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What to expect when studying abroad
Ever thought about studying abroad? Here’s what you can expect.
Leaving Singapore to study overseas will be life-changing. Not only will you have a brand new life in a foreign country, you’ll also be living apart from mum and dad for the first time. You’ll have to grapple not only with the challenges of studying at university level, but also the complexities of cooking, cleaning and managing your money.
If you are toying with the idea of studying abroad, you are no doubt curious about what your new life will be like. How hard will it be to adapt to life abroad? And will things be very different than if you chose to remain in Singapore instead?
Based on the collective experience of thousands of Singaporean overseas students (over 2,800 Singaporean students left for Australia and over 2,700 for the UK in 2016), you can expect the following when studying abroad.
No more curfews
One of the best things about studying abroad is the amount of freedom you’ll enjoy. Your time will be yours to manage, which means you can do lots if you plan well.
One huge advantage of this freedom is that you’ll have the time and space to do lots of new things, which can mould you into a more confident, savvy adult.
So take advantage of it to try new activities in your free time and travel to new places in the region on weekends and during the holidays.
For instance, if you’re studying in London, you’ll be able to explore other cities in the UK such as Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol, while the rest of the EU will be just a budget flight away. So take advantage of this to set off on a backpacking trip around Europe during the school holidays.
Also consider taking up a part-time job. It’s always nice to have a little more pocket money, and, whether you’re balancing plates at a restaurant, scooping ice cream on steamy summer days or ringing up a storm at a call centre, you’re sure to make new friends and experience many fun moments.
There is a strong demand for part-time employees in F&B and retail in cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Christchurch, and if you do well academically you might also be given the chance to apply for a job as a teaching assistant or research assistant at your university.
If you are studying in a country where English is not the mother tongue, such as Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands or Japan, you might struggle with the fact that not everybody can or wants to speak English.
But you’ll also be in the perfect environment to learn a new language. Grab the chance while you can, as the immersion will help you learn much faster. Before you know it, you’ll be chatting away with the locals like a pro.
Mastering a foreign language can have benefits that will follow you throughout your career. A 2014 podcast by the authors of bestseller Freakonomics has shown that foreign language proficiency can raise future earnings and help you make better decisions.
Cultural exposure and international friends
One of the most rewarding aspects of studying abroad is being able to make friends with people from all over the world. Getting to know people from different cultures will expand your horizons and improve your communication skills.
If you are headed to a popular university in the UK, the US, Australia or New Zealand, there is a good chance there will already be a large number of Singaporean students in the vicinity. But in order to make international friends, it is necessary to leave your comfort zone.
Making local friends is the key to truly accepting the local culture. Aim to keep an open mind and take a real interest in your new country. So, resist the urge to spend all your time with fellow Singaporean students, and delve into the culture of your host country.
For instance, if you’re in Australia, learning how to enjoy Marmite will no doubt endear you to local students during snack breaks. If you’re studying in an East Asian country like Japan, South Korea or China, learning a few local karaoke songs will do wonders for your ability to socialise.
Exploring an interest or hobby and joining a club or community on your own, without any of your Singaporean friends in tow, is the first step towards building a network of international friends. It might be scary at first, but is totally worth it.
Exposing yourself to foreign cultures is not only fun and rewarding, but can also become an asset when you’re looking for a job. According to HR consultancies, there is a strong demand for Singaporean workers returning from overseas, with some employers willing to pay up to 30% more for workers with relevant overseas industry experience. In a similar vein, SMU now makes it compulsory for all students to do an overseas stint before graduation because of the competitive edge the global exposure can bring them.
The FRANK by OCBC Education Loan lets you take that first step towards studying abroad and broadening your horizons. Click here to find out more.