Studying abroad is a profoundly enriching experience that can provide immeasurable benefits for a budding architect.
It is probably more so for architecture than any other program in an institution of higher learning due to the nature of its coursework.
As architecture is one of the longest undergraduate and postgraduate programs, the costs involved for you to live and study abroad would probably be your single largest expenditure to date.
Whether you are spending your own hard-earned money, sponsored by your parents, or taking out a student loan, studying abroad is still a very costly affair.
Failure to keep your eye on the ball will have significant consequences that may prove impossible to overcome.
However, not all the risks discussed in this post relate to money. There are other types of risks to be mindful of so you can complete the studies and make the most of the opportunity of studying architecture abroad.
1. Distractions from what is important
There are bound to be students from different age groups in the program, but it is safe to say that most of the students will be high school graduates.
It is only natural that you’d want to experience anything and everything that seems exciting when you are young. There is no shortage of activities for you to indulge in, from new places and people to the alluring nightlife.
However, these things can potentially take your focus away from the main reason you are where you are, which is training yourself to become a practicing architect one day.
Architectural studies are famous for being tough on the amount of spare time students would have in hand; should you find yourself having a pretty balanced time allocation between coursework and party time, you need to re-think your priorities.
If you have decided to pursue architectural studies abroad, it is only reasonable to be aware of the demands on time that comes with it.
2. Depression due to mental stress
Being away from home does have its drawbacks.
It always helps if you have someone close, a best friend or a family member, to turn to for comfort when you are stressed.
An architectural program is incredibly challenging due to the long hours involved, and the multi-disciplinary nature of architecture heightening this downside.
When you are new in architecture, juggling these different demands coupled with the lack of sleep due to pulling all-nighters because you have deadlines coming up can be a little too stressful to handle at times.
Students can suffer from burnout too.
In an architecture program, deadlines tend to come in a long queue that never seems to end until you reach a semester break.
Every person is different, and every architecture student would have a different stress threshold. Understand yours and find your particular way to manage it.
If you have another hobby outside of architecture, allow yourself a bit of time to indulge in it.
3. A lack of medical insurance cover
Falling sick can happen whenever and wherever you are. But when you continuously stretch yourself mentally to the point of exhaustion, the likelihood of you getting ill increases.
Students typically have a tight monthly budget. It would help if you managed your finances and any significant outlay.
Therefore, when an unexpected cost item such as a large medical bill crops up, it can put a spanner in the works.
The medical costs could be higher than home, depending on your country of study. They should be on your list of things to check pre-departure.
As a student studying abroad, ensure that if you have a medical insurance policy in your home country, that it will also have you covered should you incur medical costs where you study.
Otherwise, it is prudent to budget adequately for a new medical insurance cover.
4. The tendency to mingle only with friends from own race group
It is not uncommon to find groups of students from the same race with very little racial diversity – as odd as it sounds for international schools.
It is easy for one to stay within what is naturally more comfortable. However, architecture is about expanding your horizon, thinking outside the box.
Extend beyond your comfort zone, and you will be surprised at how much more fulfilling the whole experience of studying abroad can be.
For international architecture students, pursuing a degree should go hand in hand with experiencing the architectural, racial, and cultural diversities that the place has to offer.
5. Poor money management
Apart from the lessons taught in school, living and studying abroad is the perfect phase in a young architect’s life to learn and exercise good money management skills.
When you are no longer living with your parents, every dollar you spend comes from your pocket as much as every dollar you are short of will hurt you.
Studying abroad is exciting and presents an opportunity to do things you otherwise can’t under the parents’ watchful eyes (when you are young) – and most of them cost money.
From this viewpoint, it’s good that an architecture program does not leave you much time to spend money. Still, prudent spending as a student is a necessary approach, so your primary focus remains where it should be.
6. Not balancing part-time work and study demands
While some are fortunate enough to have a sponsor to study architecture abroad, others have to work and skimp through school to achieve the dream of being an architect.
If you are in the latter camp, consider yourself fortunate also – in a way – that the graft you put yourself through now provides you with a solid foundation to weather the rough patches ahead as a practicing architect.
However, the temptation to work more hours so you can make more money could make you lose sight of what is most important – your study and development as an architect.
In and of itself, the study of architecture is a relatively challenging multi-disciplinary endeavor that requires a lot of time and effort to accomplish.
Try to balance making money on the side just enough to fund your study and complete your architectural program without delay.
7. Not making the most of living in a different culture
You may encounter lots of assignments, extensive coursework, and long hours in the studio. Still, you must not forget to make the most of the experience living in a potentially different culture entirely.
Architects are not engineers. Architecture is not just about crunching numbers or administering a building contract – although it sure has a bit of both, which you will have lots of time for later in the program.
Architects should primarily be visionaries and master designers.
Your formative years as an architect is a time to forge your architecture ideal, hopes, and vision. And hopefully, carry enough of those through your architecture career until such time that you get your opportunity to implement them.
The more you open yourself to these – the understanding of people, cultures, places, and the relationships between humans and the built environment – the better informed you will be in your development as an architect.