COLUMN: An International Student’s Choice — Is Studying Abroad Worth It?

By Yu Bai
Delta Digital News Service

Yu Bai/Delta Digital News Service

At the end of this year, I will graduate from college and end my four years of life as an international student in the United States. Looking back on the four years of college, I gained valuable experiences and unforgettable memories. It is a courageous decision to give up your familiar environment in your homeland along with family and all of your friends to study abroad in an unknown country. However, when most people discuss becoming an international student, they all ask the same question, “Is it worth the high tuition to study abroad?” As for me, my answer is “YES.”

The exchange rate of the Chinese Yuan (monetary currency) to USD is 1:7, and I cannot calculate how much money my parents paid for my entire college career in the United States during these four years. But I think the things I learned and experienced in the past few years cannot be measured by money. They are far more precious than money.

The first thing that I feel is the most significant difference in my scholarly life is the difference between Chinese and Western education models in college. In Chinese’ college, students’ grades are mainly composed of mid-term exams and final exams, while attendance and homework only account for a small percentage. However, in the United States, in addition to exams and homework assignments, quizzes, class discussions, and presentations will all affect a student’s final grade. It means that if a students decide to study abroad, they need to allocate their time more reasonably and attach importance to each requirement on their syllabus. In addition, the syllabus is a unique thing in the western education system. In China, students will not receive all the course requirements that they need to complete at the beginning of the semester. The content and method of their homework depends on various professors. Professors will hand out assignments from time to time according to the progress of courses, and the deadline is also flexible.

While I studying in the United States these past years, I have learned to arrange my study time reasonably. I can clearly see the tasks of each course from the syllabus, and it helps me a lot to design my study plan based on different deadlines. I have developed the habit of writing down the assignments that I need to compete during each week in my notebook and give priority to the assignments with earlier deadlines. It’s one of the most effective ways to improve learning efficiency because you know which tasks are most important.

However, when you start a new life in an unfamiliar country with a non-native language, you will also encounter many difficulties. The past few years of studying abroad have exercised my perseverance and ability to deal with problems. As a student, the biggest problem for me is the language. For example, you don’t understand what the professor said during class, and you cannot communicate with other people due to your poor oral English. It means that if you want to keep up with the class, you have to work harder than native students. Unlike a large number of calculations in business majors, my journalism major requires a higher level for reading, writing, and oral skills. In order to better understand the content of the class, I need to look through the reading lists posted by the professor before class. The large number of unfamiliar vocabulary words and syntax is a huge challenge for me. Thus, I usually spend a lot of extra time to completing tasks. Although the process is arduous, I am grateful for these experiences because they made me an outstanding pupil. Compared to when I had just arrived at the United States four years ago, my English ability has improved a lot in all aspects.

Finally, the experiences of studying abroad made me feel the importance cultural diversity, which helps me look at different things with an inclusive attitude. In college, I take classes with students of different skin color. When we are communicating with each other, it’s the best way to learn new things about a different culture. Before we meet each other, we might have some stereotypes about people from different countries. However, it’s these years of my American life which make me more aware of the importance of racial equality. I like the freedom of speech on campus where you can talk about racism at any time. Although racism is the main contradiction and problem in American society, fortunately, I have never suffered unequal treatment during these years.

In general, studying abroad is a worthwhile thing for me. I have been learned about different cultures and training myself to deal with difficulties at the same time. These precious experiences cannot be measured by money.

Note: Featured photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash