Challenges faced by Bangladeshi students studying abroad

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Like many other developing countries in the world, Bangladeshi students are very much interested in pursuing higher education abroad. Despite increased opportunities for higher education in the country, the number of Bangladeshi students going abroad for studies is on the rise.

But there is a saying:  "No pain, no gain". The students pursuing their higher studies face many challenges including accommodation, financing, language barrier, cultural shock, time management, different study methods, etc.

Sajjad Ahmed, pursuing MSc in Engineering Management at the University of Portsmouth, UK, says, "Accommodation is the biggest problem abroad. Rents are too high and it is tough to find a good place."

Sajjad added, "It is not so easy to manage the time while studying and fulfill personal responsibilities, but somehow I manage to be more active rather than being lazy like I used to be in Bangladesh. Multitasking is my key to balancing both my studies and a part-time job."

Speaking of the learning method, Sajjad states that both teaching and learning methods are different in Bangladesh. He is trying to adopt the new method and is always ready to learn something new. He added that he did not get any cultural shock till now because according to him, England is a multicultural country.

Talking about homesickness, he added, "Actually, I am still trying to fix this matter. Perhaps it will take longer but being busy is usually helpful because that is the simpler method to prevent any difficult emotional moment."

In an increasingly globalised world, the disparities in educational systems across countries are becoming evident, with students encountering varying teaching methods and hurdles. Sanjida Nasrin, studying master's in Bioinformatics at the University of Skövde, Sweden, says, "The teaching method is relatively different from Bangladesh and they teach us by giving a summary of the previous lecture. Here one has to do self-study a lot to understand everything. I am studying Bioinformatics which is based on programming languages but I have no prior knowledge of that. However, my classmates who are from different fields had knowledge of programming during their bachelor's. It was quite challenging for me to cope with them. She adds, "The instructors are mostly PhD students and sometimes can't clear everything. As an international student, I rarely have any chance of group study." She stated that other classmates are from different regions of the world. Most of the time she couldn't seek help from them as they could not understand her problem due to the language barrier as all of them do not speak English and are not very helpful to others. Navigating these challenges, Nasrin relies on a range of external resources to supplement her studies. With the aid of online platforms such as Google and YouTube, she accesses informative videos and utilises study materials provided by the university. These supplementary materials empower her to overcome the obstacles she faces within the Swedish education system.

Talking about homesickness, she says, "I have homesickness and at the initial phase, it's hard for me to stay alone. But after introducing myself to the Bangalee community and because of increasing study load, I got used to living here."

Regarding the language barrier, most Bangladeshi students face problems due to accents. Nusrat Jahan Emu, pursuing MSc in Project Management with Data Analytics at the University of Bedfordshire, UK, says, "In Bangladesh, we are mainly familiar with American accents. But in the UK, I have to communicate with British people whose accents are very distinct from mine. For example, I volunteered in the King's coronation event where I had to cooperate with many people but struggled to grasp the English well enough to give complete answers to all of their questions." She also says, "As I am new here, understanding my tutor's British accent was challenging for me. But I had no trouble adjusting to the new teaching method as the teachers are very helpful and cooperative."

Talking about accommodation, Nusrat shares, "I started looking for a house online two months prior to receiving a visa. I used a variety of applications, including Rightmove, Gumtree, and Spareroom. To provide me with the rent for that residence, however, they require a guarantor. I subsequently got a house with the help of a friend 20 days prior to arriving in the UK."

In terms of managing both study and personal responsibilities, Nusrat restates, “It is very difficult to manage both of these sides perfectly. I try to complete all of my academic work timely. When I need to complete a report/assignment I try to finish it as early as possible. I only have class two days a week, so I work on the rest of the days. On the day of my class, I don't do any personal work at home. I try to complete it on the other days of the week. Besides, I live with my husband so we distribute our responsibilities and try to fulfil them accordingly.”

While many students undergo certain cultural shock, Rifah Anan Tasfia, studying BCom at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada, says, "A cultural shock would be that the way of communication in Canada is quite formal and friendly at the same time. Smiling to a stranger, holding the door open to others, or saying hello and asking how their day is going to a stranger is very common here and often considered rude if one doesn't follow these. This is very different from Bangladesh."

Discussing the study method, Rifah shared that it is not a big deal for her to cope up with the study method. It is quite similar to the curriculum of North South University, Dhaka, from where she transferred credits. She adds, "Here I have to study textbooks thoroughly for most of the courses which are time-consuming."

Rifah also discussed that what she misses most about home is the food. She says, "I miss Bangladeshi food very much, however, I am learning every day to prepare Bangalee homemade dishes and attempting to get the taste of home."

These experiences underscore the importance of acknowledging and adapting to the differences in educational systems and culture when studying abroad. Amidst all the challenges, One factor that keeps these Bangladeshi students going abroad for studies is their dream. They leave everything behind to fulfil the goal they dream throughout their whole life.

The writer is studying BSc in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at North South University. [email protected]

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