Learning To Cook, Dealing With Racism, And 7 Other Lessons I Learnt While Studying Abroad

This letter is intended towards people who are planning to or are in the process of going out of India for their further studies. Firstly, congratulations on attempting or thinking of making a move to other countries for gaining knowledge in the field of your choice. Not only does it require a good amount of money, but it also involves a year-long process of researching for good universities, writing a Statement of Purpose (SOP), collecting references, having good grades along with extracurriculars and internships, and finally filling up those big application forms.

It can be hard getting into world-renowned universities, but what’s even more difficult is settling in and finding a place for yourself in a country other than your own.

If you are one of those people who are going abroad to get an education, find a job and settle in, I’d advise you to think it over.

If you are aiming to settle abroad, I’d advise you to get over the idea that life overseas is easy. Most of us sitting in comfort cannot tell you about the kind of difficulties you face when in a foreign country.

Owing to my first-hand experiences, below are a few points that might help you before making this big decision-

  1. The moment you land, you are going to love it. Free like a bird you’d feel the air of the west already taking you away. Relax! With freedom comes responsibility. It takes time to settle in and find like-minded people. Don’t hold back, talk to people but don’t get in their space. Out there, everybody minds their business, and you do too.
  2. As troublesome as it might sound, there are very high chances of you facing racism. You will know it, and you will end up questioning yourself for the same. No matter how forward or modern the west is, racism exists everywhere. One is never really prepared for it, but don’t let it get to you. Share it with people you trust.
  3. Unless you are planning to spend money each day ordering in, please learn to cook for yourself. I cannot ever possibly stress enough on this point. More than anything you are going to miss home food, thus you must know your basics. From cooking, to washing your clothes, cleaning your room, managing your groceries, opening bank accounts, taking care of your studies and expenses, you’ve got to do it all. Nobody wants to live in a mess, or do you?
  4. You’ve grown up in a country with one kind of education system, and you are going to another which is entirely different. It may be hard, but it isn’t difficult to crack. Some of you might face the problem of not understanding how to get marks, not understanding the university expectations or guidelines. As dull as it might sound- read their marking criteria. It always helps, go out and talk to your professors about your concerns, if not anything it helps them know that you want to work hard.
  5. Even though we all leave with the intention of making good friends from people around the world, as cliched as it might sound you’d end up finding comfort in your own kind. If not many, you’ll find one Indian/South Asian friend you’d rely on for literally everything.
  6. Sometimes it gets difficult to understand their accent, and yours too for them. Try bridging the gap. Don’t let it affect your confidence of reaching out to people and talking to them.
  7. Compared to Indian education, education in the west leaves you with ample amount of time to do your own things. The free time you’ve always wanted to have back home, it will sometimes get to you abroad, try and make the most out of it. Go travelling (keeping in mind the expenses of course!), learn and explore. This indeed is your time to grow.
  8. Just like we have a perception of the west, they have a perception of us (and not necessarily a good one). People would want to talk to you and know more about your culture, your country, everything. India interests everyone out there. Be ready for the kind of bizarre questions that might come your way. “Is curry all you eat?” is one of the examples.
  9. You will miss your family. As much as some of you might be thinking of running away from them for a breath of freedom, you are going to miss them badly. Some days won’t pass easily, and you’d cry and feel lonely. Vent it out and then talk to people you feel connected to.

If not anything you will come back as a changed person. Mature, confident, sure, decisive and careful, this experience of being away from your family and your people will make you realise the importance of your own country, the benefits and comforts you had back home. You’d grow not only as an individual but as a human being, and then there is no looking back.

Go to get yourself educated, to learn, to expand your horizons, to have the experiences of your life, to build the career you’ve always wanted but never forget where it all started.


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