Feeling Like an Outsider While Studying Abroad

Studying Abroad Jan 1, 2022

Studying abroad opens you up to new cultures and broadens your perspectives. At times, however, amidst assimilating and trying to fit in, you may struggle to feel like you belong.

Try to let go of assumptions.

Your research about the place you are going to and your general ideas about society's norms could create some assumptions as to how your experiences will look. But when you get there, sometimes, you may see your reality reflecting something completely different.

Try to let go of your assumptions as you navigate through your time abroad. Put yourself in the shoes of those living at that place, understanding their cultural context even if it varies from yours. Such cross-cultural interaction forms the core of studying abroad, and understanding how to interact in your new setting can ease the process of settling in.

Seek out resources that explain the new academic culture.

If your education throughout your life was structured very differently from the academic culture you are entering, you could find it hard to tackle the unfamiliarity. So, if you need a more thorough understanding of your course material, assignments, examinations, or literally anything else, that's totally understandable.

Because a transition from high school to university could be daunting for everyone, universities are likely to have resources and contacts to help you adjust to this. Yet, regardless, if you think you have more doubts and apprehensions, it's okay to address them, even if you think they aren't clever or sensible enough.

Talk about how you've been feeling.

While you may find it complex to process your emotions, as you begin talking to those in a similar situation to you, you may quickly realize how they aren't uncommon. Connect with other international students with whom you find some commonality.

Not only could you find some new close connections, but you can also learn the how-tos of the process together. For instance, if there is something about your new environment that really confuses you, someone else might have been too but may have figured it out.

Sure, you could find yourself in awkward conversations. Or you might be afraid of unintentionally saying potentially insensitive things. But mostly, genuine questions asked with the right attitude are welcome. Come in with an open mind, accept that you could be in the wrong, and it should all turn out to be fine.  

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Ritika Singhal

Senior year student passionate about social justice and inclusive reform | she/her

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