Studying abroad has changed me terrifically. I have changed for the better due to this experience. I have decided to pen down a list of reasons why studying abroad was beneficial to me.
While I was in Delhi University, I was very comfortable in the environment around me. Many of my school friends attended the same university. I found it easy to make friends because of my familiarity with the culture and norms in India. I was an ordinary Indian girl in DU. There was nothing different about me. There was nothing that separated me from the others. I never felt like an outsider.
But studying abroad changed this. Suddenly, I was different. My tastes and habits were not the norm. I watched different movies and TV shows. I had a different accent. I looked different. I had a different (more colourful) sense of style. I spoke differently. My religious beliefs were different. Consequently, I suddenly felt like an outsider and seriously struggled to make friends in the first year of University abroad.
It wasn’t that I was ever picked on for being different. It was more about the difficulty in relating to people. However, I soon learnt to talk to people of all cultures, races, religions and nationalities. I learnt to find common ground to connect with people. I became more confident in my social abilities. I became more confident in myself.
Learning to be Comfortable Alone
Since there is a difference of cultures between UK and India, I was shocked at the sheer amount of times I found myself alone during a day. While I was at Delhi University, I was always surrounded by people. Me and my classmates hung out after class. I would come back home to my roommates and chill with them. If I wanted to go somewhere, I would ask one of my hostel mates and usually people would readily agree. Everyone always did everything together. I was always surrounded by people and I was happy.
However, in the UK, the culture was more individualistic. People were focussed on utilising their time after class in extra-curricular activities, part-times jobs, cooking lunch and dinner for themselves. Of course there were parties, but the university culture was very different. Things were made worse because of my culture shock and the resulting inability to make friends.
At first, I felt bad about being a loner. However, soon I understood that I felt bad about being alone because I did not like myself. I began to like myself and doing things alone. I went for dinner dates with myself. I utilised my time after class by volunteering, participating in competitions and working part-time.
Through these experiences, I learnt a lot about myself. Now, I value my time immensely and choose to put it to good use everyday. I am also not scared of being rejected by my friends because I love myself enough to be okay with being alone and not accepted. I now appreciate who I am and the way I am.
I met people from different continents. I became good friends with them. I learnt about their cultures and beliefs. I learnt to appreciate the differences in culture and spot the similarities. The whole experience helped me build a network of friends scattered around the world. It also boosted my self confidence. I also began to love the British culture and people.
The education system in DU was focused on theoretical learning and rote memorisation (at least in my degree i.e. Political Science). I remember that we were encouraged to not present our opinion in the opinion based essays in the exam for the fear of offending the examiner (at least in my college). While DU taught me many other valuable life-skills, I was more impressed with UK’s approach to education. There was a focus on application, analysis and opinion-formation. We had to present our own unique opinion to the examiner. We had to examine a given set of facts. We had to analyse and present a particular solution for a given problem. This experience helped me to believe in my academic abilities.
When I was studying in India, I barely knew how to cook or clean after myself. Everything was done for the students in the hostel. However, this was not so in the UK. Here I learnt how to cook different types of cuisines, do my own laundry, vacuum my own room, grocery shop for myself, etc. I also learnt how to manage my time well in order to finish my daily chores, academic commitments and extracurricular activities in time. It was a learning experience for me because it was something I had never done before because I had the privilege of not doing it in India. But the UK provided me with the opportunity to discover the chef within myself. It gave me the privilege of being independent.
UK also provided me with the excellent opportunity of cheap travel to Europe. As a result, I have visited 24 different countries and learnt about their cultures. My travels have provided me with great international exposure and helped me become confident in my planning and research abilities. They have also improved my people skills.
I know that many of these things could have been achieved by studying in India itself, but I am grateful to God for providing me with the opportunity discover another nation and its culture. The chance to really discover myself in another land.
Studying abroad is a golden opportunity. If presented, you must take it if you can. You never know what you will learn from it but it will make you a stronger and improved version of yourself. You will gain a different perspective on different issues of everyday life. Your experience might be different from mine. Wherever it is that you choose to study, you will be pushed out of your comfort zone. A year abroad in a developing country will teach you skills that are different from studying in a developed country, but it will teach you something about yourself that you never knew existed before. You will emerge as a different and perhaps a better version of yourself as a result of this different experience.
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