The education model adopted by most of the foreign universities is fundamentally different from what we experience in India. In addition to studying, students have to learn to live autonomously. I have to admit that my earning a scholarship certainly eased the burden, but you have to be ready to make a few sacrifices. Studying abroad is not a cake walk; it is not torturous either; it is up to you to make it work for you.
I did my master's in Econometrics at the School of Business and Economics (SBE), Maastricht University, Netherlands. Maastricht University is a patron of the problem-based learning model (PBL). This model transfers a big chunk of responsibilities from the professor to the students. The professor usually delivers just a few lectures; a lot of assignments are given and the students are left to do most of the work. In addition to that, semesters are divided into three blocks, seven weeks in length. Each block consists of two courses and the student has to take the final-written-exam by the end of seven weeks.
Unlike in India, where you have freedom with time in the beginning and make up for it later, you have to maintain a consistent work schedule right from day-one. This model inspires self-learning. Instead of sitting in a lecture hall waiting for the lecturer to impart knowledge, the student is motivated to stay one step ahead by gathering information that would enable him to better understand the lecture. Once you get past the initial bumps, you should love studying this way.
There is a lot more to studying abroad than just studying. You will sometimes feel alone even in a crowd. And you have to do things that you had your mother do for you all along. I don't think you have to worry that much about missing home; you can be sure to see an Indian in every corner of the world. In fact, Maastricht University had an Indian student association and I celebrated Holi for the first time in my life in the Netherlands.
Don't let having a lot of Indians around discourage you from befriending the natives and other international students. In fact, the most unforgettable part of my study-trip was getting to spend Christmas with a Polish family in Bonn, Germany. It is a funny story actually. My partner and I had to hand in an assignment before New Year's eve and he desperately wanted to get back home for Christmas. Since both of us had no chance of completing the assignment working apart, he invited me over.
I spent almost a month working on the assignment at his place. I got to celebrate my first White Christmas with his family; I decorated their Christmas tree; and even received presents.
I absolutely regret not having travelled around Europe as much as I wanted to. Getting a degree aside, do make sure that you travel a lot, talk to people and make new friends.
Ejaz Ahmed,Masters in Econometrics, School of Business and Economics (SBE),
Maastricht University, Netherlands