Five tips for African students moving abroad for school this September
Congratulations you did it! You finished high school. You are excited. You just had the most amazing prom and to crown it all you got into the University of your Choice.
Your parents are very proud of you! They put your future first and use their life savings to pay your university fees, your upkeep costs on campus and buy your plane ticket. You are soon off to university. You are proud of your achievements, overjoyed because you will finally get the opportunity to be independent, experience life to the fullest, free from your parents’ curfews and other rules. You think back to the time when you were 13 and dreaming about growing up and going to university abroad.
Your dream has come true! The time has finally come to say goodbye! You experience very mixed feelings: excited at the thought of being independent in a new and often more developed country that you cannot wait to discover, nervous due to fear of the unknown, sad to leave the home and family you love. You spent hours, wondering what the next few years of your life will look like and how amazing your university experience will be.
Having recently completed my undergraduate and postgraduate studies abroad, there are a few things I have learnt that I believe are worth sharing with young Africans going abroad to further their studies:
Keep in touch with your parents and siblings
Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, let your parents know how you are doing, what you are up to, the kinds of friends you are making and any issues you may be experiencing. Also, remember that your parents are probably having a hard time with you gone, so try your best to keep the communication up. Technology has made it possible for us to keep in touch with loved ones free of charge, so there are really no excuses. You can choose from Whatsappp, Viber, Skype, email and much more.
When I moved away for University I called my parents almost every day. I know that It sounds excessive but I found it to be highly necessary in order to feel connected to the home that I grew up in. Also, remember that for most of us, our parents are our best advisors. They always have our best interest at heart, so try to open up to them should you have any issues.
Choose your friends wisely: your network is your networth
Ever heard the saying that quality is better than quantity? University is a time where you will find yourself. You will experience highs, lows and in betweens. It is important to understand the power of maintaining a positive circle of friends. Find friends that make you feel good about yourself, find friends that encourage you to have a healthy balance between school work and social life. Stay away from people who will try to drag you in the wrong direction or friends that will try to influence you to do things that make you uncomfortable.
In French, there is a saying that goes “mieux vaut être seul que mal acocmpagné” which translates to “better alone than in bad company”. I can’t stress this enough! Also, consider that “your network is networth”. The people you network with in university may end up being your business partners or colleagues in the future, so keep a close tab on the five closest people around you.
Think about it this way. Every person that is new at University is going through a similar experience. Everybody is new, everybody wants to make friends and belong to a community. Everybody is a little nervous and experiencing a life changing transition. So, don’t worry, you are not alone. There are plenty of clubs you can join.
Be it the Engineers club, the African Students Association or the Poetry Club. During my time at University, I had a great circle of friends and was a member of my graduating class society. Looking back, I wish I had involved myself in more societies.
Some of you might find that as you go along your university journey, you will feel a need to connect with the people that have a similar background to you. There will come a time where you will feel a need to hear music from back home, eat some traditional food and just discuss ideas with people who understand your perspectives. I advise you all to get involved in your African Student Union or Black Students’ Association. It is very soothing to have a group to fall back on when you are homesick or having a hard time adjusting to a new culture.
Many of the people you meet during your university years, will end up being your friends for life so choose them carefully! The harmful effects of negative social relationships have been widely researched and documented.
Writing down your goals has been linked to actually achieving your goals. What do you want to achieve by the end of your first year? 85 % average? Part time job? Make a friend from a different country? Go to the gym 4 times a week? Summer Internship?
Meet with your academic advisor every three months? Whatever you want to achieve write it down into tasks that you need to complete. Also, write down what you need to do to in order to achieve your goals. Work towards achieving your goals and you will feel satisfaction when you are able to tick the specific goal off your list. Remember ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’.
Consider getting a part time job
In western countries, there is a culture of students working from a very a young age from high school to university. Often they have part time jobs to help them with their personal expenses and some even had full time jobs while being at university full time in order to pay for their tuition fees and other expenses.
While it is hard work, studies have shown that young adults who have part time jobs while pursuing their studies have a better understanding of the value of money and a strong sense of organisation. It is also a great way to build Curriculum Vitae and get that dream job right after university.
I wish you all a very bright future so you can contribute to Africa’s rise with all your future accomplishments!
I hope you remember these tips when you go on your various journeys. Should you have any questions please DM me on Instagram @lehlebalde!
Lehlé Baldé is a digital communications specialist that has lived in over 10 countries. She is also an avid writer, journalist, panel moderator and consultant.
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