Studying abroad: Challenges for a typical International Filipino Student
As a Filipino, it is certainly fun and challenging to be able to study in a foreign country. I anticipated that there would be many challenges in my field of study. However, having been able to go through the university experience have made me realize that it is not so much the difficulty of the subjects that would be a challenge, but rather the little changes to everyday life.
Filipinos are fortunate that the English language is one of our primary languages and one that is used as the main medium of teaching. Students who are able to take on academic opportunities abroad need not worry about communicating with other native The English language speakers. However, being in a foreign university enrolling a number of different nationalities means that you need not only understand The English language as it is taught in the Philippines but also how it is used by other foreigners. It is not unusual to hear other non-native English language speakers and wonder what they are saying.
It will be hard to understand the English language of people from Europe. This is contrary to the perception that all ‘white’ people are good in The English language. English speakers in the UK also have a different accent and words for everyday items. Checking for regional banter is a must. It will also be hard to understand people with a thick Scottish accent but Scots are particularly polite and will even slow down their speaking for you. Furthermore, it will really be a challenge to understand the English language of our South East Asian neighbours.
If you study in UK, take note about the differences between American and British English. You should change your computer’s language to English (UK) and do not attempt to change the spelling of the words – humour, organisation, optimisation, Oxford comma, among others. These is the correct form in UK English.
We have a love-hate relationship with the sun. We long for it during the rainy season and curse it to death during the dry season. There are countries with the same climate as the Philippines and you need not worry if you are in one. However, studying in temperate countries, and other northern/southern countries means that you also have to adjust to the climate; you should not forget that you will also be leaving in the country and the challenges are not just inside the university but are also right outside your door, and often also inside.
I study in Scotland where the heat from the sun is generally less intense. I learned to love the sun because it barely shows itself; you have no choice but to love it when it is there. Winters are generally gloomy as the nights are long and cold, and the sun is almost never out. It is also particularly frustrating to live through the snow. Slippery and muddy roads will haunt you, although it can also bring fun if you know how to ski and are prepared to do it in the middle of the city.
Summer is a different experience altogether and the general problem is the difficulty in getting asleep. An 11 pm sunset and 3 am sunrise mean that there is more sun than you would ever want, and you would need to have heavy curtains just to make sure that you have good sleep hygiene. This also messes up your ‘Filipino sense of time’ as it is still very bright even at night. I skipped a lot of meals and had to unconsciously overwork since it is still ‘day’ even at 9 pm. It sounds trivial as one can just look at the clock or sound an alarm but that means that you need to have a lifestyle change when it comes to observing the time. Note: this is different from keeping and managing time, and you have to do it every day unless you really want to skip meals and lose weight unhealthily.
The start of the semester is usually in September – Fall Semester. Temperatures are just beginning to drop and for the first few weeks and I reckon that you will love it. One should be sure to bring a snow-proof jacket and this will usually be very expensive if bought from the Philippines. You should delay your purchase and find a bargain when you arrive in your country of study. It is part of their everyday wear and will be cheaper. The same cannot be said if you are opting for an ukay-ukay purchase as the Philippine version will still be cheaper.
Studying abroad means that you have to live alone and that entails managing your budget, alone. It does not matter if your parents support you financially support you, or if you are using your own savings, or have a scholarship; you will have to budget. You will soon realize that rent and food are the things that you will spend, and should spend, the most on; there is nothing you can do about it as it is your most fundamental need.
You may also have yearned for independence from the onset. However, you may not have anticipated how lonely it can be. You may not have mingled with your family but you may also have taken for granted how it was so convenient that when you go home, everything is ready and you just need to eat, relax, and sleep. The absence of these small little things you will make you realize just how important they are. Do not fret as you will also encounter friends but make no mistake, their dedication to you is different from the dedication of your family to make you at least feel at home.
There are certainly more challenges that you will ever face than I can possibly say in an article but it will all be worthwhile as you learn not only to cope with university, but also learn how to deal with everyday life, interacting with people you are vastly different with.
Lastly, the food. Upon return to the Philippines, I am 100% sure that you will eat more than you will ever want to because Filipino food is the best for us Filipinos.