Many students have their own reasons for studying abroad: higher standard of education, better facilities on campus, and better employment opportunities than those in the native country. Along with new opportunities, there are specific obstacles to comfortable studying and living in a foreign country. Budgeting and expenses, missing family and friends, cultural and language differences are considered the most noticeable difficulties that affect the socialization process as well as the academic performance.
The high cost of studies in the foreign country is a frequent stumbling block. Study abroad programs often cost more than those at home institutions. International students have to pay more than local students pay for tuition fees by a certain percentage. In addition, plane tickets and apartments for accommodation are expensive. Money for telephone or internet connection with home is also a component of fixed costs for a foreign student. Nevertheless, financial help such as scholarships and grants can be asked from different foundations and commissions. Financial obstacle to studying overseas becomes so obvious because it is linked with other constraining aspects, including family limitation.
While studying abroad, one misses his/her family members and close friends caused by the familiar environment. Family and friends play the role of mentors, trusted advisors, support buddies, and even cheerleaders in one’s everyday life. The safety, support, and comfort come from their proximity. One cannot teleport to friends from the new country or phone family member any convenient time, despite the difference in time. As a result, one can feel indecisive, lonely and lost out of the country (Byram & Feng, 2006).
Both women and men are worried if their previous social contacts can be reestablished. The first steps into new social arena and finding like-minded persons are difficult tasks. The freedom to be ourselves and trust people takes time to be built, not mentioning deep friendships. Therefore, missing family and friends is the main psychological barrier to studying abroad.
The cultural obstacle
Cultural obstacle is another effect that results from studying abroad. International students face a wide range of challenges: from academic language expectations to cultural differences. Language barrier is a significant difficulty, when students are unable to communicate in the official language of the foreign country. English may be widely spoken and understood, but the national language has the main position. Local dialects are also spoken by a large percentage of the population in certain areas. Moreover, understanding of slang and accent increases the problem, but knowledge of language stands as an integral part of successful study that cannot be undervalued.
Problems of communication
In fact, students get to know each other through language. Effective communication in the study process means quicker and better results. It develops relationships, and at the same time serves as a tool of preventing conflicts. On the other hand, insufficient knowledge of language can create the negative studying environment. Good knowledge of language is also beneficial in dealing with people outside the college.
However, one international student emphasizes that language difficulty is not as big as a cultural one: “So it’s like cultural would maybe at the top, and just the newness, newness of being in a new place, homesickness, different expectations and then not understanding sort of the culture of a particular educational institution” (Martin, 2011). The cultures can be quite different from each other like African values differ from Western ones. This can make students feel alienated, because of the cultural shock. Learning the new culture can go as far as undermining one’s native culture. For instance, a student may end up forgetting his original culture and language.
Understanding of country’s culture plays a vital role for strong professional relationships. When one is studying abroad, knowledge of cultural peculiarities is one of the keys to academic success. The variety of opinions about things and personality can cause problems such as cross-cultural conflicts. As a result, language barriers can also appear Cultural and linguistic barriers can limit one’s expectations. The fact of studying abroad does not mean that the student can learn a foreign language automatically. That is why one should make efforts to be familiar with people from other culture, for avoiding the uncertainty in the group, future orientation, performance and human orientation.
Attention must be paid to foreign cultural aspects as components of everyday life. Such cultural differences affect people’s relations, behavior, and intercourse. Cultural adaptation encourages personal relationships and collaboration among individuals in college (Laughlin, 2011).
Language and cultural differences, nostalgia for family and home are persistent reminders of the fact of studying in the foreign country. Thus, adaption to foreign educational system can be stressful for international students. When students study thoroughly to attain their goals, they realize that there are many challenges and obstacles. Consequently, stress starts to develop in those students. Unfortunately, nowadays stress becomes a way of life for many students and its effects need to be prevented. Generally, pressure in college causes stress situations, but inner fear also becomes the reason of stress for foreign entrants.
Fear is a common part of student’s hesitation to study abroad. Students are worried about leaving their family and friends and learning a new culture and language. This fear as well as other barriers can be overcome by researching a new country with its traditions, language, reading books, watching films or listening to music of native authors, making new personal relationships with those who study abroad from the same country. Students must also remember that there are many advantages of studying abroad that overweight difficulties: “It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities” (Noume, 2011).