Sohail Wahid, an exchange student from Pakistan, shares his thoughts on the four most important points on how to make the most out of your study period abroad.
Studying abroad is a unique mix of new feelings and experiences which altogether shape up your personality. At times foreign culture and the thought of leaving your parents and family behind might take its toll. You’ll learn to rely on yourself and assume the responsibility of your own decisions as they will carve out your future.
Therefore, the program should be carefully selected, based on your interest and educational experience or a skill you are already familiar with. Research should therefore be made not only before choosing a program but also about the foreign culture you are stepping into. This will give you a realistic idea of what you might be dealing with and enable you with preemptive measures since it will be a roller coaster ride with its own share of ups and downs.
The second most important thing is to set some specific goals for yourself. This is crucial since you are running on a short span of time and need to experience all about the specific culture. In my case, I set up target visiting spots, like the Sibelius Monument, Finlandia Hall, Finnish National Museum, Uspenski Cathedral and Linnanmäki Amusement Park beforehand.
It is also pertinent to mention that here making friends with locals is a must. They won’t only be a source of amusement but will bring you closer to the country’s culture like no tourist can experience on his own. The best way to explore the new culture deeply is to explore every dimension, including art, music, and literature. One should hence be always open to try out new things. You can also do so by signing up for classes that let you to travel around and discover more.
The third thing is to be ready to work with diligence. The exchange programs comprise of students belonging to various nationalities all over the world. All the fellow students bring along their unique set of values, beliefs and cultures and adjusting with them might sometimes prove to be tough work. This also means an increased competition, so one must be geared up to put in his best efforts and score a good grade.
However, all the teachers are always willing to guide and help students, so one can approach them anytime to improve their understanding. The programs usually run for a short span of time so one needs to pre-plan all his activities on a day to day basis to ensure a first-rate experience.
The fourth and the last thing to be kept in mind is to understand that we are only humans and it’s okay to make mistakes. Since the culture is relatively new and the trends might be unfamiliar, one can offend any other individual. It is important to remember to be humble, friendly and apologetic in case you hurt anyone’s sentiments. One should definitely learn from all the committed mistakes.
Overall, be ready to welcome new people, an icy weather and long dark winter days as Finland’s unique charm. Being willing to understand and cooperate as well as eagerness to learn along with an open mind will render you as a successful student in any of Finland’s exchange programs.
The writer is a master’s student from Pakistan, amateur footballer, mobile photographer and a passionate gamer.