Monday, January 5, 2015

How to survive going back to school ... in a different country!

This article originally appeared on i-StudentGlobal on 22nd October 2014.

Ishita has left her home in India to study for a Postgraduate Certificate in Marketing Management at the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Canada.
Ishita Profile Pic
September is the month of going back to school, meeting old friends, making new ones and setting new goals for the year ahead. For someone like me, it was going to a new country to start a new journey – one that was both exciting and scary at the same time!

In September 2013, I decided to start this wonderful journey in Toronto, Canada by choosing to study at Humber College. As an international student, coming from India, I was very excited to study abroad as there were so many positive things that I thought I could experience throughout this journey.

Toronto Skyline
“… this wonderful journey in Toronto, …”
Once I landed in Toronto the understanding of what I was doing sank in: I actually realized that I had chosen a tough path, where I was not only thousands of miles away from my family and friends, but where I had to start a new life from scratch. I was very anxious at that moment, because unlike many people, I had decided to come to a country where I had no acquaintances, family or friends - whatsoever!

So what do you do when you’re in a situation like this? Especially when you not only have to adapt to a new country, its culture and people, but also its education system? I had to deal with all of that! And after a year, looking back, I can say I have survived! But I am still learning new tricks of the trade every single day.

Based on my personal experience and observations, I want to share a few tips that will definitely help you survive your first year in school in a different country. So here it goes:

1. Don’t panic: As much as you are feeling new to the school environment and the people around you, so are your classmates. Remember, it is their first day/week at the class too. Give everybody some time to open up and get comfortable. Just go with the flow.
Ishita with a friend
“Just go with the flow.”
2. Introduce yourself to a stranger: Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you or anyone in your class. It always works as an icebreaker and releases some tension between two unknown people. Don’t get scared or feel disheartened, if a few people are not taking the initiative to talk to you or introduce themselves, they are probably just shy. Sometimes, if you take the initiative to speak up, voila - you just made a new friend!

3. Speak to your professor: If you realize in the first few weeks of class that the teaching and learning method in the school is completely different from your home country then don’t worry. If you feel too shy to ask your classmates any questions, speak to your professors directly. Let them know that you are not accustomed to this style of learning and you need a few suggestions to help you cope. You’ll be surprised at how helpful they can be.

Lakeshore Campus
"Where I study."
4. Join Clubs: Take this opportunity to join clubs or participate in extracurricular activities in your school. This is another way to make new friends and truly learn the culture of that country.
"..participate in extracurricular activities.."
5. Get to know as many people as possible: This will not only help in your personal life, but also in your professional life. You are just starting off your life in a new country and I don’t see why you shouldn’t make as many friends as possible, those who may also help you in your professional life, someday in the future.
  
6. Be open to new ideas: There is a reason why you decided to study in a new country and if gaining global perspective and growing yourself was one of the reasons, you should definitely be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

7. Be global: Try and learn what people in that country do, how they do it, why they do it, also if you are studying in a multicultural city like Toronto, try and learn what people from countries other than Canada do.

8. Stay fit: Yes, you heard it right! Go to the gym or join a sports club. Any form of exercise is a good stress buster and who knows, you might just make a few new friends there as well.

9. Have patience: Give everything some time. Things won’t just happen overnight. Making friends or getting accustomed to a country, its food, culture, and traditions takes time and everything will gradually fall in place. And when it does, then you’ll realize exactly why you embarked on this wonderful journey in the first place.

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