challenges, there are many benefits that come with this experience. Do not let yourself get discouraged by the challenges–instead, find ways of coping with them over the duration of your studies.
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