Studying in a foreign country is a dream of thousands of students in Vietnam. While I was preparing for my application, my friends and colleagues started to move to Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, and the States to study. I was just wondering when my turn is. That day arrived finally when I was accepted to study in the University of Tartu. I was on cloud nine and dreaming about a student life in a new country.

I almost finished my first year of studying abroad. I realised life is not a bed of roses.

Fig 1

Multicultural environment

If we had foreign students in our class in Vietnam, I’m sure they would be asked many questions about the life in their home country. Vietnamese people are curious about new cultures and also enthusiastic about introducing Vietnam to foreigners. But it does not necessarily work when you live in a multicultural environment. An Estonian is either too introverted to start a conversation with a foreigner or too familiar with the existence of foreigners in their city. I go to the gym sometimes, but I haven’t been asked a single question about my nationality. The same thing happened when I hanged out with groups of foreign students. They showed no curiosity of what it is like in Vietnam. I feel like an alien running around on Earth with strange questions about foreign countries and customs.

Fig 2 multicultural

I went on a trip to Meenikunno bog with Estonians. No one, except the tourguide, asked me anything, even a simple question “Where are you from?”

Language barrier

I guess you might think the barrier is Estonian. Surprisingly, I’m talking about English. Before going abroad, I thought my English was quite good. When diving into a multicultural environment, I was disappointed with my language skills. Professors, international students or staffs, or some Estonians speak English flawlessly. I sometimes feel they don’t understand what I’m saying and vice versa. I had difficulties in engaging in a conversation with them actually. I could not “insert” a word in on-going talks.

Fig 3 language-barrier


During first few weeks, I was like a child discovering corners of Tartu. Shortly, all the excitement of discovering new places, meeting new friends, or attending awesome events vanished with trace. The trace remained was the emptiness and loneliness surrounding by unfamiliar faces. As this was my very first time away from home, I missed my family, my friends, and my familiar surroundings . Unlike an exchange or Master program, Doctoral study takes 4 years. Time plays a role here. I just cannot afford to spend nearly one thousand euros for a return ticket to visit my family regularly. I, therefore, have to live with this sickness.

Fig 4 homesickness


What do I expect when studying abroad? I search for changes in the way of living. However, it turned out that it’s more about personality than environment. One of my new friends said, “You haven’t been to a party”. It’s partly true. When the honeymoon phase (the first phase of cultural shock) was over, I didn’t attend every event and party like I did before. I just felt lost when I went to those parties. It’s full of strangers. “But if you do not go out, how can you know new people?” said another mutual friend. Well, it’s actually my dilemma. I could probably blame my ambivert personality. I will more likely go out of my comfort zone if I meet right people.

Fig 5 personality

Last words: If you can’t change the weather, wear appropriately

Don’t wear layers of clothes during this beautiful warm spring and complain that it’s too hot. The same story is applied to studying abroad. It’s all about adjustment and adaptability.

“What is an outgoing introvert?”, L. asked during my interview for the ISA [I was wondering if he remembers]. Although I’m an introvert, I have some traits of extrovert. I just need more time to be really into new friends. Ordinary friends think I’m reserved.

However, close friends definitely said “No way, he’s talkative”.

Fig 6

When I told her that I’m a reserved person. She said, “No, you’re not”

Fig 7

I asked him whether I’m reserved or talkative. He replied, “Of course you’re talkative”.

That’s all. Now you know about untold stories of studying abroad. Wear appropriately and you’ll find the light at the end of every tunnel.

Fig 8