In the past, traveling overseas was a luxury for the majority of students.
Studying overseas was an even greater luxury, beyond the reach of everyone
except for the bright scholarship holders and the rich. Nowadays, however, there
are more students going overseas to study. Higher education is seen as essential
to secure a good job. Parents are willing to use their hard-earned money to give
their children an overseas education, especially if their children could not
make it into the local university or polytechnic.
Those who are fortunate
usually head for western countries like the United States or Britain which have
established institutions of learning. Australia and New Zealand are also
increasingly favored. Graduating from these universities would usually mean an
edge over their local counterparts who have not studied overseas as an overseas
education is seen by some employers favorably.
Many of these institutions and those which conduct courses for secondary or
primary levels, have a less regimental study culture. Unlike Asian countries
which assess students heavily on the grades obtained from the all important
examination and tests, western institutions encourage team and project work and
a climate of creativity and open discussion. Teachers are seen more as
collaborators of learning rather than authority figures and transmitters of
knowledge. Asian students therefore find it very liberating to have this
atmosphere where they are free to air their views. Also, they are free to set
their own timetables on when they intend to graduate. They are allowed to drop
out of their courses to go to work and then resume them at a later date.
The responsibility is placed on them to dictate their studies. Free from the
mollycoddling and interference of
well-meaning parents, many Asian students, who are hardworking, have obtained a
degree in a period faster than they would have done in their homelands. My
cousin obtained a Masters in Engineering in four years of studying. He was
working as a checkout cashier in a supermarket and even had time to backpack
across America. All these accomplishments would not have been possible to
achieve in his hometown in Malaysia. He was constantly annoyed by the
restrictive classroom methods, experienced stress as a result and was spoilt by
his mother and maid at home.
That brings me to the next point. My cousin had a sudden taste of
independence thrust on him. Like most
overseas students, he had to learn to rely on himself for his daily household
needs, meals and budgeting. He learned to be responsible for his own time and to
prioritize his activities. Like many students, he realized that it was a
privilege to study overseas and that he was consuming his parents' hard-earned
savings. It was his responsibility to study and to use his time wisely so as to
earn his parents' faith in him.
Not all overseas students are Asians however. Non-Asians, like Westerners and
Africans, learn the cultures of their host nations to survive. Hopefully, by the
time they head back to their home countries, they would have understood and
appreciated the cultures of the lands they were studying in so that they would
be good ambassadors of these. However, studying overseas has its disadvantages.
It involves considerable expenses and many families have to
scrimp and save to finance their loved one's
A student who is not social may also be homesick. It is not easy to adapt and
live in a foreign country, and to be suddenly torn away from the comforting
network of family, relatives and friends. Some lonely students, who are under
stress to perform well in their studies, may develop developmental disorders.
Recently, there was a case of a mainland Chinese who felt ridiculed by his peers
and teachers. He was lonely and lashed out by shooting several of his peers and
Some students may miss the moral guidance of their parents and friends. Left
alone, they might mix with the wrong crowd. There have been cases of students
partying, taking drugs, neglecting their studies and exceeding their budgets.
Some students indulge in dubious moral practices, especially in the more liberal
climate of Western campuses. Ultimately, whether students benefit from their
overseas studies depends very much on their characters and how they use their
new-found independence. Like many of life's matters, there are always pros and
cons to an issue.