An overseas student has a rather different university experience compared to a regular student. More than just being on one very long Erasmus trip, they have to adapt to a completely different type of world and often without the comfort of being able to go home regularly. It forces a more intense level of independence as you have to completely adapt.
It can be hard enough for any eighteen-year-old to leave home and move to a new city with completely different people. Brighton and Newcastle are worlds apart in the city experience they offer. Add onto that a foreign accent and adapting to new foods (chip butties aren’t transnational… yet) and tougher time awaits. Fast track three years however, and your international student is more local than you are now, having spent their Easters at university. So, for overseas students, it then becomes a choice of Home or Away? Go back home or stay where you have made your life for the past three years?
Going home is arguably the most typical step post-graduation. In an economic climate more distressed than our jeans, being able to live on our own outside of the bubble of student discount and loans is impractical for many young adults. The blanket of family support is a very tempting one, especially when you have spent so much time away from them.
But on the other hand, home may not be that enticing. The novelty of going home is always enjoyed. Students going home to be fed is a stereotype for a reason, the joy of not having to wash up yourself is a well missed first world luxury. The other side is that, whilst an enjoyable time on a visit, staying at home after living with complete free reign for three years can be a clash of realities. Sleeping until midday and eating cereal out of the box for dinner will not go down well back in your old room. The friction of your independence will clash with your parents’ memory of you at 18 years old when you last lived with them. You’ll start to see why you became an international student in the first place.
The other side of this hindered freedom is the forced independence to achieve staying in the UK. Breaking away from the domestic safety net not completely new to you, but now you go with training relevant to the country that you are now living in, as opposed to home. Indeed choosing to stay where you have studied may provide you with more diverse job opportunities than at home, as you have been trained with a work climate in mind that may not even be available at home. How can you get a job in oceanography if your hometown is 100 miles from the sea?
The reality of being trained and educated in a place with the avenue for your career can mean the loss of a skills pool back home, perhaps the source of the reason why you studied abroad in the first place. The return home of highly educated students has obvious benefits to the local community and economy (ask any geographer to explain). But the reality of your lacking opportunity there is a huge consideration.
The decision of choosing between the familiar and the unknown is not an easy choice in this case. Both sides can give you something the other cannot; security or opportunity. For me, I will be choosing the Away option and remaining in the UK. I just hope that I’m not knocking on mum and dad’s door in a years’ time…