Friday, 16 August 2013

Lessons Learnt: Studying Abroad

There are certain things in life we learn from doing and certain things we learn from other people's experience. Unlike school subjects or college classes, the topics of these lessons aren't specifically disclosed. You have to know which lesson to learn and which wisdom to take out of it all. One of the things you can do to become a successful person in life is to acknowledge the lessons you've learnt and, if possible, share them with other people. Sharing knowledge, as opposed to popular belief, can actually make you smarter, wiser and a better person. Plus, it can be so much fun! Here's to lessons learnt and me sharing them with you.

Since two and half years ago, I've been living in Germany to continue my studies. I came to this country with 17 other people and we once lived together. Though I've basically been here for only a while, I've learnt quite a lot from the variety of experiences I happened upon or intentionally run into. My friends who read my blog probably think that my life is basically traveling and there aren't even any classes. But that is so far from the truth. And that's why I want to share some lessons that I've learnt. I've only just started studying abroad to Germany, I've never studied abroad in any other countries. However, the lessons I've learnt are basically general. They can be applied to any such situations in whatever country you study in. In the end, we're all ex-pats after all. Might as well help each other out.

Get your stories straight

In Indonesia, there are plenty of so-called agencies, which claim to be able to help you study abroad - usually in selected countries of their choice. This is the hardest lesson I had to learn. Before you decide to go with one agency or the other, one university or the other, one country or the other, make sure you do your research. Decide what you want to study, see if you can find as much information on the subject as you can. How does the system work? How much money do you need to pay for tuition or you need ready in your bank account? If you can actually do it all by yourself with less money, choose this option. Most agencies I know take a lot of money out of you, promise you this and that service - which don't turn out - and keep us out of the loop. This can be problematic when you're already abroad with no idea what to do next. Make sure you know how the process goes and be as much in the loop as possible. It'll definitely save you some money and time.

Ease into their culture

Most people, even those who claim to not be very patriotic, come to a different country and see all the things this new culture doesn't have, things that they could find back home. For most Indonesians in Germany, it's the actual existence of chilli, the availability of stores after eight and on Sundays and the easy plus affordable access to good food at all times. When you move halfway around the world, you'll definitely get culture shock, no matter how big or small. Just remember that this is a different culture, a different place and you chose to live here with that culture. Getting homesick is normal, you just got to make it work somehow. There's usually a grocery store for every culture - i.e. asian store, middle eastern store, russian/polish store - where you can buy whatever items from back home - or close enough anyway. But don't shut away their culture either! Learn their language, try their food, make friends with their people and go to their cultural sites. Otherwise, what's the point of you coming all the way over here?

Keep your head in school

While studying abroad is very glamorous and all that, you have to realise that you need to actually sit down and hit the books a.k.a. study. Some people go abroad to study because of the opportunity to actually travel. Yes, you might get to see the world. Yes, it can all be very beautiful and wondrous. But you have to remember the sole purpose of why you went all the way out here in the first place: to study. So study you shall. Some get distracted because of all the money they can make by working - even just a part time in a fast food chain. It's good that you want to earn money - whether to ease the burden of your parents or to buy something you've had your eye on - but if that gets in the way of school, you better stop it. Always keep in mind your first priority is to study out here, gain a whole different school/college experience but basically the same thing: hitting the books at some point.

Respect their rules

Different countries have different rules, obviously. Some rules may seem futile or down right ridiculous to foreigners. Despite your personal opinions, their rules are there for a reason and breaking them will only result in consequences. Some rules are more forgiving than others but the latter can actually get you deported and banned from the country - if not the continent. In any case, it's definitely easier to just follow their rules. I mean, come on, how ridiculous can their rules be? If it's a country you deem good enough for you to want to study there, their rules can't be as preposterous as donating a goat for a sacrificial ritual every month or something, right? The rebellious kid in you might still want to break some rules now and then. Who doesn't? But when you do, just think about the consequences first  - if they're worth it, then by all means - before they hit you and you're kicked out on your ass, with nothing but regret.

Don't ever change

An impossible task, I know. But I don't mean don't ever change, absolutely never! Being in a new culture, surrounded by people who have lived their whole lives thinking there's not much wrong with their culture can turn you into someone you once probably could've hated. Don't ever change your principles for the worse is what I mean. Don't let the sea of beliefs take you by a storm and change who you vowed to yourself you will never become. Of course, with time, we all change. Just try not to take a turn for the worst. I see it all the time, people who before seemed like such goody two shoes go to clubs and get wasted. Just don't let the new culture gets the best of you. Take in the positive and avoid the negative. To borrow the words of Mufasa: remember who you are.

Make the most of your time

This is a given but you've got to make the most of your time while you're there. Of course, still putting your studies first and remember not to drain out your wallet. There's no point in going abroad, in going halfway around the world, if you don't enjoy it. Okay, so you might be studying abroad just one country over. Even then you should take advantage of this chance and enjoy the hell out of your semester(s) there. Don't go home every month just because it's so close by. Explore a little bit of the country, make a goal to see every nook and cranny of the place. Live it up and keep it light! In Europe, being a student means a lot. You can travel with smaller budget, you can go to museums for free (in France), etc. So now's definitely your chance to travel! Above is the picture of when a bunch of girls from different countries - including me - flew to Italy together. And the last picture below is when I went hiking with a bunch of kids from college. It was the best time!


  1. Wow, this was really interesting, Bivi - I really enjoyed reading about your experiences. (Love the Lion King quote, lol).

    I've never studied abroad, but I experienced some similar culture shock going to school half-way across my own country!

    1. LOL yeah, that quote just fits the whole situation!

      Come on, share along! I'd love to hear your experience as well :)


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