Kavita Parikh is the founder-director of Disha Consultants, a Gujarat-based leading overseas education counseling firm, or as she prefers to call – a most effective enabler for students who aim to pursue studies in North America. Ms. Parikh founded Disha Consultants in Ahmedabad in 2003. Over the years, the firm has helped more than 10,000 students secure admission in top universities such as Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, John Hopkins, and other leading US universities, as well as top Canadian universities including the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo, among others. After completing her graduation from HL College of Commerce in Ahmedabad, Ms. Parikh pursued an MBA from Xavier University in Ohio, US. Her experiences as a student in a foreign country, the challenges she faced, the requirements for achieving academic success, the opportunities that came her way, were instrumental in her decision to launch Disha Consultants.
The allure of studying abroad is fairly new. Up until a decade ago, not more than 60,000 Indian students were pursuing an international undergraduate education abroad. In 2016, the number of students who went abroad for studying was 3,71,506. In 2018, that number rose to 5,20,342. The number of Indian students studying abroad is increasing at an average rate of 15% year-on-year, except for the years 2020-21 due to the COVID 19 implications and travel restrictions. There has been a drastic spike in number of students wanting to go abroad and change their fortunes. Our world is globalizing at a pace never seen before, and an international education is part of the new era. As the world becomes a global village, shrinking in size, the need for students to gain international exposure has increased manifold. Students and their parents have realized that studying abroad can be a transformational experience across all areas of a student’s life, including academic, professional, personal and intellectual. It can foster personal development and be a life altering, once in a lifetime experience.
Experiencing a new way of life
One of the most important experiences of studying abroad is the vast cultural experience. The student experiences incredible new foods, customs, traditions and social environments. Living in a new country can come with a set of challenges but experiencing a different culture allows a student to expand their worldview. Studying abroad means one can learn about new perspectives and develop cross-cultural awareness. Students may intern during the course of their studies and meet people from other countries. This widens their exposure on how to deal with people from different backgrounds in their next job. After studying abroad students value people with unique experiences and establish a stronger relationship with them. Additionally, exposure to different cultural backgrounds has a huge impact on how she/he reacts to different situations. Studying abroad expands a student’s spectrum of experiences and they can gain a variety of perspectives. Eventually, students gain a numerous skills and confidence in their abilities. Moreover, a student will gain better understanding and appreciation for other nation’s people and history. The best way to experience another culture is to immerse entirely in it, and the best way to do that is to live in another country as a student.
Learn about different styles of education
One of the major reasons for studying abroad is the chance to experience different styles of education. The Indian style of teaching is very different from education systems around the world, especially in US and Canada. To experience the best type of education, choosing the right school is a very important factor. After all, education is the centerpiece of studying abroad. Each country has its own unique style of teaching. A student may encounter three kinds of teaching styles: authority styles, facilitator style, delegator style. These styles of learning can aid a student in adjusting to different management styles at workplace. The authority style is a teacher centered style. The professor frequently gives long lectures or one-way presentations and is generally the authority figure. To retain information, students will listen to the professor and typically take notes. There is also a focus on a set of rules and expectations during these lectures. The Facilitator style of teaching is when the professor emphasizes on self-learning by promoting a teacher student relationship. Instead of one-way lectures, students are encouraged to ask questions and find solutions to problems through exploration and research. This style of teaching helps students develop critical thinking. The third style of teaching is the delegator style, where professors encourage students to engage in projects and activities. This is a guided learning style and requires active participation from students. The teacher is in the role of an observer, helping students remain active participants in their learning. In most likelihood, students who study abroad will experience all three kinds of teaching method throughout their study program.
Enhancing future prospects: Graduate school admissions and employment
The experience and exposure to studying abroad adds tremendous value to a student’s overall profile. Foreign education exposes students to greater employment opportunities, especially in multinational companies. Organizations that hire international employees want resumes that reflect resilience. They seek candidates who can thrive in a global environment. Studying abroad not only reflects that resilience but it also gives students a chance to showcase skills such as cross-cultural communication, an understanding of international policies, and the ability to survive in an international environment. Similarly, students seeking to continue studying and look for graduate programs are also at an advantage because of their international undergraduate studies. Graduate schools appreciate study abroad experiences. Students who study abroad show that they aren’t afraid to seek new challenges, and they also display diversity. These are all skills that are highly looked up by graduate admissions boards. They regularly look for students who will bring unique experiences to their university.
Building a vast network
The younger you start building your network, the better for your future personal and professional growth. Studying abroad as an undergraduate brings with it a unique opportunity to build meaningful social and professional relationships. Universities of international repute, especially in US and Canada attract students from all over the world. Studying there helps students build invaluable relationships during the period of their study. Students get to broaden their international connections with fellow students, professionals, academicians and researchers from all over the world. They meet people who turn into lifelong friends. Studying abroad expands one’s global network and helps build important connections that can lead to career opportunities, job offers and even business partnerships. It gives students the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures and be part of a global community.
Studying abroad can alter a student’s entire world view. It is a great way to diversify one’s educational experience and increase career prospects. Experiencing life in another country is a wonderful experience.