While studying abroad can make for an amazing experience a decision to spend an extended period of time far from home is not one to be made lightly. A semester abroad or even an entire degree earned in a foreign University can provide you with a invaluable life lessons and will be a great asset for your future employers. Learning a language among the native speakers, gaining extra credits while on internships in international companies, being immersed in a completely different culture; all that is something you wouldn’t be able to experience aside from study abroad programs.
But studying abroad isn’t for everybody and there are many things you should consider before packing your bags and traveling on the other side of the world.
First of all, you need to consider whether or nor you can afford to study abroad.
It might not be the most pleasant topic, as money rarely is, it’s one of the most important ones that can make or break your study abroad adventure.
Studying in a foreign country can turn out to be quite an expensive choice. Not only are tuition fees for international students usually very high, but you will also need to pay for accommodation, food, public transport, books, and other things. Before making a final decision as to where you want to study, you might want to research scholarships available to you.
There are various scholarships for international students. Some are offered at host Universities, though not all of them are available to students who hadn’t finished their first year. But even if the University of your choice doesn’t offer scholarships to international students, you can still inquire about financial aid. In most cases, based on your academic achievements so far, the host University may choose to lower the tuition fee for you.
It’s worth remembering that financial aid offered at the University of your choice isn’t the only help you can get. Sometimes foreign countries offer scholarships for international students to encourage them to study there (France, for example), at the same time there are various foundations offering scholarships for students wishing to study abroad (like the Kosciuszko Foundation offering scholarships for students wanting to study in Poland).
At the same time as looking at the financial side of studying abroad, you should look into the programs offered as well.
Depending on what you’re looking for, you should either look into summer semesters abroad, student exchange programs or full programs ending with you getting a degree. Both summer semesters and student exchange programs are for students who are already enrolled in a program at their home University. Programs like that usually allow transferring credits gained during the stay at the host University. In most cases, applying to short term programs can be done with the help of the International Office at your home University.
If you’re thinking about attending a full program that will last several semesters and will end with you gaining a degree there are a lot more decisions to be made and a lot of research to be done.
You need to consider carefully what you want to do with your life and what sort of career you wish to pursue after graduation. If you’re thinking about a Management degree, you shouldn’t choose a Technical University, unless you’re interested in Management in Production. You should research the course works carefully, review student testimonies if they are available and check all the extracurricular activities the University offers its students.
It’s wiser to choose a University that has a good support network for international students and its own campus. Both of those things are extremely helpful for people arriving to the new country for the first time. Additionally, if the University has its own campus, it means that it’ll be easier to get a room in the dormitories, you’ll have a better access to student oriented books and various student events.
It’s also worth checking if the country of your choice and the University issues diplomas and certificates that are accepted by the authorities of your home country. It’s not as important if you’re not planning on getting into academia, but it would be better if you made sure that you won’t have to re-take courses and exams.
Once you choose the course you want to attend and have your financial options researched, it’s good to actually give some thought to whether or not staying in a foreign country for longer periods of time and pursuing an academic career in a foreign University is something you can handle.
While the idea of being immersed in a foreign culture is an alluring one, not everyone can adapt to a completely different set of traditions, points of view and lifestyles. Not to mention the language barrier can be problematic at first. To study abroad you have to not only want to broaden your horizons within the field of your studies but in other areas as well. Meeting new people, learning about customs of other people, discovering the folklore and the language makes for a great adventure, but it isn’t for everybody.
Can you handle being away from your family and friends? Is meeting new people and interacting with strangers something that come naturally to you? Before you send in your application, you should sit down and try to answer those questions. If the answer is “yes”, then studying abroad will be undoubtedly a great experience and will teach you a lot.