HOW TO STUDY ABROAD
Studying abroad is becoming a popular choice among more and more students with the passage of time. The world is becoming an increasingly smaller place day by day because of a great number of people settling down in countries outside of their native lands, better network connectivity and most definitely education. The number of students travelling to foreign countries for their higher studies is increasing at an exponential rate. Foreign education has become extremely affordable because of the large number of loans, financial aids and scholarships that are available to students.
Read more to find out the various nitty gritties of moving to a foreign country for studies.
What are the benefits of studying abroad?
The first question that comes to the mind of a person when they think of studying abroad are the benefits of such a decision. It is an extremely important decision and requires to be considered carefully and thought through well.
Listed below are a few benefits of studying abroad:
A Great addition to your CV:
Regardless of whether it is an entire course/degree or just a few semesters, a degree from a foreign institution always looks great on the CV and candidates usually have amazing stories to tell. Everyone knows that studying abroad is no easy task and it requires a lot of hard work just to get into a foreign course. Also, staying in a different country all by yourself tells your interviewer that you are brave enough to take a few risks.
Learn a new language and experience a new culture:
Staying in a foreign country, exposes one to learning new languages, experiencing new cultures and having new food. This makes you a multicultural person which is extremely important in today’s world and the cutthroat competition that prevails in it.
An opportunity to push through your comfort zone and grow:
When you live in a foreign country, away from your family and among strangers, you are bound to be independent and rely on yourself for everything. You will no longer find it difficult to handle or panic in a crisis situation. You will also build your own network and know when and where to find what you need. This will also help you explore a different part of your personality that you probably may not have known before.
You will make some amazing lifelong friends:
When you will not have your family near you during all your times of need, it is evident that there will be other people, strangers in all probability, who will help you get through your difficult times. Through this process, you will end up making life-long friends who will stay with you till the end. You will also become more responsible as you will also have to be there for these people when they need you.
You will develop a global mindset:
After an experience of studying abroad, a person is bound to start expanding their horizons and perspectives. You will start thinking of everything at a macro level with a global mindset. Every problem and situation that you might come across will provoke you to think from a broad point of view. This is mainly developed because you will not only expose yourself to the culture of the country you go to but also to that of your other friends who come from different countries. All problems will then start seeming small to you since you will constantly draw comparisons between various countries.
International job opportunities:
If you study at a university abroad, your prospects of securing a job in a foreign country also increase by manifolds. The reason behind this is the fact that you will have the opportunity to interview for companies that would not have generally visited your native land. You will not only get to interview with them and secure a job abroad, you will also have the opportunity to perhaps travel to another country for the purpose of work because the employer now has proven evidence that you would be able to adjust yourself in a foreign environment and ambience easily. Even if you do decide to return home after the completion of your degree, you will still be favoured upon other students due to the mere fact that you have experience of adapting in a foreign country and sustaining there for a long time.
What should one study abroad?
The second question that comes to an aspirants mind is what should they actually study abroad, which level of studies should they go out for.
One can go abroad right after their secondary schooling education is complete, for their undergraduate or bachelor’s degree. There are a number of things that need to be kept in mind before this. Students must demonstrate excellent skills in order to be accepted at a foreign university for their bachelors. This is because almost all universities tend to give their first preference to native students from their home country and this is completely justified. So you must work hard to build an exceptional profile and give these universities a proper reason that is difficult to throw away if you want them to select you over a probable native candidate. You must also score exceptionally well in your high school curriculum and your standardized scores, be it your Standardized Aptitude Tests or SATs or your Advanced Placement Tests or AP programmes. You must also work extremely hard and write a compelling statement of purpose essay telling your story that will speak for you, on your behalf, the admissions committee.
The post-graduate level or the master’s level of higher studies is the most popular choice among foreign students and international applications to go for a degree abroad. This is because, compared to an undergraduate programme, it is much easier to get into a graduate programme. Also students are older now and hence their family is more confident to send them off to a foreign land for a long period of studies. There are a larger number of scholarships available for graduate and masters students and it is also easier to secure a job in a foreign country with a master’s degree. More companies are willing to sponsor your visas for an extended stay. And due to your age and a previously obtained degree, you have some experience of studying outside of a secure environment like that in a school. Also, only in the case of the United States, there are no provisions for pursuing a master’s degree except in a very selected and dedicated group of programmes. All undergraduate degrees in the United States are 4 years long and hence they also ask for 16 years of education before their Phd programmes, which is where US students go immediately after their bachelors. As a result, most students are not eligible for a doctoral degree in the United States immediately after their undergraduate programme. Hence, master degrees are more popular in the European Continent.
Research or Doctorate level:
People who are immensely mature and wish to dedicate their lives to research and academia go abroad for their doctoral studies. Most countries charge much less for doctoral research studies than they do for the bachelor’s or master’s levels. This is because, most universities consider their undergraduate, postgraduate and specialised courses to be their assets through which they can also earn money while their doctoral students are their investments. They are the ones which help these institutions secure prestigious prizes and patents. There are certain universities in Europe, especially in Germany and Sweden that let even their doctoral students complete their Phd absolutely free of cost. The university bears the entire tuition fee in these cases.
Summer Schools/Executive Programmes:
Students can also choose to go abroad to study for a specialised degree or a course. It can only be a few months long like summer school or like a year-long executive programme. While a summer course is more popular for students at the senior secondary, undergraduate and postgraduate levels of study, an executive programme on the other hand is taken by early career and mid career professionals who wish to increase their knowledge and skills within their domain of work. Several ivy-league universities in the United States offer year-long executive programmes and professional certificate course degrees. The United Kingdom is more popular for summer courses. These courses are taught when the usual semester curriculum is on a break during the summer. These can be extremely interesting and can help you gain unparalleled international exposure.
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How can you study abroad?
The third question that inevitably comes to one’s mind after everything is whether they can study abroad too. This is where the process of application comes in. Listed below are all the steps, in complete details, that you must take if you want to study abroad.
1. Make an informed decision
Before finally arriving at the decision that you wish to move to a foreign country for the purpose of higher studies, it is important that you consult everyone whose opinion matters to you and who is eligible enough to assist you in making an informed choice. If your parents are hesitant, then you must do proper research to back up your reasoning and present a detailed case to your parents. The other important factor to consider is how you plan to fund your studies. Think about everything before making a final decision.
2. Find the perfect fit
After you have completely made your mind up about moving abroad, you must thoroughly research all the courses that fit into your career plans and the universities that offer them. It is important to know every aspect like that of the eligibility criteria, standardised tests, recommendations, etc., that you need to submit within your application. Make proper notes of everything that you will be needing so that you don’t have to run for materials whilst filling in the application form.
3. Send in your application
The actual application process can be quite lengthy and tiresome. There are several stages of application and a huge number of sections that need to be filled up. You also need to provide a very large number of documents as proof for your claims in your form and the statement of purpose. You will also need to provide translated versions of any document that you may have submitted in a language that is not accepted by your prospective university. Coordinating with your recommenders is an extremely lengthy and crucial part of the application process. You must communicate with them fluently and regularly to ensure that they write the best letter. Remember that it doesn’t matter to the admissions committee whether your referees are famous or not. What is important is the quality of the letters and the actual content in them. References are an extremely important part of your application and can be a deciding factor in your selection. Another extremely important aspect is your standardised test scores. Make sure that you meet the minimum marks level and send the scores your university asks for. The admissions offices of all universities with a large international student body are extremely responsive over their emails and answer all queries with full details within a very short period of time.
4. Apply for scholarships and financial aid
The waiting period between the submission of your application and your acceptance can be fairly long and gruesome in nature. You must use this time efficiently for the purpose of researching all the scholarships and financial aid that you can apply for. With varying rates of interest, it is definitely not possible for everyone to fund their studies abroad without external funding. So ensure that you leave no stone unturned while searching for ways to reduce your costs. Most scholarships and financial aid offers require you to have an unconditional offer from a university abroad so must wait till you receive your acceptance letter for applying for a scholarship/financial aid/education loan.
5. Accept the letter
Now that all difficult times have passed, you must rejoice and accept your offer letter to confirm your attendance in the school of your choice. Remember to celebrate this victory as you have worked extremely hard for it.
How to prepare for the final move?
Once admission is secured and tuition fee is looked after, there are several other steps that you need to consider and a few other decisions that need to be made. These are as follows:
When the initial glory of victory has passed, it is time to think about lodging. Where will you live in a foreign country? Does your university offer accommodation on/off campus or will you have to find a home for yourself? These questions can be tricky. You probably do not have a lot of time to find a house before you have to make the final move. Hence, it is advised that you get in touch with your university regarding these queries because most universities help prospective students with housing. You can also connect with current students via social media and ask them for help or recommendations.
The most important step after getting your offer letter and accepting the place, you must apply for your VISA. While student VISAS do not take very long, you never know what may cause a problem. So make sure that you have all the requisite documents to apply for a VISA. Submit an error-free application and that actually might speed up the process of VISA request acceptance. You must also secure all funds for studying before applying for your VISA.
Make sure you have arranged all funds before moving there. It is extremely important because you are going to be responsible for yourself in a foreign country and without proper money, you will be completely lost.
Belongings you must pack
Pointers that need to be considered before you start packing are the amount of luggage you are actually allowed to carry with yourself and the climate of the country you are moving to. In all probability, you may be moving to an extremely cold country in the Arctic Zone from a tropical country. In that case, do proper research on how to keep yourself warm in extremely cold climates. The maximum temperature in these zones can be 11 to 12 degrees which is even lower than the lowest average temperature in your own country during winters. This is why you must pack effectively.
You can also do a little preparation of your own and learn the local language. While this is not a necessity, it is highly advised that you do so as it shows that you are eager to be a part of the country and its culture. People are more likely to welcome you with open arms due to your willingness to accept the foreign country. This also shows your respect towards their heritage.
Once you arrive in the country, follow the steps given below to ensure that the process of moving concludes effortlessly.
The first few days:
Some universities require you to take a week/month long integration programme before the official start of a term. Hence, you must reach the campus early. It is also important that you explore the local essential places that you may require to go to in cases of emergencies. Also, the most important task is getting a new phone with a new number. Make sure that you get the number registered in all your official documents as your international sim will most likely not function there. Also make sure you have adaptors and cables that go with the charging ports. Otherwise it can be a problem to charge your phones, laptops and tablets. Also, you must buy any last minute items that you could not bring from home within the first few days of arrival depending upon its level of importance.
Get accustomed to the study environment:
The methodology and teaching pattern in no two countries are the same. Hence, in order to get a proper hang of the study environment in your country, you must start early, consult your professors, teaching assistants and seniors regarding how you can prepare for your classes. Find study partners and get to work immediately. Afterall, this is what you came for in the first place. Understand what your professors expect and how you will be graded in your assignments and examinations. Understand the pattern of evaluation and work accordingly.
Get over the culture shock and the homesickness:
It is important to get over the initial culture shock that you are bound to experience, especially if you have moved continents. Do not be too expressive about it as it may offend the locals. Speak to your friends and families at home and admit to missing them regularly in order to get over the initial homesickness, especially if you are living alone for the first time.
There are no hard and fast rules that one must follow as they move abroad for their higher studies. What needs to be remembered is that you worked hard and went there for a reason. Make sure that you never lose sight of that reason or of your actual aim. This is going to be a life-changing experience for you. Hence, you must ensure that you have constant fun throughout the whole process and make memories of a lifetime. Be honest with yourself at all times and the experience will truly turn out to be extremely wholesome and fulfilling.