by Zijian Wang
Student from Pacific Ridge School, Class of 2020
Studying abroad is much more complicated than people think. There is a myth that students who decide to study abroad must be the students who cannot bear the competitiveness in China. In fact, however, a student’s life abroad is more intense than in China. Although we don’t need to worry about food and shelter since our parents have already made arrangements to take care of our basic life demands, we still have many challenges.
First of all, the differences in language is always the primary problem. A lot of Chinese students who had fantastic English skills at their schools in China, still feel confused when they start their life abroad. From my personal experience, the English used in different regions is way different than what we have learned in China. Therefore, we not only need to improve our formal English skills, but we also must learn about different communication styles. Building a foundation of strong English skills is important, and it is an essential tool to survive in another country and live alone.
Secondly, at the end of the last paragraph, I mentioned living alone. What I meant by that is living without your family. Some of us may live with host families, while others live in the dorms or rent apartments outside campus. Almost all international students live without their families in the duration of studying abroad. I have learned a few things throughout these past two years and I have some suggestions. When we first arrive in a foreign environment, many of us fall into a period of fear and embarrassment caused by not having the relevant interpersonal skills that we need. There is not much we can do to be prepared for this, however, something we can do is to change the length of this period. There are a few ways to do this. First, you can make friends and build good relationships with the people around you. They could be your host parents’ children or your teachers. It is also smart to get tips from elders. They could be your host parents, your relatives who live here, or simply your parents. Believe or not, they have more life experience than you and have probably had similar experience and solutions that can be helpful for you. Secondly, I think you have already guessed it – improving your language skills. There is nothing that can’t be solved through communication. It might be tough and hard at first, but if you put a in a little bit more effort and be brave, your difficulties will be solved easily
Third, keeping a strong mind is as important as keeping yourself fit. This step is easy to be ignored. At the first stage, you may not have very good English, but don’t feel subordinate to others. I was told by a senior who stayed in the same host family with me, “The guy who talks loudly and offensively in the class does not always know more than you. They can because their mother language is English.” So, don’t feel ashamed, and be confident with yourself and your English. Many international students are eager to adapt into the local culture, but it is hard to achieve in a short time. My advice is really simple; don’t hurry, and try to let nature take its course. Be confident with yourself and naturally people will want to get to know you.
Lastly, having a stable and specific target will help to prevent loneliness. Be very straightforward; this is my own experience. When life is relaxing, you can feel the pressure, but when you focus on something, you are most likely to forget about the pressure. Don’t be stopped by failure, having a different perspective can help to resolve your problems.
This is not only a writing assignment but also the summary of what I learned in my experience studying abroad for the past two years. Studying abroad is not supposed to be an easy thing. From the moment we decide to study abroad, the challenges start. I hope my advice can be helpful to other students who are planning to spend years overseas to study or just start a new journey. During this time, you will brush up on your language skills; meet a diverse range of people, study and learn differently, and gain independence. The last piece of advice I have is to have fun.