Updated: Sep 18, 2019
You've flipped through the University brochures and excitedly considered moving bag and baggage to a new country to pursue your dreams of studying abroad, but, is this really something you are prepared for?
Don't get me wrong, studying abroad has its benefits, however like most things in life, it also has it challenges.
I left Ghana at age 18 to attend University in the UK and although it was exciting, I missed my family and friends and had to face the harsh realities of life very quickly. Independence and new-found freedom were definite pluses, however waking up early to catch buses and trains, working part-time jobs, facing racism and running out of money were difficult experiences. Sometimes something as simple as having a friend or family member to talk to was a luxury.
If you are already working and fairly independent in your home country, then half the battle is won. You may have maturity on your side and have probably dealt with your fair share of emotional challenges . However, you still have to contend with the financial strain that comes with putting your career on hold to become a student abroad.
Also, what happens when you are done with your course? Will a job be waiting for you?
Below are my top 6 things to think about before flying the nest (literally and figuratively):
1. Find other people from your home country planning to attend your chosen university and arrange to meet them beforehand. You will be forming your support group before your leave home and this will be very beneficial in days to come.
2. If you are not fully independent and still living at home with your family, start practicing being self sufficient i.e. cooking, laundry, ironing and grocery shopping. In a foreign land, there will be no one to pick up your slack and you will go hungry (literally) and without clean clothes if you forget to do any of the above.
3. Working a part-time job is always a good idea, immigration laws and your lecture timetable permitting. Start thinking about what kind of jobs you can apply for as early as possible. Recruitment agencies usually have very comprehensive websites including salary information.
4. Learn a new skill. Hairdressing and barbering skills are highly sought after and well compensated in foreign countries especially on university campuses. Other skills worth having include, nail care, sewing and make-up artistry. This a great way to earn additional income from the comfort of your home.
5. If you are quitting your job to pursue a university program, you will need to ask yourself some serious questions before doing so. Will your employer pay for your program? Will your program guarantee job advancement/promotion? How easily can you find another job once your program is complete? Will your employer re-hire you once your program is done?
6. Quite a few universities provide on-campus accommodation, however priority is given to first year students. This means that you may find yourself without a place to live during your remaining years at university. Finding like-minded people to share an off-campus residence with, and also starting the process of locating affordable accommodation in a decent area early enough, is key.
I hope these tips help you make the right decision.
If you still have questions after reading this, post them on our online forum and lets get talking!