I remember the day I received my offer from the university. Folded inside the envelope proudly emblazoned with the university emblem was an offer addressed to my name- I had been accepted to study medicine. But unlike previously, I wasn’t nervous, and I wasn’t excited either. I was scared- this was to be the first of many crossroads of my life. No longer was it just about being a doctor; it was about leaving home for the next five years.
“I’m so jealous! You’ll get to go overseas while we’re all stuck back home.”
“How I wish I was as lucky as you!”
“You won’t have to be nagged at by your parents!”
Congratulatory remarks of that nature was all I heard for the next few weeks, and even after five years, that continues to be what I hear from most of my friends.
But leaving home to study overseas isn’t all about the freedom from your parents. To a certain extent, that itself becomes something you crave after a while. Gone will be the days of returning to a warm and freshly prepared meal after a long day at the hospital, much less sharing a meal with someone. You start missing being able to grumble about how long and tiring your day was to someone actually eager to hear about how your day went. The first sick episode is perhaps the also the worst one as you struggle through it without mum. Family becomes a phone call away and while friends are just a text away, that is as close as they will be as long as you are away from home.
The reality of studying abroad does not end there. Just as you chose the road that left home, those you leave behind will continue to lead their own lives. Relationships may be strained and friendships will certainly be tested against the tide of time. New friends may be gained, but old friends may also be lost for good.
Of course, studying abroad is not all negative. You learn to be independent- few experiences can give you the confidence to leave home knowing that you will be able to take care of yourself. You may trip, fall and be scarred along the way, but you will only get back up stronger and better. You will meet new people from all over the world, exchanging cultures and sharing precious experiences, broadening your horizon. New bonds and friendships will be forged, which may provide as a valuable avenue to turn to in times of need.
Studying abroad has surely had its ups and downs, but so would staying at home have had. Even up till today, there are still times I wish I never had to face the hardships unique to this overseas education experience, but the lessons learnt from them far outweigh the cost of going through them. Sure, I’ve been lucky enough to spend five years free from my parents, but I have gained much more than that.