When you are accepted to study overseas either by scholarship or not, and feels that your goal has been achieved, it doesn’t mean that your job is finished. Being accepted to study overseas means that you have more responsibility, for yourself or the institution that has given you the trust that you are worth being accepted in that institution.
This time, I try to discuss how to use your time as best as possible when you have a chance to study overseas. Of course, in the end you don’t want to regret not doing something that you think you must do when you are abroad. Some people regret studying too much and did not do anything else when they were overseas. On the other hand, some others regret why they played too much and ignored some chances to do useful activities. So rather than becoming one of those students, we better know what we should do when we are accepted.
First of all, you have to realize that studying overseas means that you are surrounded by international students. I suggest that you mingle and interact with them. You will see that getting along with many kinds of international students will be good for your personal growth. I have to say that many Indonesian students usually only want to get along with other Indonesian students. In the worst case, they keep the ‘Indonesian people habit’ like grouping and talking about other people, etc. Please expand your friendship to include other international students. Having international friends are very nice and widens your network.
In the early days when you start your classes, you may be aware that you are surrounded with intelligent people. Yes, many overseas universities, especially if you are accepted in a good university, will be populated by scholarship-funded students. It means that the students inside that school are the best people in their countries (they obtained scholarships so they can be categorized as smart people). This situation can be positive for you because you will be affected by the environment to study hard. It may sometimes a big challenge for you, but in the end you will see that you can gain a very good grade or even excellent grade just because of the influence from your environment/colleagues. Remember, a good grade/GPA is still beneficial for you if you want to get scholarship in the next degree or a job that considers your GPA.
If you study in non-English-speaking country, it is also a good chance for you to study the language of that country. That will also be beneficial for you when you graduate. Here in Japan, Japanese program in the International Language Center is provided for students to learn Japanese everyday. You can choose to take a standard program or if you have a lot of time, an intensive one. Usually the program is rigorous and you will get assignment everyday that makes you really learn that language. Apart from the International Language Centre, you can also learn the language from the Faculty of Letter in your university. You can talk with the professor and join the class for one semester or more. Learning a language also can be done with your international friends. If you have a close friend who speaks a particular language, you can ask them to teach you and usually they are happy to do that. I am currently learning Chinese and know some Portuguese from my friends who speak those languages.
When you are studying overseas, there will be a lot of chances to volunteer and the information can be from anywhere. During the less than 9 months here, I am already involved in some volunteering activities like teaching and presenting to some elementary and high schools in the region (I gave a lecture in international development, and cooperation) to increase mutual understanding, and some other activities. Besides, it will be good for your CV, and it can help you to interact with the society.
During your study, you will have many papers to work on and you also have to do research as well as reading everyday. You will realize that you have grown up with a lot of new knowledge that you have obtained from such activities. The knowledge you have from reading and research can be put in essays or articles and send to some newspapers or journals. May be you can get the idea of writing the article after you write a midterm or final term paper for the submission to your professor. It is good for you, especially if you want to develop your career later as a government official, researcher, or academia. Sometimes you can also submit your simpler writing to some newspaper or some portals, if writing for journals is too hard for you.
When you write your thesis, it is good for you to do a field research (if it is necessary). Some people may be able to do research through books/journals/documents, but going directly to the field would be nice.
Please consider doing an internship, whether this is included in your program or not. Gain the professional experience while you are studying for the sake of your career after graduation, especially when you have very little working experience before. If you have enough money, you can apply for the internship outside the country. Some internships program, may give you allowance but mostly you have to bear all of your expenses. If you are busy with classes during the year, you can find out one that you can do when during summer/winter vacation.
Join conferences and be active to find one that matches your interest. If you have time, it is also recommended that you submit your paper and be the presenter.
Try to develop a good relationship with some professors in your school. You do it not because you need good grades from them, but to help you in your study process. By maintaining a good relationship, you will have some inputs about the subject you study and about the research/thesis you are going to develop. Some professors have different points of view, and it is good to communicate and learn from them. If you have a plan to continue your study, it is also good for you to request a favor from them to write a recommendation. A good relationship also gives you benefit when you want to be a researcher or in academia, as they can share some inputs with you.
And don’t forget to travel. As a student this is the best time for you to travel. When you start working you will be busy and it will be difficult to get permission to leave. You will have a long holiday in winter or summer or holidays, which you can use for traveling. The ticket price will be cheaper when going to neighboring countries. Or if you have more money from your saving you can go to the countries you really want to go. If not, domestic travel inside the country is also very nice. There must be a lot of places you have not explored in the country you are living at that moment. Don’t regret that you never explore those good places when you come back to your home country or leave to another country.
I wish you the best of luck for your study.