By: GoEnnounce Student Sean Kirkpatrick
I’m Sean, a junior in college, and a first time study abroad student. I am studying abroad at London South Bank University for this semester. As I’m abroad, I’ll be sharing my adventures, experiences, lessons, (and maybe even mishaps!) as I venture through my semester across the world. Please be sure to check back in and follow my posts on Twitter with the hashtag #SeanAbroad.
After spending a decent amount of time in London and traveling to a few different countries already, I thought I should give some advice for people who are planning to study abroad in either a country, where they speak the same language or a different language.
I’ll start with countries where they speak the same language. First, let me just say that you will never really find a place that speaks the exact same way as where you are from. Everywhere you go people have different sayings, use different words for things, and expressions that might seem really strange to you. And for a student, this can get pretty confusing. Some of the differences I have come across aren’t really hard to get used to, but might have you confused for a few seconds until you go “oh yeah, this means this here.” One example is the word for professor or teacher is different here in London. Here they use the term tutor or they just call them by their first name. At first I was confused due to the difference between the way people in the US use the term tutor and felt a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of calling my professor by his or her first name. To be honest, I am still confused and uncomfortable, although I am getting a little better with calling Jenny by her first name, as she is one of my favorite professors.
Most likely there will be some words and things that have different meanings that you will not be able to really fully get and use like the rest of the people around you. Another idea I would suggest to help make this better is to bring up the differences you have with a friend that you have that lives in the country. You will most likely make friends with locals, I have flat mates that I’m friends with, and we have had several talks about the differences in words. After these talks, instead of it being awkward when you tell someone in London “I like your pants” (In the UK “pants” is the term used for underwear), your local friends will just laugh because they know what you mean. You will find that there are so many different and weird sounding words used everywhere and, in London, they can be really silly sounding.
Two of the most humorous sounding things I have heard local people in London say are “silly sausage” and “pear shaped”. “Silly sausage” is a term used for when someone or something is acting, you guessed it, silly. When people use this I can’t help but just stare at them and think that they sound like a two year old. But it’s a very common term that adults and children use. The term “pear shaped” is even more odd because this term means almost the same as strange but people, places, times, anything can be pear shaped. You could even say “did you see the queens outfit today, it was rather pear shaped if you ask me”. This would not mean that the queen is wearing a green dress in the shape of a pear which would be the first thing that popped into people’s heads. All it means here, is that it was strange. The example our tour guide used when we first arrived to describe pear shaped was “it could be that a wedding was pear shaped if the bride didn’t show up”.
Putting all of these strange sayings and things aside, yes, it is a lot easier to study in a country where the people speak the same language as you. I can’t comment on how hard it would be to study in a country where people don’t speak the same language as you, but I recently visited Holland and Amsterdam where the language they speak is Dutch and I can tell you it wasn’t really that bad. If you speak English, you are lucky because most people (at least in Europe) speak it. Americans and even the English had and still have such a major impact on the world that most people will understand you when you order fries (or chips for you UK people out there). You might not be able to read any signs or labels however. A lot of road signs, menus and names of things will be in their native language, thought you might find the English translation under the name. You can always ask someone and most likely they can help. So don’t be too worried about being somewhere that doesn’t use English. You could end up ordering something strange like rabbit stew however, so you should watch out when ordering food.
Overall I would say that it might be better to study somewhere that doesn’t use the same language as English. Most of the time, this means that the place you are going to is going to be different then what you are used to. And, at least for me, that is what going abroad is all about, learning about and experiencing the way people around the world live. Yes I am studying in London where they speak English but I am still traveling to places where they don’t speak the same language and seeing their ways of living. So if you are worried about not knowing the local language, don’t be, you will find that as time passes you will have learned a lot about another peoples culture.
Stay tuned for my next post and follow #seanabroad on GoEnnounce!
Love our blog? Like us on facebook to get all of our fun education tips.