Graduate Student Life Abroad
Studying abroad is probably a dream realized for most people. This is especially for those who come from developing countries, owing to the fact that schools and universities there have advanced education. There is also this notion that those who study abroad will come back a much different person. This may be true. You will have to adjust to a different culture and environment you were used to. At least, that is what I did. I was given the chance to this amazing at the same time challenging experience that I am very much thankful for.
But before that, from applying for school admission to the passport and visa application, I went through a rigorous process. From the very beginning of my application, everything has to be planned and executed accordingly. Miss one of these processes, and I might have as well bid goodbye to the chance of a lifetime.
Most of what I have written here are from my own experiences. This may not agree with some people, but I hope you could get an idea of what it is like to get out of your comfort zone; to move thousands of miles away from home to get a degree; to miss important family events and holidays. In my case, I didn’t get to witness the birth of my second child.
I got this sponsorship opportunity from colleagues whom I have been collaborating for almost 8 years now. They gave me chance to attend graduate school in the US—a dream of every budding career scientists. Like I said earlier, schools and universities in countries like this have advanced education, especially scientifically.
One of the many good things about the school, the US embassy and the program is the care they give to us, foreign students. The embassy introduced campus life in the US to student visa grantees through a one-day seminar that was scheduled two weeks before we departed. The school also explained and stated the general facts on how to survive campus life, the locations of school facilities, food, culture and information on what to expect when transitioning to your life abroad for a couple of years in campus.
The excitement and worry during my departure date was overwhelming, as I bid goodbye to my family, especially to my eldest son who was at the airport to send me off and seeing your family in tears as you hug each one of them, assuring them that you will be all right when deep down inside you are nervous. I know it is not easy to leave your love ones behind; it has to happen in order for you to give them a better life. Honestly, I did not know what to expect when I arrived in the US. Anxiety and countless questions were circling in my head as I went on my way inside the departure area.
Once I arrived, the jet lag was unreal. My 18-20 hour flight was no joke. I had to acclimatize to the new environment right away if I wanted to function properly. You see, there is a 16-hour time difference from where I came. I spent a day of rest and settled my belongings down before I attended my first class.
The first month was composed of me settling and adapting to everything. It had been years since I attended my last class in college. That is why it was quite difficult to revert back to being a student, but this time overseas.
After a few more months, the homesickness kicks in. I had to admit, that one is pretty tough too. The good thing about this generation is the easy access to the internet. I can video call and chat with my family and friends overseas even with the time difference. During those times, I truly see that I am blessed to have wonderful friends, colleagues, relatives and classmates who support and cheer me up.
It has been more than a year since I arrived in the US; more than a year of living alone in a foreign land. I can say that I have already adapted to the life here. I am able to focus more on the purpose why I was here in the first place. And that is to finish graduate school.