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“Studying abroad is great, it helped me broaden my horizons!”, says a friend.
“You’ll gain knowledge you’re never going to get if you study locally”, says another.
All we usually hear about study abroad opportunities is the positive side of things like being able to immerse in new cultures, gaining a diverse network of friends, and opening up opportunities that you won’t find back home.
However, the disadvantages of studying abroad are hardly discussed, and it might do more harm than good to ignore them before heading overseas. Here are some you need to take note of!
1. Experiencing culture shock as an international student
Bear in mind that when you go abroad, you’ll be leaving the comfort of your home country, where everything feels familiar to you. Once you are away, you’re bound to be in for a culture shock due to the differences in the local customs and practices.
Imagine studying in the UK, where you’d have to sacrifice your favourite Malaysian food, and may struggle to understand the various local accents.
The biggest culture shock for Malaysians? No bidets 😨.
That being said, it isn’t the end of the world if this happens to you. In fact, it’s pretty common to suffer from culture shock. You should look at the more exciting prospects of studying abroad such as gaining new experiences, learning new things and making valuable friends across the world.
You can also do a bit of research of the country’s culture by following lifestyle influencers on social media. From there, you can pick up on how and what they usually talk about, how some topics are casual or sensitive, and what terms or phrases they use.
There are also international student societies already established in most foreign universities, so you can approach them for help any time.
2. Suffering from extreme homesickness while studying abroad
Almost similar to our previous disadvantage, but it deserves its own explanation, mainly because we as Malaysians have strong familial values and ties. Studying overseas is going to take you far away from home, on your own, and most importantly, no one to help you as you usually do. Feeling homesick and not being able to find a way to channel this feeling can also lead to poor experiences, and even affect your studies, research has shown.
Don’t fret, it’s not the end of the world if you feel this way. In fact, the first step to curing homesickness is to acknowledge that you are experiencing this. Here are some more tips to combat this we have found:
- Go out for some fresh air and keep yourself busy.
- Seek out Malaysian students or other international students.
- Consider keeping a journal and express your experience.
- Exercising is not just a way to keep fit, but it helps improve your mental health too.
- Your family and friends are just a video call away, remember that!
- Bring things or routines that remind you of home.
3. Studying abroad incurs high costs
Studying abroad generally requires a higher financial commitment. The main cost components being tuition fees and cost of living, make up a substantial amount of the budget when you look at our currency exchange rates.
While that is true, this matter is rather subjective. Let’s angle it in another way by asking yourself; is the amount of money spent worth it?
Being able to study overseas is a privilege, and the experience that you gain from this is invaluable. Experiencing new cultures, building diverse international friends, access to world class teaching faculties and facilities and gaining an immense sense of independence and confidence are among the inherent benefits of studying abroad you can never get back home. Plus, you can always control your costs by controlling your lifestyle budget and get a part-time job.
You can also engage with a study abroad consultant, such as Uni Enrol, to help line up what you should be financially prepared for so you can get a clearer picture of what to expect while you are there.
Prep your study abroad finances!
Are you eligible for a scholarship to study abroad, or are looking for one? Check out: Top 10 Full Scholarships in Malaysia for Your Overseas Study after SPM
4. Restarting social networks when studying abroad
Studying abroad can be a lonely journey in the beginning. Research has shown that students abroad may not just suffer from the stress of having to adjust into a new environment, they could face hesitance from locals due to the different cultures and social beliefs. This could domino into a poor experience.
However, let’s view new beginnings as an opportunity. Forming a new social circle is not just an opportunity to meet new people, but also a chance to reinvent yourself. When studying abroad, you can build new networks that you typically wouldn’t do back home.
So take this once in a life-time opportunity to be adventurous, try new activities, create new routines, or link up with fellow students to go on memorable excursions!
Most foreign universities also have international student bodies that can be the starting point for new students. There are helpers there who will be able to recommend you activities, clubs and societies in the university that you can join, and they are usually super friendly!
5. There will be struggles with communication
While we may study abroad in English-speaking countries such as the UK or Australia, many international students have admitted their struggle to follow the local accent and phrases, not just in social settings but also understanding lectures.
There are, of course, ways around it, such as this example from a study conducted, where a student who formed a study group with another international student along with 3 local students where they read in silence and after, explained to each other what they understood, fixing language barriers and gaining a clearer understanding of the subject at the same time.
Apart from the solution above, there are also student advisors who are assigned in universities who can help students who study abroad with these difficulties, as well as the individual effort to take up supplementary language classes and speaking to lecturers during office hours.
6. No guaranteed employment in the host country
Contrary to popular belief, where studying abroad can land you a job overseas, that’s not always the case.
One of the disadvantages of studying abroad has to be the reality that there is no guarantee that you will be able to land a job in the host country, if that was the pathway that you have decided to take prior to heading overseas.
These are due to many factors, such as VISA restrictions, and political climate, as found from a research in 2021. The study revolved around Masters students and employability in the UK, where they discovered that some have found it an obstacle even at the internship stage.
Nevertheless, internships remain one of the best stepping stones to showcase your competence and ability to adapt to the local working environment. Doing your industrial practical well doesn’t just leave a lasting impression on your employers, it might just land you that dream job too.
Take for example, Florence Tan, a Malaysian who made her name with NASA, where she is now the Chief of the Small Spacecraft Coordination Group. Her internship experience with NASA while she was a student at University of Maryland eventually ended up with her getting employed there.
Graduate visas provide you with an extended amount of years after your graduation to look for a job in the host country. UK visas provide up to 3 years while Australia allows up to 4 years depending on your level of qualification.
However, these are not dealbreakers for studying abroad!
The above disadvantages are not meant to deter you from applying for your overseas studies dream, rather to prepare you guys.
Studying abroad is an experience that, when given the opportunity, should be taken! Despite what you could experience while you are there, the positives can always outweigh the negatives.
If you still have any reservations about your plans to go overseas, you can always consult an study abroad consultant who can assist you in ensuring that you are well prepared to head to the foreign university of your dreams, minus the hassle.
Ease your worries before studying abroad!
It’s important that you engage with our study abroad counselors to keep yourself up to date from what to expect, and all the way to arriving to the university of your dreams! What are you waiting for?