In many contemporary societies, a college education is one of the most valuable assets that a person can possess. In past decades, a college degree was a luxury pursued by a few, mainly the wealthy, male members of society. However, as society has evolved and cultural norms and financial needs have changed, there has been an increase in the desire of the masses to pursue higher education. As such, potential students are always searching for ways to have a college experience that is inexpensive, efficient, and personally fulfilling. In some cases, this is best achieved through studying in a foreign country. However, being an international student—like most things in life—comes with its fair share of pros and cons.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of being an international student is the exposure that it brings to diverse peoples and ideas. As a Jamaican native, I had never really been exposed to a variety of people or perspectives because the country is of predominantly African descent. Since studying here in the United States, I’ve encountered a variety of ideas and ethnicities on my campus that are uncommon in Jamaica and it has made me more knowledgeable of, open to, and tolerant of their opinions and lifestyle choices. Furthermore, comparing Jamaican society to that of the United States has changed my overall view of the world and has widened my perspective as it relates to the way people interact with each other.
Another benefit that comes from being an international student is the many opportunities that it provides. As a developing nation, Jamaica does not possess the resources it needs to provide an adequate number of job opportunities for all its students. In the United States, jobs are more readily available. Not only that, but since studying here, I’ve had numerous internship opportunities and several incentives to travel while I study and to be mentored by influential and successful people in my field of study. In this way, studying here has given me access to resources that I never would have had access to back home.
Studying here has given me access to resources that I never would have had access to back home.
On the other hand, the biggest con of studying away from home is being away from your family, friends, and culture and re-adjusting to a new environment. It is not easy to stay motivated and focused—especially on special occasions such as birthdays—when I am unable to see my family. It is also quite difficult to adjust to the norms of my new surroundings and it is frustrating to be unable to express myself in my native dialect. Furthermore, due to societal differences in both countries, I’ve had to deal with issues that I have never been faced with before, such as racism. While I’ve never personally experienced it since being here, the images portrayed in the media and the conversations that I have had with African Americans about their experiences with it have caused me to ponder racism more than I ever have before. This has sobered me to some of the realities that are faced by people from other cultures and has caused me to realize that our daily realities may be completely disparate from that of other people around the world.
Ultimately, studying abroad can be stressful and there will definitely be times when the need to be home among your family, friends, and culture will become overwhelming. However, for the most part, it is immensely educational and can provide many personal and career advancements that would not be so readily available elsewhere. For potential students with a strong sense of wanderlust who are interested in studying abroad, my advice is to do plenty of research on whichever country you wish to study in. Learn as much as you can about the quality of their education system and their cultural norms and be well informed on the school you hope to attend. If you are satisfied with your findings, give it a try! The experience is indelible!