Experiencing life abroad

The last decade or so has seen a large influx of students opting to move out of the country to pursue studies. The numbers have been on a steady rise for a long time and nowadays one can ascribe it to “herd mentality”.

Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. Depending on how well-planned and well-executed a move it is – it can be extremely rewarding or very frustrating. Either way, you will be a changed person, not in the overly dramatic ShahRukh Khan way, but in the way we tend to mock at our school-going selves for their enthusiasm in being “grown-up”.

If you just googled around you would know why you should study abroad. To get you up to speed: chance to travel, meet new people, learn new cultures, languages, skills, views, etc. There’s also the “adds value to your CV” and “better employment opportunities” that will crop up.

As someone with some experience in relocating to a different country, I have 2 pieces of advice to offer:

1. Use your head

2. Really use your own head!

I know I immediately come across as a skeptic and I deny the accusation. I believe it is critical at these times to ignore other’s opinions on what you should do with your life. I spent ages listening to how Doctors and Engineers “rule”, only to find out that they are relatively low paying or extremely taxing career choices in Australia.

Plumbers, drivers, electricians, cleaners and sweepers live in palatial houses, park a high-end car in your driveway, finish work at 4 pm and let you keep the extra bucks when short on change! Dentists and Opticians are paid as much as cardiac surgeons and the grumbling middle class consists of MBAs and IT Engineers!!

Here are 3 important facts you should know about relocating to a foreign land:

1. Don’t expect for anyone to care about you or your troubles. Grow up and take care of yourself.

You can have a tiny nucleus of people with genuine concerns for your welfare and they may or may not be physically with you. The most help you can expect from strangers is they don’t come in your way and hassle you. The culture and system can be very different to what you are used to and no I am not talking in a ‘Swades’ kinda way. I have seen a random pedestrian sue the council for a pothole on the road that they fell into. We Indians have unlimited tolerance to minor inconveniences, but we cannot expect other nationalities to deal with it the same way. Knocking into people, being noisy in public places or seemingly small hindrances can get blown out of proportion.

2. No emotional baggage.

Friends and acquaintances are distant and not as close as ones we have back home. People take offence very quickly. Yes, I am also talking about fellow Indians. Develop the ability to take friendships and other relations with a pinch of salt. Here waltzing into a friend’s house is not an option. You need to be invited or may get yourself invited. Even family takes appointments… ok what that means is everyone calls/checks before they land in each other’s schedules.

3. Liberty and independence from societal norms.

Alright this may apply to people like me who have grown to the ‘log kya sochenge’ line. You can say “I gotta go at 5 pm.” The line finishes there. No explanations. No justifications. My boss in India never accepted “personal reasons”, “family functions/time” or “unwell” at face value. So we have gotten used to detailing unnecessarily. Choice of lifestyle, religion, habits, food, hobbies, occupation is defined and picked by each one with no societal interference. Moving to Australia opened up a plethora of options on the career front, all of them as satisfying both in stature and pay-wise.

These are some realities that I came to face in taking the move. There are definite positives to studying/living abroad as are the concerns. There are key factors to picking the right subjects in the right country.  But more about those in another post…

About Divya Vasantharajan

Divya Vasantharajan is a newcomer in Sydney, having married and relocated in mid-2011.She is a finance professional and has earned accolades for her work in her hometown, Mumbai. She prides her logical reasoning and clarity in communication. She has a good understanding of finance and is a firm believer in common sense. She is happy to share her views and her experiences to anyone who can stomach the bluntness of her opinions.

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