International Students; What You Need To Know Before You Head Abroad?

January 11, 2018

Culture Shock by Jason AntonyIt’s an exciting phase of your life when it’s time to start your undergraduate studies or your graduate studies. You are very excited to travel to your educational destination. You think all it matters is just go to the university every day, attend lectures, study for your tests, and that’s all you need to focus on. It’s very wrong to limit your thinking to attending school only. It takes more preparation than just that. I listed some tips you need to think about when you choose the university or college you want to study in, have a look here Choosing Your University or College

It’s very essential to consider some important factors and prepare well before you head abroad. Last thing you need when you are alone overseas is unpleasant surprises. Here are few things you need to prepare for:

Culture Shock

It’s very normal to feel ‘You Don’t Belong’ at first. You look around you and you see things you are not accustomed to. You start thinking ‘how will I survive here? This is not me. I can’t do this’. You go in to a state of frustration then maybe depression. You start feeling homesick. You lose focus. You lose interest. You miss everything about home even the things you hate at home.

Although this is a temporary situation because you just need a little bit of time to adjust and then you will be fine but the reaction differs from one person to another. Some students after 3 or 6 months decide to go back home. Others are stronger and more willing to give it a try. If they are well prepared in advance, then they know it’s just a matter of time then they’ll get used to their new life.

Some tips to help you ease the cultural shock:

  • Learn about the new country and city you will live in before you travel. Research the culture, the people, the laws and rules, the weather, the area you are going to live in, the transportation system, how to open a bank account, how to get a cell phone, religious communities, shopping, restaurants…etc.
  • It will greatly help if there is a community centre of the same ethnicity or religious affiliation that you can visit to feel at home or just get some advice.
  • Surround yourself with students from the same culture or background as well as local students. That doesn’t mean you must trust everyone from the first interaction. With time, you will know who the real good people are.
  • Some universities offer help to international students deal with culture shock. Speak to them and see if they can help you.
  • Remember that what you feel is normal and temporary. We’ve all been there. You are not the only one. Surround yourself with good people. Always keep in contact with family members, if this makes you feel better.
  • Do the things that make you feel good like practicing your faith, exercising, working on your favorite hobby, or even cooking or eating your cultural food.
  • Also remember that this experience will make you stronger. It will definitely help you look at things from a different perspective. It should always be good.

Language Barrier

Believe it or not, this can be one of the main reasons of depression; not able to communicate. It’s crucial to know at least some basic conversational skills in English, or in the new country’s language, before you travel. I can’t stress this enough. It will make your adjustment much easier.

There is no excuse not to learn English or another language anymore. There are various language centres worldwide. There are books and audios in libraries. There are online courses that teach good English. You can listen to the radio or watch TV…etc. Even if the plan is to learn English or the local language when you arrive in the new country, do yourself a huge favor and learn some language before you go.


Your safety always comes first. You want to be in an area that respects diversity and multiculturalism. You want to be in an area with zero crime rates or the safest compared to other areas. You want to be surrounded with good people, community centres, hospital, police, shopping, banks, and safe transportation system.

It’s highly recommended that you register with your embassy or consulate in the new country so that they know where you live and your contact information in case of any emergency. It is also highly recommended that you always listen to the local news and learn what’s happening around you, they might also provide you with tips on how to act in certain situations.

Don’t ever undermine the importance of having an insurance whether medical, travel, or other insurance. Always have emergencies’ and friends’ telephone numbers saved in your cell phone in case of need. Keep your contact details with your family and the contact of someone else in case of emergency.

Be wary of your belongings in public or any suspicious behavior around you. Don’t fall in to the trap of dealing with any person or business that are too good to be true without doing your due diligence first.

Always have your cell phone fully charged before you leave your place or carry with you the portable cell phone charger. I would also recommend you buy a data plan from your service carrier so that you are able to connect to internet if you are away from Wi-Fi.

These are some important tips that you really need to take into consideration before you head overseas and after your arrive. With little bit of patience, determination, positiveness, and confidence, you will do very well for sure.


If you have any feedback or comment, I would love to hear from you.


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  • Reply Nusrat January 22, 2016 at 10:55


    Your article is very well written with practical guidance for overseas students which I think is great. I work with international students as a lecturer and I feel that my students would benefit from reading your website pages as all their questions will be answered in one go!

    Some of my students will complete their major at other universities at the end of this academic year, and I notice you have a link which would direct them to all the relevant information they should consider before moving on.

    Thanks for a wonderful article and site that will be helpful to our international community of students.


    • Reply Mona January 22, 2016 at 16:06

      Thank you Nusrat. I’m really glad I can help international students with all the information they need. I got my experience working with international students myself and with worldwide universities. I still have more articles to post with very useful information and I’ll be very happy if you share my website with your students. They are of course welcome to leave me comments and feedback. Many thanks again for your motivating words.

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