NONHLE SITHOLE

Globalisation is slowly increasing the need for people to develop global identities in order to compete and stay relevant in the job market. This experience also provides an opportunity for exploration and self-growth.

According to an article by Isabel Eva Bohrer from TransitionsAbroad.com, studying in a new country presents an opportunity to build a stellar CV, which increases your prospects of employment. Students who study abroad gain an international knowledge base that is useful for careers in international businesses, cross-cultural communication and the ability to be fluent in another language, all of which are important for competing in the globalised world.

The top five preferred destinations for South Africans studying abroad are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Cuba and Malaysia. The United States is the most popular choice and attracts the greatest number of South African students.

An article by Janice Wood on PsychCentral.com called “Studying abroad boosts students’ emotional development” reports that a study conducted by researchers at the Friedrich Schiller University in Germany on over 1 000 students from 200 different German universities showed that studying abroad influences a student’s personality. The students were shown to possess what the researchers deem to be the five crucial personality traits, namely openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. The conclusion was that students who challenge themselves and study abroad get an opportunity to further refine these characteristics which encourages emotional maturity that prepares them for the global workplace.

“People who integrate successfully into a different culture may find it easier to cope with new situations and master challenges,” said Prof. Franz Neyer from the Friedrich Schiller University. When asked how the experience of studying in a different country has shaped her, first-year BA Law student Rukudzo Matanda from Zimbabwe, said, “Moving to SA has been the biggest challenge that I have had to face so far, so it has definitely made me adaptable and I feel like I can take on anything because I was so afraid of coming here and yet it turned out to be a good decision.”

However, the exciting prospect of seeing new places, exploring new cultures, and meeting new, interesting people can be so overwhelming that it is easy to forget the challenges that come with starting anew in a different country. This excitement quickly subsides through experiencing a culture shock.

Communicating with people whose language you do not understand can be frustrating. “I expected people to be friendlier but when you speak to people in English, especially taxi drivers, they respond to you very rudely because they expect you to know the language. On a more positive side, I had previously heard that SA is a very beautiful country and it was just as I expected it to be” said Rakudzi.

There is also increased pressure to perform well. When asked what bad experience he has had as an international student, second year mechanical engineering student Takunda Hove from Botswana had the following to say, “The worst thing was being discontinued, because being a foreigner there is pressure of making sure every step and resource is used wisely and I couldn’t deal with the fact that I might have to start from zero at another institution”

Aiming to study at top universities situated in countries that have a stronger currency means paying a lot more in fees and takes proper financial planning and budgeting. The expenses of students studying at UP who are from the SADC countries include a levy fee of R2 700 at the beginning of each year, those who are not from the SADC countries pay double the tuition fee plus the levy fee.

It takes courage and a sense of commitment to study in a foreign country. It is challenging but there is also a lot to be gained from the experience. Perhaps choosing to start with your second degree or to further your studies in another country is one way to make yourself stand out.

 Photo: Brendan Fraser