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The downsides of studying abroad

Giving an honest assessment of any program (that involves studying abroad), person or thing requires you to look at all the possible benefits and challenges. An honest assessment of the downsides of studying abroad program will make you better prepared to face them. Since we went through the possible benefits of studying abroad in the last blog post, we will now go through the obstacles involved.

A different education system

If you did your schooling so far in India, you are used to an education system that involves an emphasis on solving math and science problems and equations; and also memorizing social studies. Failure is looked down upon in the Indian exams. In a higher studies abroad program in the western world, the emphasis will be on application of math and science concepts to real world applications. Failure is seen as a step in the learning process, and a way to get closer to success. It is easy to get disappointed when you fail, but recognize that it is part of the learning process. Failing fast and quick is a trait of many successful people. Many Indian students studying abroad struggle with this concept, especially when they enter the workforce. It requires a little bit of adaptation.

Solution: The solution is to worry less about grades and more on application of your concepts initially. Join student societies that are focused on your major or subject e.g. join an formula SAE team if you are a mechanical engineer focused on automotive engineering


A liberal culture

Life is very different in the West, with great infrastructure and liberal dating values. While it is not as liberal as indicated in Hollywood, it is still very different from India. Since you are living away from strict Indian rules, focusing on your studies without getting distracted does take discipline.

Solution: Enjoy life and organize your time and energy so you are still able to get your projects and homework done. You should have enough time for fun if you are efficient with your time.


Jobs and Sponsorship

You will be at a disadvantage while looking for jobs as compared to local residents of the country. Since sponsorship is required, you must be a lot better than the local residents applying, or be in a field of high demand.

Solution: Make sure you talk to professionals in your university or profession to ensure that you get the appropriate information. Don’t listen to study abroad consultants (with no experience in studying abroad) who have an incentive to direct you to a certain university/program/country.


Choice of Career

If you don’t have permanent residence in the country you are studying/working in, you are at the mercy of the employer that decides to hire you. Since you have a lower number of employers willing to hire you, you have a lower choice of careers. If you are coming back to your home country, you will likely be hired for your work experience abroad.

Solution: Get work experience and choose your career in your home country before going abroad. If you are looking to go ahead before that, make sure you talk to professionals in the field so you get a realistic idea of how the career field is after you graduate.


Doing all your housework

You’ll have to do all your housework, laundry and cooking that used to be taken care of in India.

Solution: A lot of students enjoy the independence to do what they want. If you adapt this attitude, you will be fine.


Network, Network, Network

While you can rely on the existing jobs at your school’s career office, keep in mind that unless you are in a field of high growth (like computer science); you will have to go the extra mile to get a good job.

Solution: This means that you might have to get in touch with engineers working at the companies; as HR personnel at top companies are flooded with resumes. The engineers (or your seniors) can help get your resume noticed and maybe get you an interview.


Interviewing Is Tough In The West

As you know, if you study in India, you are guaranteed a job through campus placements. This is not the case in the west. You will have to prove yourself to get a shot at working. Besides networking to get the interview, you will have to stand out from the crowd to get the job. You will need a strong portfolio of work/school projects/experience, and clearly explain to them why you are a match to the job.

Solution: Before you start your job search, do a complete assessment of your skills and experiences; and what you are looking for. Stand out from the crowd and create a portfolio of experiences; and practice mock interviews at your university career center.


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