Disadvantages of Studying Abroad
Guest post by Marie M.
Yes, studying abroad has many advantages, but also for some, there might be some disadvantages of studying abroad and you should be aware of them! Studying abroad is not always easy, but it is overcoming those challenges and solving those problems, that will have the biggest impact on you, give you confidence, and make you stronger.
It would have been so simple: you go to a foreign country and everything is wonderful, people are nice, your home is beautiful etc. Studying abroad is not (always) so nice. You might have to face one or even more problems while living abroad and see some of the disadvantages of studying abroad.
This guest post by my friend Marie, who is studying abroad here with me in San Diego, and she shares that Study Abroad is not all rainbows and roses for everybody. While for me it was, I also want to share the other side of the story. Not for everybody, study abroad is the time of their lives. But Marie and I also want to share some ideas how to change the disadvantages of studying abroad and maybe help you to turn it around and have a wonderful time abroad.
#1 Disadvantage of studying abroad: You are not a genius
Reality is hard, I know. Studying in another country does not mean you will learn English or other languages magically. I remember the father of one of my friends: he was British and used to live in France for 3 years. But he could not speak French because he never tried to learn it. Of course, living abroad will help you to understand the language better, but if you do not talk, you will not improve. That is why you need to pay attention and study, but because you are immersed in a foreign language, learning a foreign language will be much easier and faster.
How to Improve: Sit down and learn the language
But even if you go to a country, where you speak the language already, you can have some difficulties due to the local dialect. Read how Amy (from the US) dealt with the language barrier when she studied abroad in Scotland.
#2 Disadvantage of studying abroad: You are alone
Our society is more and more connected and thanks to Skype, WhatsApp and Social Media you can stay in touch a bit easier with your family and friends. That does still not mean it is any easier to study abroad in a foreign country halfway around the world.
Studying abroad is hard because everything is new and you don’t have your familiar safety net of friends and family. Especially in the beginning, you might feel sad and homesick. This is completely normal, but there are some tips against homesickness that will help you to get out of the funk and make the most of your time abroad.
Experiencing culture shock is also normal. Give yourself a break and allow for an ‘adjustment period’. But it is also important to not close up and hide. Make it a point to create new habits, explore your new surroundings, and meet new people for example. Sometimes, it will be hard. Sometimes, you might feel excluded in your new country and it can be difficult, as you don’t have the social network yet that can give you support and strength.
How to improve: Go out and meet people, explore your new country and don’t feel sorry for yourself. You should also consider staying with a host family during your study abroad time.
#3 Disadvantage of studying abroad: Reality can be disappointing
When you first get to a new country, you might feel a bit of disappointment. Maybe you had this dream about how your glamorous life in Paris, and when you get there, you discover that your dream destination is not living up to your expectation. Prepare yourself for a culture shock, when you study abroad. And keep an open mind. Sometimes, the beauty of a place might not be visible at first sight and if you are overwhelmed with all the new stuff, are homesick and miss your family and friends, are you really giving the location a fair chance?
Differences can be huge if you move from Europe to Asia or smaller between France and Belgium. Standard of living can be different: there are more poor people in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe or you cannot expect the same way of life in India than in the United States.
You will have to face a different culture, other behaviors, and some can make you feel uncomfortable if you are not used to them: in the United State people are very outgoing and strike up a conversation with strangers on the bus, whereas in Europe, talking to a stranger you will probably get you an angry look or might even scare people away.
Everyone knows that Chinese people are different from Americans, Americans are different from Germans, some differences are obvious while others are more subtle. Moreover, the food is different, you might have difficulties to find your old comfort food while you are abroad. Food is an important part of a countries culture so if the culture is different, the food will be too. Culture shock can be a real disadvantage for your study abroad experience.
How to improve: Learn about the local culture, traditions, and food. Try new dishes and participate in local events. Who knows if you’ll ever have the chance to participate in an American Thanksgiving or a Chinese New Year again after your study abroad semester ends?
#4 Disadvantage of studying abroad: Nothing is free
Another big disadvantage of studying abroad can cost. Studying abroad can be expensive. The cost of studying abroad will depend on your major, the university and the country or city you choose. Keep in mind that many countries do not allow a foreign student to work, so you need to have enough money before your study abroad semester/year or have someone from home supporting you. Ask yourself if you can afford to study abroad.
Airfare can make a pretty big expense, so check out Skyscanner for cheap airfare deals.
What to do: Chose a cheaper country or city, reduce your living standards or follow these 20 tips to Study Abroad and save.
#5 Disadvantage of studying abroad: One year lost?
For students, the credits earned abroad might not count towards your degree. This means your study time might increase, costs will go up and you might be longer depending on your parents. These are some of the major disadvantages of studying abroad. Before you leave and join the next study abroad program, you have to considerate this: are you ok that your degree might take longer than you anticipated?
What to do: Make sure that your study abroad credits count towards your degree program or try to make up by taking summer classes etc.
# 6 Disadvantage of studying abroad: Reverse Culture Shock
When you are going to study abroad you only think about the time you are going to spend abroad. But you forgot that one day you will have to come back to your home country. It can be just as hard to live in another country as to come back to your own. This feeling is called reverse culture shock.
You will change during your time abroad and return as a different person (hopefully). But so do the places and people back home. Time won’t stay still, just because you are not there and you’ll sometimes feel excluded in your old group of friends or feel unfamiliar in your own hometown.
What to do: Accept that things change and use the things you learned from being abroad to see your home with a different perspective!
#7 Disadvantage of studying abroad: Your Mom will nag you
Don’t laugh! You know as well as me that moms can be really, well, intruding at times. So she will nag you: you will receive e-mails with hundreds of question and if you do not answer as fast as she wants, retaliation could be horrible. She will create her own Facebook account with the aim to know everything you don’t want to share with her.
Each time you will be on Skype, she will call you. So I tell you one thing before you go: You will need to establish rules for your study abroad time. Or you will come home from the Pub and have 30 exponentially more frantic voice messages from your dear mother, and if you don’t hurry up and call her back right away, the police will storm your room and disturb your slumber.
What to do: Set rules and try to calm your mom’s nerves. Send her text messages and keep her informed, when you go somewhere out of the ordinary. Remember that you are her baby and she only does that, because she loves you <3
What do you think? Is Marie right? I think she is, to a degree. Nothing is perfect and depending on your situation, studying abroad might not be the best idea for you. Maybe an internship abroad or working as an Au Pair is a better option. But I also think that there are many, many advantages of studying abroad for most of us. If you study abroad and you encounter a problem, put your problem-solving-hat on and get to work. Try to see it from the locals’ perspective and respect their culture and traditions.
Why you should study abroad anyways
Even though there are some disadvantages of studying abroad, I feel that that the advantages of studying abroad far outweigh them. I have studied abroad as a High School student, during my Bachelor’s degree and even completed my Master’s degree abroad. Yes, at times it was hard, but because I faced those challenges, I grew as a person.
When I first came to San Diego, I didn’t know anybody. Everything I accomplished, I did on my own and this is something that gave me a lot of confidence. It showed me that I can achieve my goals when I set my head to it. It also showed me that the success of living abroad is a mindset. If something is not going as you want, take charge and change it.
Advantages of Studying Abroad
If you read through this article about the disadvantages of studying abroad and got a bit overwhelmed with all the things that could go wrong, whether you should take the plunge and study abroad or not, check out this book: The Global Student is the perfect book to show you that that living abroad is a great way to spark your career and see how many advantages living and studying abroad really has.
This article was first published on April 21, 2010 and has since been updated.
We deal with many overseas students in our campuses across asia and I can almost nod on every single points that you made. And each person’s experience can be unique which is very much attributable to their own personality as well.
Yes, you are right, it really depends on the personality of the student that studies abroad. I see this post as a “friendly reminder” to be open and not to have to many expectations before going on a study abroad adventure. Yes, of course, live in a different country will be different from living in your home country, there will be things that are better, and things that you think are better in your own country. But when you try to to be open, you will appreciate these differences and take the best from both cultures!
true that is absolutely true i really like ur explanation am abroad n facing such things.anyway thanks n big up!!!
Despite the disadvantages you have mentioned still studying abroad is the choice of most students if only resources permit… Anyway, you have an awesome website. I appreciate you for coming up with this kind of website. I am sure many aspiring students who wanted to go abroad and study there will benefit from this website no doubt about that.
I totally agreed with the writer,I have completed my MBA in UK & I had went the same problems you described here.I had friends but I was living alone & I was missing my family there.
Each & Everything were very expansive for example, Cost of Living, Food, Transportation & Leisure activities like Tv, Internet and so on…………….we should think if we get all education benefit in our own country.
yeah this article is very helpful, even i took the admission in canada for two year program, but just after paying the application fee(CAD$100), i realized something surprising, i was a gut feeling, that i’m going to loose everything, my clinic, my parents, my brother, and i will not be able to see them for very long time, and that course was giving me 3 year work permit after graduating, even that thought was shocking me, that i won;t be able to see my family member for so long, no i cant do this, no i made a bad decision, and after that i resigned my application, now i’m not going abraod, i think this decision is better, and now i’m looking for my boyfriend to settle with him
It is down to the individual. Not everyone will see all the “disadvantaged that you have mentioned as disadvantages”.. For some people they want the adventure (even if it doesn’t add anything to you academic grade).. Experience is priceless, it cannot be quantified or measured.
Leaving home can sometimes (and usually always is) the best way to realise there is a big world out there, and what better way to explore it that whilst studying, you niave, and (usually) young.. so it is only going to be a learning experience.
Just becasue the circumstances in which you live differ from those that you are “used” to cannot regard the experience itself as bad.. you MUST have an open mind.
do not at all study abroad;;far from home…..yuxxxx!!!!!
i think you’r right, there is no perfect places. i still think that the difference advantages and disadvantages depend on where you go!
Good highlight. Abroad studying may be difficult for initial few days because we have to adjust ourselves with new surroundings. Once it’s done they I think there can be no problem.
M planning to study in uk.. My problm s this .i wl spend
20 lacs for 1 yr msc..wil it b benificial?
I want to study abroad very much
But what i don’t know to do for study abroad
i have to decide whether i am going to study abroad now. i really worry!
I’ve just read your story, Maria. and apart from the considerable amount of English mistakes I’ve bumped into to, I can claim you didn’t learn anything from your time abroad. That was a real waste of time. (I spent one semester in Scotland studying, btw) and that was the best period of my life, indeed. It was a constant challange and I got stronger, more mature and open-minded. I can say: for those amorphous, mummy’s boys, afraid of going out despite being adults, a real chance of progressing is next to impossible for them. It’s a shame, actually. with you damaging site, you just convince people that going abroad is bad. (but I personally think it’s just bad to amorphous people like yourself).
I think studding abroad good for every person if you want successful in your life, moreover you challenge some problems however you can find solve for every thing,you should have a confidence your self.
Thanks ^0^ you help me a lot ….
I am a foreign student in Ottawa canada, I came from Europe and I had high expectations when deciding to study abroad, well now Im back to earth. Among other reasons I wanted to study abroad to get away from family conflicts and just meet new people. Like a clean slate where noone knows me but man I never thought that I would actually miss those conflicts. I have had many lonely times. Its summer and instead of going back home, I decided to stay and learn about the city and country and hopefully meet new people and work. What a mistake! I am having a really bad experience . During academic years school was hard, I stay on campus when most people are gone, its hard to get a job as an international student and I have not made meaninful connection with people. I just have a few familiar faces but not friends. Im going in my third year so no point transfering, the financial commitment was made and I feel I will dissapoint my dad if I said I wanted to transfer it’ll be 2 year wasted on international fees. Moving abroad is a big step so student should think carefully. It can be really hard.
I totally agree with your opinions. I ofen feel alone and still struggle with speak English. I LIVE in VA in The U.S now.. I miss my family a lot.. Sometimes I regret studying abroad and want to go back home. BUT I find it very hard just to go home without obtaining anything from here…
Good thing i don’t have a life back here anyway. well my mom might nag me like crazy on the phone, but i don’t have any friends to leave behind and don’t even talk about boyfriends. I’m not a genius from the beginning anyway.
It is totally true.. liveing in another country is not easy for everyone.
As i’m foreign student in India, from asia country,it was tough times for me to adjust my surroundings.. i often cryed alone at home because i always missed my friends and hometowns. And sometimes when i faced some difficulty, i used to regret studying abroad..
I think that leaving home can sometimes the best way to realise there is a big world out there
Plz Someone tell me
I want to Go to Austria
There is free tuition fee financially I’m not strong I can manage money just for first samistor .
I really need help.
I’m depending on Austria job
Plz someone tell me Can I will find job or not …..
Thank you everyone for the comments! I really appreciate people taking the time to read about my experience and I love that so many people are connecting to it on such personal levels. I do have plans to return to England. Nothing set in stone yet. Since my time abroad I have moved across the U.S. from Colorado to New York to pursue a career in Journalism. I am hoping to get my foot in the door at an international outlet here (hey Buzzfeed) and hopefully return by way of office transfer. Grad school is definitely a good idea for returning. Especially if your University that you studied abroad at offers discounts for degree seeking international students that did an exchange there (mine does and I know of a few others.) And I am still writing! Now that I have graduated, I am not the managing editor of a travel site. Good things come to those who go abroad. -Erin
This article is fantastic! I think it is great for students to realize that like you said, studying abroad may not always be “rainbows and roses”. It is important for students to consider that there may be some struggles and homesickness while studying overseas. However, ultimately, if they push past it all it can be a great experience!
With so many posts that encourage students to pursue their education in foreign lands, I am happy to see such an eye-opening post. People need to see both sides of the coin before they arrive at any decision. Keep sharing such posts that help people to see the reality of the situation and not live in a delusion.
I have been very interested in studying abroad and always find something that makes me abstain. I do not know why
Thank you for this information
Yes, There are many advantages of studying abroad, but also some disadvantages. but as per my experiences if you want to achieve something then you have to face all these problems.
All of these disadvantages are quite subjective. These are fears that stop us from getting new experiences. And also the necessary difficulties that will eventually make us stronger. It is very important that you mentioned this and the fact that the advantages overcome all the disadvantages.