There is no reason for our feeling isolated, when stationed abroad. The world is getting more and more connected. Communication among countries has become easy. People there are strangers only once. We will quickly know them more and more. We should not try to belittle any foreign culture. Nor should we try to glorify ours.
During the past few months, we covered substantial ground on the diverse aspects of ‘Studies Abroad'. The elements of preparation for overseas studies, various qualifying tests, sources for financial aid, centres of excellence, programmes and courses of study, and life abroad are some of the topics we discussed.
We should keep in mind that the facts given in the articles are indicative and not exhaustive. Each aspirant has to gather further details pertaining to the area of his / her choice, before seeking admission in foreign universities or other institutions.
Let us now try to summarise the important points we should keep in mind while seeking admission abroad. This can be in the form of a few checklists that would come handy for any Indian student interested in overseas studies.
Preparation for studies abroad has to be both mental and physical. We can sum up the mental aspects of preparation as follows:
We should be prepared to live in a ‘strange' country where we have initially no friends. The language and culture may be different from ours. Even if the language is English, the accent, usage, and phrases could be different.
There is no reason for our feeling isolated, when stationed abroad. The world is getting more and more connected. Communication among countries has become easy. People there are strangers only once. We will quickly know them more and more.
We should not try to belittle any foreign culture. Nor should we try to glorify ours. ‘When you are in Rome, do as Romans do'. We may in general avoid asking personal questions to our acquaintances on relationships or marriage or family income. It may be taken as rude behaviour in certain cultures. Shoot anyone's pictures only after taking his / her permission. We should avoid discussing gender roles and comparing the merits of different religions.
We should try to enrich ourselves by imbibing fine aspects of culture in the foreign country where we live.
It is a good idea to live in a moderate style, and not go for show-off or extravagance. Women may wear bare minimum jewellery. Use the public transport systems. Learn road rules and regulations on not littering or spitting in public places. Polite behaviour and the frequent use of ‘Please' and ‘Thank you' should form part of our habit.
Imagine the tremendous advantage we would gain, by enhancing our confidence, independence, and self-reliance through living away from home. Of course, this is in addition to our educational enrichment, consequent enlightenment, improved academic qualifications, and brighter prospects for job placement.
Never take studying abroad as an escape route to save us from the hassles at our home university. The same hassles may appear there as well.
We have to consider studies abroad as a normal extension of our studies in India. The teaching style and evaluation system may be totally different. We may be accustomed to a single annual public examination that evaluates our studies; but in many foreign universities we would come across continuous evaluation based on assignment, projects, presentations, and surprise quizzes apart from declared tests. The focus of universities may be on imparting knowledge and skills, and not issuing a terminal degree certificate, after cursory assessment through a single written examination.
We have to be prepared to develop cross-cultural interaction in foreign campuses. A new world awaits us.
We may have to engage ourselves in part-time work to earn money to meet our expenses. Parents back home may not normally be able to foot our bills in full.
If we have to learn a new language like German, French, Japanese, or Chinese for pursuing studies overseas, decide that we will learn it. If we think that something is difficult to attain, we stand to lose opportunities. If many others can do something, why not me? “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right”, said Henry Ford, the great pioneer of the automobile industry.
We should develop the quality of patience, since we may have to wait for weeks or even months after submitting the application for admission, to be blessed with a reply from a foreign university. They may have their own procedural formalities to complete before giving us a reply indicating acceptance or rejection. Further, a rejection may not lead to our dejection. Perhaps there are better candidates with them at the moment; other doors will certainly open before us.
We should be mentally prepared to spend a lot of time for detailed study of opportunities abroad and for systematic correspondence with various universities.
There should be no surprises; we have to leave our home, parents, siblings, and local friends for a long period. We may have a feeling of homesickness and a tendency to compare everything there with everything here.
This phase will soon be over and we will be in a stabilised condition after staying in a foreign country for a few weeks.
Launching our studies abroad is a significant decision in our life. We have to learn in full the diverse aspects of our commitment before plunging into the crucial decision.
Perhaps we can dream the day we come back home after overseas studies, as a more educated person endowed with far better confidence and skills in facing the challenges of life.