ALLOW me to share the upsides and downsides of studying abroad, based on my experience and observations. One major benefit is newfound freedom and independence. When I first came to Singapore at the age of 15, I was given free rein to use the public transportation on my own, which enabled me to travel virtually anywhere within the Lion City.
It amazed me, and within two months, I purchased an annual Universal Studios pass and visited the theme park 13 times. Even today, the novelty of this liberation has not fully worn off.
Additionally, your worldview will be broadened. You meet extremely diverse people and experience somewhat of a culture shock.
I remember being absolutely gobsmacked by the “mugging” (intense studying) culture at my school, where everyone pushed themselves to absorb textbook information weeks before the test.
Admittedly, some of the culture has caught on with me, but it was undoubtedly for the better.
Other than possible financial struggles, a notable downside is that without a sense of self-discipline and responsibility, living abroad may be detrimental to your studies. There are people who thrive academically under continuous supervision, but falter in the face of total emancipation.
Sometimes, the power of freedom is too overwhelming to control. It is not always the fault of the individual, however. In some cases, the environment these students had grown accustomed to in their home countries and their current surroundings differ too largely for them to handle, resulting in poor study habits.
Another potential drawback is whether the environment is supportive or sabotaging. Is there a language barrier that severely disadvantages you? Are the locals friendly to foreigners?
Xenophilia is prevalent and so deeply entrenched in some societies that it is nearly impossible to eradicate it completely.
Is it dangerous out on the streets? Should you stumble into an emergency, would there be contacts to help you?In addition, homesickness, loneliness and anxiety can plague you constantly. The loss of privacy or the company of unpleasant roommates may also be torturous, especially at a time when you may be in need of emotional support.
I strongly recommend trying out new things in your area as a remedy for emotional ailments.
It could be volunteering, tasting new foods, or exploring anything that catches your fancy. When it comes to frustrating roommates, communication is key. Most of the time, the issue arises from either a lack of awareness, misassumptions, or both. If it persists, contact your building’s management for a solution.
Whenever you feel that you’re on your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to your school or college counsellor, friends, or even acquaintances.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity of studying overseas, for I have forged valuable friendships and made lasting memories, but I do not speak for everyone. Ultimately, it is your decision to make.
All I can advise is embrace your life with courage and a growth mindset, and be versatile, especially in the face of unfamiliar conditions.
She Jia, 18, a Malaysian student in Singapore, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team.