Studying outside one’s home country can be really exciting. The independent lifestyle away from the constraints at home, the opportunity to experience a different culture, and the chance to earn in a more dominant currency than at home are responsible for the growing trend amongst students to earn a degree from “abroad”. According to several reports and studies, there has been a massive surge in the number of students going abroad in the past decade. The most favoured destinations of students to pursue their studies seem to be USA, followed by UK, Australia, and Europe.
Students do not necessarily go overseas for seeking a permanent residence. In many cases, it has been seen that the students go abroad, get their degree, and come back to to their home country after a year or two, to use their skills either in job or entrepreneurship. The overseas stint also provides them a good opportunity to secure some savings, which can be used as and when the need arises. An important reason why people go abroad is the lack of good and quality education in their own country and the intense competition for seats in universities. In case of countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other middle eastern states, the education system is plagued by a variety of problems which includes lack of infrastructure, poor quality of teachers, irregular accreditation of colleges, and no freedom of course interchange ability. Another reason for the rise in demand of an overseas educational degree has been the rising middle class in these countries, where people can afford quality education for their children.
However, the world isn’t flat and not all good things come without their own dose of bitterness. It is one thing to think about the goodies associated with the life in a foreign country, and a totally separate matter to actually arrange for all the finances, apply, get admitted, clear the visa formalities, and finally land in the country of your choice. I had the opportunity to travel to Australia for my education and it took me one helluva of an effort to set the balls rolling in motion. In the following paragraphs, I would highlight some of the most pressing problems that students face (first-hand experience), while they prepare to obtain a degree from a foreign university.
A problem of plenty
Getting a degree from a foreign university might sound easy, but paying the tuition fees is definitely not. A lot of students, especially from countries like Singapore or Malaysia, who go abroad have to take bank loans to fund their education. This is because, in comparison to their local universities, the tuition fees of foreign universities are exorbitant. A typical set of degrees have the course fees in the following range (figures in Australian dollars):
- School – $7,800 to $30,000
- English language studies – Around $300 per week depending on course length
- Vocational Education and Training (Certificates I to IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma) – $4,000 to $22,000
- Undergraduate Bachelor Degree – $15,000 to $33,000
- Postgraduate Masters Degree – $20,000 to $37,000
- Doctoral Degree – $14,000 to $37,000
This data, taken from studyinaustralia.gov.au (sponsored by Australian government) can be taken as an authentic estimate for the pricing involved to attend an Australian University. A normal, middle class family does not possess such amount in their bank accounts. Therefore, they have to look for other means to finance their education, like bank loans, scholarships, community help, etc. Once the loan is taken, there is severe pressure on the student to disburse that loan amount. So, immediately after graduation, the student starts looking for a job and start earning. Although the Australian rules allow an international student to live in the country and search for a job for 2 years after their graduation, it is difficult to find employers who will sponsor the employment visa.
Although a lot of students have a good grasp over the English language since they have to take an exam (IELTS) before they can apply to the university, they still find it difficult to understand the Australian accent. This problem is more common with the Asians, who do not have english as their first language. The lack of language skills in many of the students does affect their academic and social life. The entire curriculum in the universities is in English. They are expected to write essays and opinions, research papers, scientific critiques, and medical prescriptions. In the absence of a proper vocabulary, the students find it daunting to express their minds. Add to this, the inherent pressure of the university grading system. Lack of language skills also adversely affects the chances of students to find a part-time job to support their education. As part-time jobs are often in places like restaurants, library, or gas stations, they are expected to understand the customers and respond immediately. Any mistake on their part will mean bad customer service, and no owner would like to take the blame for that. Therefore, these students lag behind other students who have English as their first language.
One common problem which the students face is the different learning style in Australian university. Educational systems in the middle-eastern countries are passive in nature. They are teacher based system, where engaging students in a two way communication channel is largely absent. However, when the student goes to Australian universities, much of the work is expected out of him. He has to come up with ideas, work on them, suggest steps, etc. The professor is merely a guide, but in the most accurate description of that term. This change in the learning style can be disastrous if the student does not quickly adapt to the new system. Sometimes the workload of the students become too much to handle. In situations like these, they often seek help from assignment help services/websites. These websites offer to complete the assignment of students on diverse range of subjects, advise them on how to write their own assignments, proof-read them, amongst a host of other services for a very reasonable amount. I, on several occasions have taken help of such websites and have found MyAssignmentExpert.com to be one of the best of the lot. Go Ahead, try them!
Cultural diversity has one of the most pronounced effects on the students while they are in a foreign land. The people in a foreign land react differently to situations; the social fabric of the community is different, and the overall psychology of the country is different from what he has grown up in. If the student is open to adapting of a new culture, he may have an extraordinary experience. He might integrate with the locals, relish their food, enjoy their music, attend festivals, and become one of them. If not, then there is a possibility of isolation. This does not bode well for his confidence. With loneliness comes depression, fear of abandonment, and nervous breakdowns. Every university in Australia have their own centers for international students, where they provide counselling to the students suffering from pangs of anxiety or depression. Especially in Australia, the cultural differences took a radical and ugly turn few years ago, when racial attacks started happening on students of Asian origin. These were mostly carried out in Melbourne, with smaller incidents throughout Australia. Due to intense media coverage, the government of Australia had to take immediate and strict steps to curb these elements. The government of Saudi Arabia has even constituted Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM), that provides guidance, help and implements policy programmes to safeguard the interest of Saudi students. More such efforts are required by the different nations, in order to provide their citizens with a sense of security.
Due to the pressure of the educational system, sometimes the students do not pay enough attention to their physical well-being. Moreover, some students find it difficult to adapt to the weather in Australia. If the student falls ill, it is an additional financial burden on them. Although the health insurance covers some of the cost for the treatment in hospitals, not all costs are covered in the insurance plans. It is always recommended that the students should take out some time of their busy schedules, and participate in some kind of sports or fitness activities. Not only do the students suffer from physical problems but also with some psychological ones like home-sickness, depression and anxiety.
Taking the above points into consideration, it does seem like a daunting task to move abroad. However, problems will be problems only till the time students are not ready to open up to their ever-changing environment. A lot of students, including yours truly, have relished and enjoyed an overseas experience. Every experience is unique, and it should be taken in the right spirit. Social embarrassments could also be a great learning experience, if given an opportunity. What a student needs to do is to keep his calm and develop his networking skills. Familiarising himself to the language and the accent, making efforts to learn the social formalities, trying to integrate in the society will go a long way in retaining the sanity of the student. He should enjoy the opportunity that he chose for himself, rather than sulk at the hostile environment.