Taking your degree overseas will open you up to a whole new range of experiences, allowing you to see the world while furthering your studies and career prospects. Many students find studying abroad appealing; it enhances employability, develops language skills and offers the chance to travel.
There are lots of aspects of international travel, residency, and tuition to take into account before settling on a location. Here are eight things to keep in mind when deciding where to study abroad.
Loans may be the bane of a student’s life but they help facilitate the opportunity to attend university. When looking to study abroad it pays (literally) to look into the various finance options available; loans, grants, and scholarships are all options and the availability of these will differ based on your home country and the area you’re looking at as a potential study location.
It should be simple enough to find out the options open to you based on minority status, family background, reciprocal agreements, and subject of study. The level of support available to help you secure funding will differ between countries and specific institutions.
Although relocating to a new country is a great way to learn a new language, if you’re multilingual it’s worth considering countries where you can already speak the language. Immersive learning works wonders but at the same time this is an important period of your life and forcing yourself into a situation with no native language skills has the potential to harm your stay in the country and your academic performance.
Be sure to check the language that each course is being delivered in but most universities with an international focus will offer English-led tuition. Also, be aware that some institutions have language requirements. In Switzerland for example, unless you can speak one of their home languages you will be unable to study at a postgraduate level.
Aside from simply speaking the language there’s also the possible necessity to pick up new writing styles and norms that differ from your mother tongue.
Finding your network
Moving somewhere new can be daunting, however having people around who you share something in common with can make the whole transition easier. Countries with a high population of international students, such as Hong Kong or Switzerland, will have societies for foreign students. Be sure to check out what support universities offer international students and the number of societies and clubs for international students.
Alternatively, countries where expats congregate, such as Spain or Australia, could also be an option to look for universities in the areas where there is already a social network of people outside campus to join.
A significant reason why a lot of students head abroad is the chance to see the world. For anyone who dreams of globetrotting during their studies, it’s best to stick to regions with plenty of visitor-friendly countries.
Think of continental Europe, where many countries are so close to each other, and for European students there is the additional benefit of the Schengen Area allowing free movement across a number of states.
Other hotspots include East Asia and South America, which both present a remarkable selection of nations with their own unique cultures to explore.
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If you are part of a society at home, have a hobby that you are passionate about or a sport you play regularly, it is always worth checking if you will still be able to do these things when you head abroad.
It may sound trivial to some yet having a common bond with strangers can be vital to creating new relationships, especially where language barriers come into play. Looking ahead at your possible options and checking out their society prospectus will help provide guidance on whether or not your own interests would be well catered for.
Look inwards to begin with. If you’re already studying in your home country and decide to spend a year abroad, take the time to explore any links your current university has with partner campuses around the world. These can provide additional support and safety nets when it comes to the organisation and fulfilment of your decision.
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A key consideration no matter the location of study is exactly how your chosen course will be delivered. It's important to have a look at the way teaching is delivered (whether it’s seminars or lectures), reading lists and forms of assessment to make sure that they tie in with how you like to be taught. Have a look at the module selection and ensure that the subject content fits in with your interests.
You may want to tailor your course by picking and mixing modules. Some countries allow more leeway in this than others. Universities in the US, for example, allow students to choose a “major” while studying modules from other subjects to provide a more rounded education. Meanwhile, many European countries will only allow you to choose modules within the overarching course itself rather than allowing you the chance to explore other areas of interest.
In addition to looking at your university’s links (if any), it’s also worth looking at international agreements between your home country and the rest of the world. European Union citizens, for example, will find it much easier to study elsewhere within the Union without the need for (sometimes pricey) student visas required in certain countries.
Unlike the UK’s Ucas system, other countries will have their own systems, which can differ for native and non-native applicants. Many universities will take applications directly but external organisations are available to assist with paperwork if needed. Once you have applied, you may have to take entrance exams in areas where British qualifications aren’t recognised, or language aptitude tests such as China’s HSK exam to prove a good grasp of the Chinese language.
No matter where you choose to study, there’s no doubting the benefits of studying outside your comfort zone. While there are inevitable downsides, it also presents an once-in-a-lifetime chance to explore, learn, and grow as an individual.
Read more: Most international universities in the world
If you’re considering a study abroad stint, use these eight tips to help you find the perfect place for you