Deciding to uproot oneself and moving to a new country can be quite a daunting task, leaving loved ones behind and stepping into the less known. It requires courage and a leap of faith. However, it must be done, to step out of our comfort zone and to challenge ourselves to be able to rely on our own no mater the situation is a great environment for growth and learning. In this blog post I will share some tips that will hopefully make this journey a little less bumpy and ambiguous. In the interest of keeping these blogs short, I will divide them into multiple parts as it’s nearly impossible to keep it short and cover everything. The first two parts are for students planning to study abroad and the following parts will focus on physiotherapy as a career abroad. Here are a list of things to consider-
For higher education –
1. The language barrier- while most of us speak English well and have cracked the IELTS/TOFEL, often the local lingo can be a little different and being able to have seamless confident communication can be a big asset. Try to understand the local lingo and immerse yourself in their language long before you have to move.
2. When looking for other students traveling to the same school as yours (university or college is often called school) start early. Mostly all schools have FB groups of international students. It is an excellent place to start networking. Alternatively, look for contacts or acquaintances that have been to your school before and feel free to contact your international students office to connect you with other students or for any other help.
3. Common sites to look for apartments or roommates in the USA- craigslist and sulekha and kijiji in Canada.
4. Unlike ours, North America has a culture of small talk, use it to break ice with strangers in your class, mostly everyone is open and friendly.
5. Following up on the last point, explore and delve into your hobbies and use them to network and build a social circle. One of the biggest challenges international students face living abroad is struggling with having a social life and starting from scratch. Go out and network with students in your college who are not just from your country but locals and other international students as well. It took me a while to figure this out as I was a bit shy initially. Do this early to have a fulfilling school experience. Some good places to start are your school gym, international students office and all the programs they offer, college intra-murals(sports organized by the school for its students played casually but with league and championships games) etc. Universities abroad are like mini townships with a plethora of activities for all kinds of hobbies and interests. I strongly advise you to use them.
6. Scholarships and grants- it is great if you can get them, it takes a lot of financial burden off ones shoulders. There are many offered, GA (graduate Assistant), RA (research assistant), TA (teaching assistant). In addition, you may even be able to secure an on-campus job which is the only form of employment offered in USA apart from CPT & OPT (more on that later). In Canada, rules are a little relaxed and you can work off campus with some restrictions on hours.
7. Let’s break this down a little further, a GA is offered to students in graduate programs (what we often refer to as postgraduate or masters). It’s more of a generic scholarship in which you may be given clerical office work by the professor or department that hires you like scheduling data entry in computers, file stacking (what I did) etc, all depends upon your department’s or professor’s requirements so such a scholarship does not have to be in your own department. I encourage you to try different departments in your college as this greatly improves your chances. Students often do not consider looking outside their department, the worse that could happen is a rejection. Smile and move on. A teaching assistant position is generally granted in ones own department and often depends upon your GPA. It involves teaching either undergraduate students some classes or/and helping your professor in your own class. One must demonstrate advanced knowledge in their respective fields to be able to secure this scholarship. You could also find it in different department like maths, biology, physics etc. RA is generally offered if you decide to participate in research as part of your studies and is almost always in your own department and field of study. Each of these may offer either waving your tuition fee partially or fully (unlikely) or paying you hourly or in lump sum.
I’m not nearly done yet, some more points coming in part two of the blog post.
(BPT, MS, CMP, FMT)