Studying abroad can be a bewildering experience, especially if you’ve never lived away from home before. Initially, you might be consumed with the feeling of uncertainty and there will be many things, which in hindsight, you’ll wish someone had told you about (I know I did).

In order to provide you with an insight into what it’s really like to be an international student, I spoke to a few international students about their experience. Let me kick things off by first sharing my own experience.

Mariam Khawer, ACCA, BPP University, England

Why did you choose international education over studying in your home country?

There were many events and elements that led me to make the decision to study abroad. But if I had to highlight one key factor I would say, it was a milestone that I wanted to achieve since adolescence. Living in the comfort and luxury of your home is one of the greatest blessings of life but I wanted to charter into an unfamiliar territory and gauge my ability to survive on my own.

What did you gain from your experience of studying abroad?

I had always led an incredibly sheltered life under the care of my family. Once I moved away from home I suddenly had a lot of things that needed taking care of, things which I didn’t really have to think about back home, such as stocking up the pantry with food, settling bills etc. All of a sudden I was responsible for a lot more than just my studies. My stint abroad taught me how to make responsible and wise decisions and juggle various aspects of life simultaneously without panicking. It also taught me the value of money and how to live life fully on a limited budget.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give students considering an international education?

I would say research, research, and research. Try and make use of the resources that you have on hand (the internet, journals, friends, and acquaintances) to find out as much as you can about your desired degree, university and the country you wish to travel to. Have a clear understanding of what to expect once you’re there, it is inevitable that you will experience a culture shock and be thrown into the deep end sometimes, but having done your research beforehand will prevent you from being completely blindsided.

Maryam Tauqeer, BA in Business Management, University of Washington, United States

Why did you choose an international education over studying in your home country?

I opted for an international education because I was of the opinion that the degree would be recognised in many countries and that I would have access to more opportunities to excel and grow as compared to my home country, Pakistan.

What did you gain from your experience of studying abroad?

I gained an insight into different cultures from my fellow students who were from around the world. This taught me how to coexist in harmony with people whose views and beliefs differed from mine. It broadened my knowledge of the world and molded me into a culturally rich and groomed person.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to students considering an international education?

I would tell them to just go ahead with it and be open to experiencing and accepting all opportunities and adventures that come their way. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone so don’t shy away from venturing into the unknown, you might just discover a completely new side of your personality.

Mohammad Al Onaizi, Masters in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Why did you choose an international education over studying in your home country?

Both my elder brothers and my dad experienced what it was like to live and study abroad, and hearing about their experiences, I had always wanted to experience the same as well. Another factor that contributed to my decision was the fact that growing up (in Kuwait) I studied in an English school and all of my friends were foreigners who went back to their respective countries after finishing high school. As a result, when I finished school, I found it quite difficult to make friends and socialise with people from my own country and I aspired to study and eventually settle down in a country that was more diverse.

What did you gain from your experience of studying abroad?

Having recently moved to Dubai to begin my studies in September, I have already experienced some of the aspects of being an international student. Being the youngest in my family I was always overprotected, and in this short time that I have spent living abroad, I have learned how to take care of myself and manage the multiple responsibilities that come with living alone. Another aspect which I’ve enjoyed is the diversity of people I interacted with at the university. Although I haven't started classes yet, I have met many international students on my visits to the campus, and being an international student myself, I am looking forward to bonding with them and forming valuable, long lasting friendships.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to students considering international education?

My advice is to never lose touch with your family. I recently got a job which I thought could support me with my studies, but there have already been times when I’ve needed help and my family has always been by my side.

Sijo Zachariah, Bachelors in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering, University of South Wales, United Kingdom

Why did you choose an international education over studying in your home country?

I believed studying in the UK would enable me to stand on my own two feet as there were more chances of me finding a part-time employment there than in my home country, India. Also, the aviation license which I will obtain later on in my career will be internationally accepted as it will be UK-certified.

What did you gain from your experience of studying abroad?

When I ventured to study abroad, I was basically thrown out of my comfort zone. I had to struggle quite a bit for the first two months and it was an entirely new experience for me in terms of the teaching techniques and examinations conducted in the university since it was the Cambridge curriculum and differed vastly from the Indian curriculum that I was accustomed to. Also, since Indian food and spices weren’t easily available, I had to figure out the solution to that dilemma on my own, which had its own ups and downs. Making friends wasn’t easy as well as the diversity there is much more than it is back home and in my experience, students tend to be around people from their own country. But eventually, I crossed all these hurdles and ended up meeting amazing people from all around the world.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to students considering an international education?

It isn't as easy as you think it is. I think movies these days portray studying abroad in a very trendy way but in reality, you have to struggle a lot with the academics, regional accents (depending on the place you go to), searching for food, homesickness, etc. Finding a part-time job and balancing it with university life can be tiring and frustrating. But you will eventually get used to it and as time passes, you will look back and realize that studying abroad was possibly one of the best decisions you ever made. The key to a happy ending is to not lose hope.

Shaheen Rohomun, BA Business Administration, Holborn College, United Kingdom

Why did you choose an international education over studying in your home country?

I chose to study abroad instead of in my home country to experience a personal growth. I have always been an introvert, therefore, I wanted to challenge myself and transform into a more independent, self-reliant and self-confident individual. I knew moving abroad would give me the opportunity to navigate my way around a completely different lifestyle and view life from a new perspective.

What did you gain from your experience of studying abroad?

By studying abroad, I experienced a new culture, and made friends from around the world as the university I went to, had a large community of students from around the globe.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to students considering an international education?

For someone who wants to study abroad, I would suggest they prepare themselves well to integrate fully in a new society and get accustomed to the new culture as soon as possible. It might be tough in the beginning but be determined and persistent. Remember the darkest hour is just before the dawn.

If you are planning to study abroad and looking for information about schools in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, check out SchoolApply!