Ah studying abroad!! Seeing what the world has to offer, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures, among other things (wink, wink). All some of the many, many reasons why plenty of Africans opt to leave their home countries to pursues higher education in other countries.
However, the enticing courses you will take will not be the only lessons you’ll learn while abroad. Such was my experience, as I left Morocco for France in 2018, and I’d like, through this humble article, to share a little bit of it with you.
The most obvious thing you’ll pick up while living abroad is learning to fend for yourself. Remember those electric bills you’d see in your mailbox and just not care about?? I can assure once you go abroad, you’ll start taking a very good look at those. And the same goes for internet, plumbing, rent. You name it. Plenty of stuff I barely I had to think about back home became front and center issues once in France.
I won’t be lying if I said handling all of this at first overwhelmed me, because it did. And with time – and thanks to a few YouTube tutorials – I learned how to fix small problems at my apartment, when to call an electrician, how to negotiate with the handymen and all the lot. And if I could do it, trust me, anyone can.
When you live as long as I have in one country, you tend to learn plenty of customs and behaviors that become more like reflexes as you grow. However, most of these customs and behaviors tend to be culturally conditioned. An example of this is how to greet people. It is customary in Morocco to perform “la bise” (a cheek-to-cheek salute) 2 to 4 times when you meet someone new or a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. At the time, such greeting was the norm for me, and I did not think it would that out of place. And as you can guess by now, the first time I tried it didn’t go so well for me.
Eventually with time, I came to adapt to the local’s customs and code. But my biggest takeaway- out of all this is that I realized how plenty of things that seem normal – sometimes even well mannered – aren’t necessarily so for other cultures. And as such, changed my perspective about plenty of things and made me more attentive to little detail and empathetic to other people’s culture and codes.
Evolving into your own person
In line with the previous point, going out of your comfort zone and exploring life beyond your cultural prisms allows you to go through plenty of experiences that you would have discarded otherwise. These experiences help you look within and examinate the paradigms you were born with. Adding that to the fact that most schools tend to have an international body of students, this means that constant exposure to different points of view helps shape you view of the world, and thus makes you evolve into the person you’ll always be.
One of the best things about studying in a foreign country is that you a very deep look into the job market of that country. Your university will likely have a job fair, which is a gathering of local and international companies in your university’s campus. You will meet representative from many big-name companies and get to present yourself to them. Through this, you can manage to find the internship or job of your dreams as well as making a small network for yourself.
And that’s not all. Most companies host networking events, whereby a company hosts students in its headquarters and presents what do they do, what sectors are they, and what type of people they are looking for. You also get to meet employees and exchange with them in a very informal setting to make you comfortable. They can answer all the questions of have and sometimes even nudge you in the right direction.
Working abroad is another advantage of doing a university program away from home. It is one of the things I appreciated the most about my experience in France. You will get a very close look to how companies operate, the division of labor, why organizations and hierarchies exist. You will also get to work directly with the company’s employees on issues that matter for the company, exposing very early to its stakes. This means that the learning curve is very steep: you’ll be expected to perform at the level of existing employees very early and be exposed to a high standard of work ethic, which are factors that will definitely make a difference in the rest of your career, be it at home or abroad.