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10 Life Changing Lessons I Learned While Studying Abroad

10-life-changing-lessons-i-learned-while-studying-abroad

Studying abroad can be a challenge. The people, the culture and the rules may be totally different from what you are used to. A couple of years ago I decided to study in Denmark. There were ups and downs throughout the journey. I have learned a few life lessons along the way that has helped my head above the waters while studying abroad. 

You see, I recently completed an AP Degree in Logistics Management in Denmark. I am originally from the Philippines and after a few years of living here. I decided to start on a new career path. In a perspective, I realize pursuing a career with the degree I had from the Philippines is painstakingly frustrating to pursue in another country. Aside from the language barrier, job opportunities are harder to come by.

I had a great two years of study and most of all, I experienced what it is like to study abroad. 

1

You get to experience a new culture and new way of thinking.

Studying abroad helps you experience and immerse in a new culture. What you may find common or normal from where you are from can be totally different to where you are going.

I spent a decade studying in the Philippines, and it is normal for classes to be a lecture-based style, wherein topics are being discussed by teachers and students listens. It is a more individualistic style of learning where each student understands the discussion based on their own interpretation and understanding of the topics as it was given. The class interaction comes in a form of question and answer.

In Denmark, the teaching style is mostly case-based discussions. You are handed out with the course outline with the itemized topics with their corresponding schedules before the classes start, which will be your guide throughout the semester. You are expected to have read the resources provided before you get to class. During the class, everyone participates in a discussion about the topic and explore different areas and angles that might not have been covered by what you have read or studied. The discussion stimulates the learning process and promotes interaction not just between teacher and student but with the whole class in general.

When you get to understand the basic principles of how the system and the culture works, it gets easier to adapt. You just have to make sure to get to know the dos and don'ts and respect the tradition and culture of the country where you are planning to study. You will encounter differences and similarities but at the end of the day, you should just have fun learning.

2

A smile is a universal language that comes in handy.

If you decide to study abroad especially in a country with a language different from yours, it totally is a whole new world. Like they say, the struggle is real! The pains of having to use all your wits to piece together a coherent sentence and convey a message in order to communicate can be really challenging. It is best to equip yourself before you start studying abroad.

Read and research. In my case, I had to take language lessons in order to at least be able to communicate with others. You will have to put an effort and get to know the basics of the language in order to survive and get your basic daily errands done such as buying groceries or simply asking directions. But when all else fails, you will find that a smile can work wonders. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help. You might be surprised how open others are in lending you a hand if you show a friendly smile.

3

Learn to network and meet new people.

It is definitely lonely to live in another country especially if you are moving to a new place where you don't know anyone. Learn to build a social network. Reach out and make friends whenever you have the opportunity. You will find that it is not too hard to strike up a conversation and get to know other people. Be open to say “hi" first and don't hesitate to ask questions.

Most classes in my experience are composed of only about 20 students. So it is typical that most of your teachers will get to know your name by the first week of class. Don't hesitate to participate in class and any activities at school. This will not only help you expand your social circle but as well as your professional network in your future career path. Be active and speak up. You will find that they appreciate it more when you speak up and express your opinions and ideas than not saying anything at all.

Don't be afraid to take a chance and reach out. Building a social network can come in handy. I was able to find my first job through one of my teachers who approached me and asked if I would want to work as a student assistant when I was searching for a student job. You will find that in many places, and more often than not, people are more willing to give a hand if you just learn to reach out and ask.

4

Appreciate your family and friends back home.

Make sure to reach out and set time to communicate with your family and friends back home. When you are away for a time period, things won't stay the same when you go back home. It is difficult to stay connected especially if you trying to adjust to your new environment. Your family and friends will hopefully always be there for you but just always remember, it is always a two-way street.

You have to make sure to take the time to spend time with them whenever possible. Pick up your phone or send a message. Say hi and ask how they are doing. Let them know how you are doing as well and talk about your experiences, worries, and plans. You will find that reaching out will help them always stay in touch with you so you will not feel alone or lonely through the whole process of being away from home.

5

Learn to be self-sufficient.

The hardest part of living alone and being far away from home is you seldom have the support you need to get through the day especially with the daily basic routines or tasks you usually do with either your family or friends back home. In a sense, you are forced to learn to be self-sufficient and do most of the things yourself. I learned how to cook and make quick meals on the go. My planner became my new best friend in order to keep track of all the tasks that I need to get done within the week.

It is hard at the beginning, but like everything else in life, constant repetition becomes a habit. All you have to do is get your head straight and prioritize as you go. There were two good things that came out from it for me. I started to be more responsible in managing my personal life and time and I learn to be more creative and resourceful to make things work.

6

Take advantage of new opportunities.

In my experience, the best life experiences came from the unexpected opportunities. Always remember, everyone is trying to learn like you do. Seize every opportunity that is thrown at you. Make memories and experience even the little things such as short trips or trying a new coffee shop.

7

Learn to have a “study-life" balance.

Being in school is often demanding, with papers to submit and projects to finish. If there is one thing I learned from the Danes, is that work-life balance is as important as anything else in life. You work hard not to play hard, but you work hard and play hard. It is a totally different spectrum and not the means to an end.

Learn to have a life and take time to go out and have some fun. Find ways to relax and manage your time properly. Plan your trips and hang out with your new found friends. De-stress whenever you get the chance so you are more productive when you are studying.

8

Ditch the social media and enjoy the moment.

Life these days are expressed more and more through social media. It is now a habit to post what you had during your meal or the places you have been. There is nothing wrong with it, but sometimes always fussing about taking the best picture of the view can distract your chance of experiencing what is in front of you.

Take time to be at the moment, indulge in the view, the smell and the feelings that it brings that can't be captured by an image. You will find later on that those memories last longer and feel more real than a photograph you took that has had more likes or hearts on social media.

9

Money is not everything.

Money can be a challenge when you are abroad. It is crucial that you think ahead and have a financial plan in place on how you will survive and handle your living situation financially when studying abroad.

If you are getting a scholarship, think about how much will be your living expenses. How will you be able to supplement your income? Do you need to find a student job? Plan ahead and set a budget to avoid having to worry about money matters instead of focusing on your studies.

Finances can be stressful and be burdening at times, so it is better to get a head start. Spend your money wisely while making sure to invest on memories while you are studying abroad.

10

It is a small world after all.

The more you travel the more you meet new people and experience a new culture. The more places you’ve been the more you see the things that are familiar and not so different. Though the world is generally a large mass of earth and water, you encounter people and things that will somehow remind you of home or where you are from. You will learn to appreciate how the world is not so different and can be smaller than we think.

When you study and live abroad, try not to fuss with the small things. Learn to enjoy your time while studying. You have the opportunity to make the most out of it and enjoy every single moment of it. Struggles can be experienced from time to time. It is all up to you on whether you will let those struggles define your whole experience. Life can lead you to beautiful experiences and build wonderful memories that will last you for a lifetime.

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A Frugal Pitch is a blog created to share ideas and a dose of frugal tips and tricks for mindful living and finding happiness. Being frugal does not mean being cheap. It is just a lifestyle choice and a mindfulness habit of living a life with a purpose and finding your own version of happiness in living with less.

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