Studying abroad is the dream of many international students because of the quality of education they are sure of getting from some of the world’s most reputable universities, the opportunities students have to work while studying to support themselves, and in Canada, international students can transition to permanent residence from student visa/permit after their studies. All these are most appealing but many times, students seem not to realize that there are challenges they can face and therefore do not prepare adequately. However, you’re in luck as we’ll be addressing some of the top Zambian student’s challenges in Canada as well as how to overcome them.

 1. Cultural Misunderstandings

Given the fact that your home and host country are not the same, there’s bound to be cultural differences which may seem complex or awkward in the beginning, however, you don’t need to feel embarrassed; just learn from your mistakes and endeavour not to make them again especially the non-written rules of engagement.

How to conquer it: An easy way to avoid many cultural misunderstandings is to simply observe what others do, and how they do it. But if you are in doubt, just ask! You’ll discover that most people are happy to talk about their customs, and will enjoy sharing the same with you.

2. Communication

This is one of the top Zambian students’ challenges in Canada. Communication in a new country can be difficult sometimes owing to difficulty understanding an accent, pace of speaking i.e speaking very fast or being too shy to talk. This could create a gulf between the student and locals or even other internationals if not properly handled.

How to conquer it: Make an honest effort to familiarize yourself with local cultural norms and lingo.  Be open to people; even if you think you are too shy to start a conversation, try to go out and talk to people. Befriend locals and ask for tips and advice for ways to more authentically interact with strangers. Also, get more involved in social events, this way you’ll get to understand their accent better, you’ll be able to keep up with their pace of speaking and you’ll feel more confident in yourself. This will be very beneficial to you in the classroom where you are expected to be interactive with your professors and coursemates.

3. Time Zone Differences 

Trying to navigate two time zones on opposite ends of the planet can be frustrating at best because you constantly have to double check which times are appropriate to which time zone and get in the habit of making phone calls very early in the morning or late in the evenings.

How to conquer it: Since you’re studying abroad, chances pretty well are that you have a smartphone, so it is advised that you add the relevant time zones to your timekeeping apps. Commit the time difference to memory (6 hours behind, 12 hours ahead of time + 1 day). The sooner you can do this, the easier things will be on your end – though you might still need to constantly remind your friends and family back home what time your FaceTime chats will be.

4. Currency Differences

Getting used to currency differences can be a challenging process for international students because they are not familiar with using foreign currencies like dollars, pounds or euros. This could make life somewhat difficult at first but with time, you’ll get to understand the difference. So what’s the best way around this?

How to conquer it: Work out a quick conversion system for yourself, so you can mentally figure out prices when buying things, and get to know the “normal” price for staple items – i.e. ask locals how much they would expect to pay.

5. Caught in the Web

For a long time, you’ve desired to study in Canada and now your dream has come through, chances are that you love the sights, sounds, smells, as well as the energy. You feel more confident and self-assured and dread the thought of returning home to family pressures, expectations, and responsibilities defined by others. You’d rather continue to enjoy the new found freedom and adventure.

How to conquer it: Life is a learning opportunity, and returning home is a very crucial part of your overall experience studying abroad. Without returning home, you will not be forced to confront the newfound changes in yourself that you discovered while abroad. So take home with you the feelings of ecstasy and freedom and make the best of the opportunities you find in your home country.

6. Accessing the Labour Market

The Canadian Bureau of International Education’s study revealed that 51% of international students plan to apply for permanent residence in Canada after graduation. But many who want to stay feel the labour market is difficult to access.

How to conquer it: International students should endeavour to get a co-op placement through their schools to build up their Canadian work experience as well as increase their job prospects. Additionally, networking through family connections, previous coworkers, and social contacts met through clubs and events may help your job search.

7. Feeling like an Outsider

While studying abroad feels exciting, it can also be nerve-wracking because it’s a totally new environment, people, food, culture, etc. At first, you’ll feel like an outsider and all alone but there’s a way out.

How to conquer it: Make friends with the locals as well as other internationals including those from your region where possible. This is a very good way to have a home away from home experience, overcome homesickness and the feeling of being an outsider as well as enjoy your study experience. Also, make it a regular practice to participate in different local events and festivals like joining clubs or group fitness classes, volunteering, and supporting local sports teams. This way, you’ll learn a lot about your host country and find networking opportunities.

That wasn’t so difficult now, was it? I believe you are ready to anticipate the top Zambian students’ challenges in Canada and take them in stride and while you do so, remember to enjoy your study abroad.

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