In my hometown Hong Kong, studying abroad is a dream for many. During my bachelor’s studies, I went to Prague, Czech Republic, on an exchange program. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that totally changed my life. I fell in love with the lifestyle in Europe. Therefore, after I have completed my bachelor’s degree, I decided to move to Germany to pursue my master’s degree.
Just like any other decision in life, studying abroad has its pros and cons, and it may not be for everyone. In case you are wondering if studying abroad is a good option for you, take a look at the following pros and cons before making your decision.
Pros of studying abroad
You will learn to be independent
Being alone in a foreign country means that you have to be independent. In Hong Kong, it is very typical for young people to be living with their parents who do all the housework and cooking. This was also the case for me. When I was studying abroad, I was forced to do my housework and learn how to cook.
Besides, when you are in your home country, you can ask your family or friends for help. Once you are abroad, you will have to figure out things by yourself. For example, looking for accommodation, opening a bank account, applying for your visa, just to name a few. You will learn how to solve problems by yourself and become independent.
You will develop a global mindset
Studying abroad means that you are going to meet many international people. You can have classmates from all over the world. Not only can you make friends with them, but you may also work with them on different projects. This helps you to gain experience working with an international team. You will become more open-minded by learning about different cultures and develop a global mindset.
You will know if working abroad is for you
When you study abroad, you will live overseas for a fixed period. For example, I studied in Prague for one semester (6 months). It is a good testing period for you to see if you like your life abroad and want to work abroad in the future. If yes, it is also a good chance for you to connect with people there as they may help you to get a job after your graduation. For example, make some good relationships with your professors; join different career events to know people who work in your field, etc. Doing so can pave the way for your future career abroad.
You will travel a lot
When you study abroad, you can take the opportunity to travel a lot during your free time. For example, when I studied in Prague, I traveled almost every weekend. Europe is a great place to travel as all the countries are very close to each other. It means that I can travel to another European country in just a few hours.
Traveling helps to broaden your horizons. You can learn about the culture of other countries and you may see things or even your life differently afterward. In my case, I had a lot of adventures and met many interesting people during my travel to different European cities. I learned about their lives and it made me rethink how I wanted my life to be. I used to think that I had to work, live, and retire in Hong Kong without even considering moving abroad as an option. Thanks to my travel experience, I moved to Germany in the end and pursued my dream life.
You will improve your language skills
If you are studying abroad in a country that does not speak your native language, you will be forced to learn the local language. I studied my master’s program in Germany and I have learned German from scratch. Learning German in Germany was completely different from learning it in Hong Kong. I got to speak to the local people and could practice my German in my daily life. This was the fastest way to learn and it gave me a great sense of achievement when I could communicate with the local people in German.
It will look good on your CV
As mentioned, studying abroad helps you to become more independent, to develop an international mindset, to improve your language skills, etc. All these mean that your CV will look better. Big companies like to hire people with international experience who can work in a global team. So, your experience of studying abroad may increase your chance to land your dream job.
Cons of studying abroad
There will be more expenses
Studying abroad means that you have more living expenses: your flight expenses, rent, travel, visa, etc. In Hong Kong, we can save some money by living with our parents and eating at home. However, paying rent is unavoidable when living abroad. The level of expenses depends largely on which country you will study in. You will need to spend more if the country has a high cost of living.
In my case, I studied my master’s program in Berlin. The cost of living in Germany is relatively low comparing to most of the popular English speaking countries like the US, UK, etc. Berlin was in particular inexpensive (back then). So, it was quite affordable to live there. Remember that you may not be able to work during your study period due to visa restrictions or your chance of finding a job. It means that you should always have some money ready before going abroad to make sure that you can cover all your living expenses during your stay.
The language barrier can be challenging
Depending on the level of your language skills, you may face a language barrier which is one of the biggest challenges for many students abroad. If possible, you can take some language classes before going abroad. This can help you to learn the language faster after you are abroad and you can adapt to your new life overseas easier.
You may feel homesick
When you are at home, you have your best friends and family who can always support you. After you move abroad, you may not know anyone at the beginning. If you are not fluent in the local language, it may be even harder for you to meet new friends. It is completely normal to feel lonely sometimes when you study abroad. You may miss the people and food from home. If your boyfriend or girlfriend stays in your home country, you may need to start a long-distance relationship which is not always easy. Unfortunately, many long-distance relationships end when couples cannot see each other physically for a long time.
Cultural shock is common
Studying in another country means that you have to adapt to a new culture. Sometimes you can have a cultural shock, especially if you come from a completely different culture. The cultural difference can also cause misunderstanding which can be quite frustrating. Respecting and learn about the local culture when you are overseas can help you to adapt faster and avoid any misunderstandings.
You will need to figure things out on your own
As you are far away from your family and friends from home, you will need to solve many problems by yourself, especially if you do not have many local friends at the beginning. This can be hard sometimes as you may not be familiar with the foreign system and language. For example, you may need to find an apartment or open a bank account by yourself. Try to find help from your university. Connecting with other international students can also allow you to help each other out.
It can be hard to go home
When you study abroad, you establish a new life in a foreign country. You make new friends, live a new lifestyle, try new food, etc. After a while, you get used to your new life abroad and you realize that the time has come for you to go home. It can be very hard to say goodbye to your friends abroad as you do not know when you will meet each other again.
After you move back home, you may face reverse cultural shock and have difficulty in readjusting to your home culture. I had that feeling after I went back home from my exchange program in Prague. Everything was so different back home and I somehow felt like my old friends and family couldn’t understand me anymore because they were never abroad.
Should you study abroad or not?
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can change your personality. Despite all the challenges, you will learn new skills, gain new experiences, travel to new places, and meet new people. You will become independent and know how to better cope with challenges. Stepping out of your comfort zone is stressful but also rewarding at the same time. Therefore, in my opinion, you should definitely go to study abroad if possible.
This article is written by Sindy, blogger at My Life in Germany.
My Life in Germany was established by Sindy in early 2019, with the aim of providing info to expats about studying, working, and living in Germany. Sindy is originally from Hong Kong. Her vision is to provide useful info and advice through My Life in Germany to anyone following her footsteps on subjects like working and finding accommodation in Germany, adjusting to life, citizenship, and more.