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Swathi Sasikumar

Swathi is a post-graduate student at the University of Melbourne. When she's not working, she's either studying her cat or indulging in TV shows.

6 Tips to manage your parents’ expectations while studying abroad

Our parents constantly worry about us, and sometimes the pressure can become overbearing. Some concerns are justifiable while some others can be downright unreasonable. It took me a while, but I have finally figured out how to map a plan to manage their expectations.

It is really simple - all you need to do is list down the issues and find solutions. Here are a few areas to get you started:

1. Academic performance

The transition to a new academic environment can be intimidating especially when the teaching, learning, or grading style is different from the one you’re used to in your home country.

Hence, it’s important to share this information with your parents so that they know you’re adapting and figuring it all out. Universities provide services such as academic support and counselling services for all students, so you can seek help and convince your parents to set more realistic goals.

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2. Accommodation

University accommodations are generally expensive, so when I moved to Australia I sought help from a family friend. Student-housings turned out to be overpriced as well, so I scoured Gumtree, Flatmates, and budget hotels to find a place to stay.

I was simultaneously checking-in with my friends and classmates for the same and the process continued for a few months. I highly recommend keeping your parents in the loop because it’s important they know you’re trying your best.

I found a place through a mutual friend after three long months. The tip is to be persistent with your efforts.

3. Job hunting 

Even with significant internships and work experience in hand, it took me over a year to land my first stable job in Australia. During that time, I was under immense pressure from parents and I often questioned my competence.

Despite applying for jobs online and via my social network, getting my first break took longer than I’d anticipated. And this did not sit well with my parents because I had bills to pay and they didn’t encourage my habit of depending on them every month.

Admittedly, it took me a while to persuade them to grant me more time. I’ve learned that communicating with parents regarding honest concerns and difficulties makes it easier for them to comprehend your situation. 

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4. Money matters

One of the major concerns involving the plan to study abroad is the expenses that come with it - rent, food, transportation, and other bills. I learned the art of managing finance the hard way.

Researching is important because there are alternative ways to cut down expenses. For instance, instead of buying coffee on my way to the uni, I invested in a good thermos mug and filled it with homemade coffee. I also learned that train travel before 7 a.m. was free, and this helped reduce my transportation expenses remarkably.

You can use a study abroad cost calculator to help you plan how much you will need for living expenses, and potentially where you can reduce some of your costs. Although each city and country will have different costs of living, the final amount will depend on your lifestyle choices and this is where you can find some savings.

The idea is to discover new or existing ways to save yourself from emptying your wallet before the end of the month. You can also turn to clever personal budgeting apps that can take the hassle out of managing your money.

5. Missed calls

Like most of us, I’m terrified of mom’s missed calls. Parents are rather sensitive when it comes to picking up calls wherever you are, at any time of the day, for good reasons.

But sometimes, it becomes impossible to promptly answer their texts or calls due to the difference in time zones or if you’re occupied with work. I’ve gotten into trouble for missing calls or not responding to texts while I’m in class.

The ultimate solution for this problem is to establish a customary pattern of communication that doesn’t come in the way of your classes, work, or travelling. For me, it’s mandatory to send a “Good morning” and “Good night” message every morning and night, besides the calls. These messages help clear up misunderstandings to a great degree.

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6. Safety concerns

Living alone in a foreign country is challenging and it can cause major stress for parents who worry about your safety every day. Perhaps, you may not be as concerned, but it’s important to take a note of the emergency numbers wherever you live. 

I have a list of emergency telephone numbers stuck against the refrigerator. So in case of an emergency, I won’t have to waste time browsing for it.

It also puts your parents at peace, knowing you’ve access to resources to handle any emergency situation. Sharing your roommate or friends’ contact numbers with parents is a precautionary move that allows them to reach you besides your phone.

Living by yourself in a foreign country comes with a lot of responsibilities, some of which will involve compromises with your parents. And that’s absolutely normal and for the most part, inevitable.

Communication is the key that will create space for more realistic expectations. But don’t get too tangled up trying to set everything right. At the end of the day, parents will be there to lend you support in times of need. So, take one step at a time and learn from the rich experience the new life offers you.

Did you find this article helpful?

You can explore more stories by international students in our blog.

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