If you’re about to start your journey studying abroad, you must have many preconceived ideas about how your university life will be like. However, if your idea of college comes from Reese Witherspoon’s Hardvard experience or Zac Efron’s daily partying, then here’s a sentence you’ll be hearing a lot from now on: please update your references! A more realistic reference would be our 6 Things You Should Know Before Studying Abroad blog. There are a lot of misconceptions about university life that students absorb from movies or social media, and they come to learn that they’re not necessarily true. The truth is that nobody teaches you how to be a university student and you kind of figure it out as you go. To help you know better what to expect, here are 10 misunderstood facts about university life:
1. Having The Perfect Roommate
Since life isn’t a college rom-com movie, you won’t walk in your dorm room to meet your roommate only to have an instant connection and become best friends forever. The truth is, it takes time for you and your roommate to get to know each other and become comfortable. It will be quite awkward at first as you get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. You’ll need to be as flexible and patient as possible because your roommate might not share your same traits when it comes to cooking, cleaning, or other living habits. You could be organized while they are messy, or you might like blasting music while they prefer the quiet.
The tricky thing with roommates is there are different types, and you never know which one you’ll end up getting, you can check out our 6 Types of Roommates You’ll Meet in College to have an idea on what to expect. The key is to try to find common ground whenever a conflict occurs and be ready to compromise to keep the peace. If you play your cards right, you could earn yourself a once in a lifetime friend!
2. Free at Last
Studying abroad is for many students their first time being away from home. The feeling is bittersweet. Well, it’s mostly sweet when you realize that you’re now your boss! The first taste of freedom will give you a rush like no other. However, many students think this means they can do whatever they want whenever they want. While this is technically true, the sweet taste of freedom comes with a new flavor called responsibility. No one is around to wake you for your 9 AM lectures, and nobody will call you out for sleeping so late the night before. Instead, if you really want to walk gracefully into adulthood and make your family proud, you’ll have to manage yourself properly.
The new responsibility you have now is to take care of yourself and do what’s good for you the way your parents did. You don’t have to go to class if you don’t want to, but there are attendance and participation marks to consider, and too many absences will eventually lead to you failing the class. No, you don’t really have to eat well and can survive on instant ramen noodles like any cliche college student, but is that really what’s best for you? Living alone will make you realize that those things your parents nagged you about were right and were for your wellbeing and prosperity. Doing the same for yourself is the first step to becoming a responsible adult!
3. Home Sickness
Most international students leave home with a heavy heart to start their new journey studying abroad. They also think that they will always be missing their home, family, and friends. It’s true, the waves of nostalgia are bound to kick in every once in a while, but the truth is, it won’t be as bad as you think. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be whisked away by all the student activities and events in Welcome Week meeting new people and getting to know your new hometown that you’ll be too busy to think about being away from home.
You’ll probably be worried about not being able to cope without the comfort of your parents being around and doing almost everything for you, but you will end up surprising yourself. With few uncomfortable firsts at doing things on your own, you’ll end up getting used to it and learning a lot about the practical world. You’ll have friends to turn to, and your parents can offer their support and as much help as they can. University will slowly become your new home away from home. What also helps battle homesickness is the fact that there are so many apps for international students to easily reach family to check in whenever you’re hit by those nostalgic waves.
4. The Tired, Always Hungry Student
Another college movie cliche that is stuck in our heads, the exhausted, miserable student in baggy sweatpants with a bag of chips. This is not necessarily a myth, but it’s often exaggerated. However, if you already think your life will be sleeping 2-3 hours a day and living on microwave meals, then you’re just setting yourself up for exactly that. Forget about what you hear from other people about how college means being always tired, stressed and hungry. It all comes down to the choices you make.
Sure, you’ll have a lot of studying and social events to attend, but you have to find a balance that ensures you get at least 6-7 hours of sleep. Who says you have to live on takeouts or the cliche student meal, beans on toast? Before you head to college, make sure to learn some easy recipes from your mom that you could easily whip up and that are also healthy. Take a look at these Quick Tips on Eating Healthily on a Budget for more ideas.
5. Help Me, I’m Poor!
Another misconception about university life is how students are always broke and constantly calling their parents to send money. It’s not a secret how expensive it is to study abroad, but there is always the option of making your own income. Many students think that it is impossible to balance having a job along with going to college, but the truth is that it’s completely doable! It might get busy and a little stressful at times, but having a part-time or a summer job during college will ease your financial worries, and your parents will definitely sleep better knowing you’re financially secure. Not convinced? Read our Benefits of Summer Student Work Experience blog and quickly fix up that resume!
It doesn’t matter what it is you choose to do, whether it’s flipping burgers, babysitting, even dog and plant sitting is a thing now. Whatever it is, you’ll definitely feel better about not having to scrape by each month to pay the bills. However, try not to let the new financial freedom get the best of you, here are some Money Management Tips for Students to help you keep yourself in check.
6. Pulling All-Nighters
Many students go into college expecting to have way more work than they could handle. Some students consider uprooting all-nighters before tests or assignments hand-in an integral part of university life, but it doesn’t have to be that way! If you’re doing it right; attending all your classes and reviewing your notes daily, you won’t go into instant panic mode when you hear the word assignment or test! It all comes down to managing your time right to stay on top of things. If you’re wondering how to do that, you’ll find the answers in our Time Management Tips & Tricks blog.
When it comes to assignments, you have to kill that procrastination monster whispering “we’ll start tomorrow” in your ear. Instead, try to work on them as soon as you have their details. It’ll feel good to have it over and done with instead of having it in the back of your head, making you feel guilty for clicking “one more episode”. You don’t have to be studying 24/7 to avoid cramming on a test day; it’s all about studying smart, not a lot. Our 24 Hours to Improving Studying Strategies blog will help you know more about how to ace your exams.
7. Partying Hard
Sure, when you first arrive at college there will be dozens of parties on a daily basis. At first, as an excited freshman, you will probably try to attend as much as you can. This is all fun and games until you’re waking up with the worst headaches and muscle aches from that dance move you attempted to do the night before! Most students think their days will be at campus while their nights are at some party. Yet you can only keep that up for so long before your days are spent in bed groaning in pain and barely getting up to make some comfort food instead of going to class.
You’ll soon realize that this is not at all healthy and not what your parents sent you abroad for. You’ll also come to miss and appreciate the quiet nights you spend in bed watching your favorite movie and getting enough sleep to feel like a human being! You’ll find yourself declining all the party invitations and being content to just finish your coursework and maybe going for ice cream with a friend and calling it a night!
8. Becoming A Social Butterfly
It is a fact that university is where you make life-long friendships and connections. In the first few weeks, you’ll meet a ton of new people, and your circle will only keep getting bigger. You’ll meet friends of friends and your roommate’s friends, and before you know it, you won’t be able to keep up with the number of faces that you can’t quite place a name on. However, most students don’t know that this doesn’t last for long.
The truth is, you’ll meet as many people as possible in the hopes of making friends quickly, but with time you’ll realize you don’t have anything in common with most of them. It will take you more than the ten minutes you chatted in to build a real friendship. It doesn’t mean you won’t meet some great people and make friendly acquaintances, but you shouldn’t rush things and risk being with people you don’t quite fit in with. You have four years to make those lifelong, meaningful friendships, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
9. It’s The Same Everyday
Many students believe that college is basically a tedious routine where you repeat the same day. This is, in fact, far from true, but again it all depends on how you organize your time in college. One thing is for sure; it isn’t like school. When it comes to classes timetables; you won’t have the same classes every day. Your schedule could start at different times each day, giving you space for student activities or a night out with friends.
Another thing that keeps university life always exciting and entertaining is the different events that pop up and give you something new to try. Things like Varsity games, seasonal events for Christmas or Halloween, and nights out to explore the city. Joining a student society or club that interests you will also keep you from falling into a routine and making the most out of your time at college. For more insight on the topic, read our Are Student Societies & Clubs Good for You blog.
10. The Regular Anxiety
You are probably feeling overwhelmed by everything that you need to think about before college. Not to mention the constant worry about how you’ll find a balance between your studies, social life, and taking care of yourself. These are all normal feelings for this new experience, but most students think they’re going to be stressed 24/7 and this is not necessarily true. Once again, you need to shed all your preconceptions about university students going through at least one nervous breakdown a week.
In reality, if you stay on top of your studies and manage your time, there won’t be any need for stress. Sure, there will be times when it all feels too much, but it’s just part of growing up, and you need to do it as calmly and gracefully as possible. The most important thing is not letting anything affect your mental health; if there’s a stressor that can be removed, don’t hesitate to do it. Getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating well will combat those 3 AM breakdowns you hear about. Find out more at our Mental Health Tips for Students blog.
Finally, the best approach to handle being a university student abroad is to take it one day at a time and stay positive. Amidst your new responsibilities and hard work, always remember to take time for yourself and enjoy the experience.