Preparing to study abroad has two main dimensions: the personal and the academic. Amongst the personal ones are learning about all aspects of the culture in the place you will be studying so that you will fit in and have a comfortable, enjoyable learning and living experience. The academic ones involve learning the fundamental academic skills you will need to be competitive with your student counterparts in your study field, so your educational experience is both less stressful and maximally productive for you.
After you have selected the university you will attend and have been admitted to it, read all of its own promotional materials carefully. Universities usually publish catalogues that provide a full range of information about their facilities, programmes, services, academic course offerings, faculties and overall environment.
These catalogues contain more information than any one student needs, but do take the time to look through it carefully to find out all of the parts of it that may have relevance to your experience living and studying there. In addition to course offerings, see what special services are available to foreign students, particularly in the area of improving your academic English skills. Often such courses are available to foreign students free of charge. But also investigate what other facilities and services, for example, libraries and student health services, are available to you. Knowing what your university provides will help you make better decisions about what you should bring with you from your country of origin, to make sure that all of your personal needs are met.
At least as important and arguably more so is adequate academic preparation for your particular study-abroad program. Since most students studying abroad concentrate on areas with business components, having a basic, working understanding of basic business English is critical. Similarly, having maths skills that are on a par with the students you will be in competition with is vital to your success. If you need to strengthen either your language or maths skills before you go abroad, by all means do so. It will save you a lot of catch-up time and emotional stress once you arrive at the university, and then allow you to get the most out of your courses there.
Finally, if there is a specific aspect of your chosen field of study, such as statistics, that you know is difficult but that you have only a slight grasp of, take classes or find private tutoring in it before you attempt advance courses abroad. Many a foreign student has come to grief for not being adequately prepared for such subjects, and being prepared will not only make your study less stressful, it will allow you to get the most out of your courses.
Summary: Successful study abroad requires both personal and academic preparation. Before you attend a foreign university, learn all you can about its facilities, programmes and culture and study the fundamental educational skills you will need to have a stress-free, productive experience at your university of choice.
Hugh Nelson is an e-learning specialist who has worked in the education industry for more than 10 years. He currently lives in Hong Kong and is a director of UniRoute, a company that runs educational websites helping students prepare and successfully apply for post-graduate studies abroad.
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