By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
For years, students from Pakistan have been opting to settle abroad in search of better academics and/or job prospects. The decision to live in a foreign country is both viable and feasible, for they receive quality education and groom their personality as well. As soon as students finish their Intermediate/A-level education, the decision time looms over to select an academic future. Some opt to study in Pakistan, which is their first priority. However, some want to go abroad and prefer to settle in Europe, the U.S., and Australia. Certain challenges await them the moment they set foot on foreign soil. The first issue is getting a place to live. Some live in a motel, some share a room and a handful are fortunate enough to have a relative in that country with whom they can stay until they find themselves a place to dwell.
Being accustomed with legal formalities is another issue that the students have to deal with. Basic issues of such nature include obtaining a driver’s license, understanding traffic laws, rights as a student or professional, workplace behaviour and other laws related to their civic duties. Weather conditions are also a crucial factor, which do make or break a person’s mind while living abroad. Suppose a student from Karachi has moved to Northern Europe, then he/she will face a drastic change in temperature. A person living in a moderate climate zone could take days even weeks to adjust in a rainy or snowy climate zone. In addition, homesickness is another factor that students face while living abroad as they miss spending time with their family and friends. Although, the miracles of modern technology have made communication swift and easy, it is a fact that webcam and online applications can never replace the beauty of having a face-to-face conversation.
Conversing in English has never been the forte of a majority of Pakistani students yet they do learn it when living in an environment where they have to converse in English. Therefore, language barrier is another challenge Pakistani students have to face once they move abroad. Many students can speak and write in English but speaking it fluently is a concern. Initially they do have a problem understanding the fast-paced accent of the natives, but since learning is in human nature, they adjust with the language and the accent in a few weeks. Apart from other factors that Pakistani students have to deal with, the cultural shock is perhaps the most common form of anxiety people experience when they settle abroad. In simple terms, cultural shock is the difficulty one faces while trying to understanding the culture prevailing in a new country. There are four phases of this shock namely: excitement, withdrawal, adjustment, enthusiasm.
The first stage is of excitement, where the person is thrilled to be in a new place and environment. They may like the new food, places, people, and even the language as everything looks good in the first phase. In the second phase, withdrawal, the person has a rapid shift in emotions regarding his/her social acceptance. He/she finds it difficult to adjust in the newfound environment. Coping with people is also a bit challenging as one is unaware of the norms and customs prevailing in that society. Anxiousness fills in and the environment feels hostile. At this stage, the students even think of going back home. In the third phase, adjustment, the individual becomes accustomed with his/her daily schedule. He/she starts understanding behaviours and gives appropriate responses; makes friends, and feels less isolated. The fourth and final stage is that of enthusiasm. In this phase, the individual fully accepts the reality that he/she has to adjust in this new place until the end of his/her academic career. Blending with the society is a challenge that all Pakistani students face, however, with a focused approach towards their studies, they can overcome all obstacles and return as successful graduates.