Studying Abroad Reflective Essay

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Many students that study abroad are observed to classify the experience as challenging, frustrating, but also exciting. In my case, I found the experience challenging, but also enjoyed exploring a new environment and interacting with people from different countries all over the world. The United Kingdom culture is different from the culture in my home country, Qatar. The United Kingdom had a different religion, culture, food and climatic conditions. Consequently, I faced a difficult time acclimatizing to the changes in the environment and culture. However, I found the experience fun and satisfying since I was able to face and conquer the numerous challenges I faced in my first year in the United Kingdom. It is integral to note that knowledge is an important factor in the development of a suitable approach to living in a new country. Therefore, I carried out due diligence before coming to the United Kingdom by conducting an online research on the climate and cultural environment in the area. Studying abroad serves to expand the experiences and interaction of the students giving them a global and broad mindset when dealing with different challenges all over the world (Bradford, 2015). This eased the challenges I faced in my initial year in the United Kingdom and enhanced my interaction with individuals from the United Kingdom.

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Cultural Shock

Cultural change presents a dynamic issue in different areas around the world. Moreover, culture is different indifferent parts of the same country. Hence, cultural change was bound to be a challenge that I faced in my first year in the United Kingdom. Cultural shock, which defines the sudden change in culture, presents a principal challenge for students studying abroad (Gouda, 2014). I found it difficult to adapt to the local culture and norms in the United Kingdom. The social and cultural norms ranged from their greetings to the different social behaviors that were displayed by individuals from the United Kingdom. I felt like I was invading individuals in a foreign country since I faced a difficult time understanding their behaviors and cultural practices. In addition, I felt different since there were few Muslims in the United Kingdom thus presenting a challenge for me to practice my religious practices. I was pleased to experience a different culture, thus, I countered all the cultural challenges that came my way. I quickly learned the different social cues that were common in the United Kingdom, including their greetings at various times of the day and the commonly used phrases in the United Kingdom. Moreover, I managed to make a few friends from the United Kingdom, who taught me and shared different cultural practices and social cues in the United Kingdom.

Cultural shock is a common part of adapting to a new environment and a new nation. Therefore, I anticipated the experience. My research on the nation prior to coming to the United Kingdom bared fruits since I was able to quickly learn the different social and cultural cues. Moreover, the people in the United Kingdom are welcoming to new cultures; hence, I did not face any discrimination thus easing the process of adapting. In order to adapt faster to the culture, I should have interacted with more individuals in the environment through participating in more events in the campus and the surrounding area. This would have enabled me to experience the culture at a greater depth thus enhancing my integration in the new culture. If I were to face the same situation again, I would seek to make more friends and interact with numerous individuals in the environment to ensure that I learn the cultural and social cues at a greater pace.

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The Food

Every nation is observed to have a different diet depending on the common types of foods that are served. Food is one of the principal challenges faced by students studying abroad (Munro, 2017). The food items that were offered in the school cafeteria presented a new experience for me since I was not used to eating the food back home. Initially, I faced notable adjustments to the food that was offered in the cafeteria to the extent of facing some physical issues as my body attempted to adjust to the new taste and ingredients. I lost my appetite for the first two months and I found myself forcing myself to eat and adjust to the new cuisine. I longed to go back home and partake my usual diet, which I missed dearly. I would classify the new cuisine as a good experience since I was able to try food prepared by another culture. I tasted numerous foods that I had not tasted before. In addition, the feeding practices were different from my feeding practices back home, including the meal times. It is integral to note that the strict meal times assisted me to lose weight through observing a strict diet and eating periods. It is evident that new environments offer new foods that give foreigners a different and challenging experience.

In order to satisfy my craving, I looked for local food stores that offered cuisine that was similar to the food I was used to at home. After finding a local hotel that was run by a Muslim, I went there regularly to eat. Although the restaurant was slightly far from the school, I found the experience satisfying. It also served to ease my adaptation to the new diet and diet plan in the United Kingdom. I should have attempted to cook using the ingredients found in stores in the area. However, I had not learned numerous recipes from back home thus coking presented a challenge. If I were presented with the situation again, I would seek to know as many recipes as possible when I was back in Qatar. Therefore, I would not have faced a challenge preparing my own meals in the campus thus reducing reliance on the food offered at the school cafeteria.

Academic Expectations

The learning style and academic expectations in the United Kingdom presented a challenge for me. The learning style in Qatar was focused on lecture-based classes, where the students were then assessed through regular examinations. However, the university presented a different approach to learning where we were regularly involved in seminars, group discussions, assignments and numerous interactive learning approaches, which I was not comfortable with. I was more comfortable with passive learning approaches; therefore, I took some time to adjust to the new learning style that was common in the university. Due to the difficulties I faced in adjusting to the new learning style, I was afraid that my grades would go down and prompt me to repeat my first year in campus. I had a high expectation of my performance prior to joining campus, therefore, I was afraid of being discouraged and depressed with my performance in my first year of campus. However, I adjusted quickly to the new learning style that I found more fun due to the increased interaction with students and impersonal learning approach that prompted me to carry out more research and participate in a more practical learning approach.

Students from different countries in the world should be subjected to a course that enhances their adaptation to the new education environment (Kutner, 2010). The difference in learning styles presents a challenging experience for foreign students. However, the learning style in the United Kingdom offered the students a change to practice a collaborative approach to learning, which was satisfying and eased learning during my first year in college. Contrary to my expectations, I passed my first year with little difficulty. I ensured that I participated in all the group discussions and projects that were suggested by the instructors. In addition, I was present during the lectures to ensure that I did not miss any instructions that were given by the lecturers. I appreciate the interactive approach that was suggested by the tutors since it eased my learning experience and enabled me to get a significant amount of knowledge and skills from the different courses attempted during my first year.

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From the discussion, it is evident that I faced numerous challenges acclimatizing to the new learning environment in the United Kingdom. However, I demonstrated a proactive approach that enhanced my learning experience and ensured that I gained maximum knowledge from my first year studies. In addition, I was glad to experience the new culture, in the United Kingdom, and to interact with individuals from different parts of the world. Currently, I am fully adapted to the culture and food in the United Kingdom. Despite the regular moments where I miss my home, I am comfortable in the United Kingdom and appreciate the chance to experience a new environment and interact with individuals from different parts of the world. I anticipate that my experience in the United Kingdom will transform me and help me develop a global mindset that will ensure that I can be able to work in different parts of the world and with people from all over the world.

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  1. Bradford, A. (2015). Changing Trends in Japanese Students Studying Abroad. International Higher Education, (83), p.22.
  2. Gouda, P. (2014). Perspectives on studying abroad. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(13), pp.1017-1018.
  3. Kutner, L. (2010). Study-Abroad Programs as Information Producers: An Expanding Role for Support of Our Students Studying Abroad. Journal of Library Administration, 50(7-8), pp.767-778.
  4. Munro, T. (2017). Studying abroad stays with you. Nursing, 47(2), pp.69-70.
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