The price of quality education has always been high, but it has grown to the magnitude where only the very affluent and those with a scholarship can afford to attend post-secondary institutions without bringing on a life-long loan along with the risk of not acquiring a good enough job to cover monthly payments.
One solution that talented and ambitious students have started to consider is studying abroad. Though prices of tuition for international students is high, it can still be lower than that at an American university. Additionally, the lucky ones who have dual citizenship with another country can sometimes qualify as a domestic student, vastly cutting the cost of their education, some even getting it for free.
However, this doesn’t mean you can choose any country or university and it will bring you an amazing experience which you will treasure for the rest of your life. The realities are that this time abroad is an investment in your future (with immediate savings compared to American university programs), and should be considered carefully and deliberately.
Here are some things to think about when selecting a university at which to study abroad:
- Level/Quality of Education
If you study business in some tiny, unknown university in a foreign country, you are likely just wasting your time. Though the experience of studying there might be out of this world, you need a reputable name or rank position to make this “foreign investment” worth it, especially if you hope to return to North America to work. Even if you have never heard of the university you are applying to, see what the national and international rankings say of it, inquire about the reputation among professionals in the field you are looking to work in, and do your own research about the level and quality of education it provides. Though your university name isn’t everything and your knowledge and experience are worth a lot, employers often don’t have a way to test you, but rather depend on the reputation of your program to give a representation of your skills.
When you are looking at the overall cost of studying abroad, don’t forget to include all of your expenses, including rent, food, entertainment, travel, and of course tuition. Sometimes you’ll find that a city offering a cheaper degree might be more expensive to live in and vice versa. Interview a couple of current students if possible to get a better understanding of what your total costs will be and whether it makes fiscal sense for you to leave the country to complete your education.
Culture shock is a real thing. People from small towns sometimes lose themselves in the hustle and bustle of the big city while city kids are bored in the quite more rural locations. This is only the tip of the iceberg if you are thinking of studying abroad. You could be surrounded by people who speak a different language, and have completely different customs and traditions than you do. It’s best to visit the place you are considering studying in, or at least enrolling in a volunteer program where local students will help you navigate the new world you are in.
If you are used to hitting the gym every morning or have special needs in terms of recreation, health, or diet, you should research how available these services are in the place you are looking to move to. If you are in the middle of your orthodontic treatment, you’ll be able to find a clinic specialized in Invisalign and orthodontic treatment in the region of Montreal, though you might have a harder time if you choose to study in rural Croatia. If the internet can’t give you the results you want, try calling the enrollment office and ask them to help you figure out whether your needs can be met by the school and the services available in the local area.
You might think that you only really need to get to your school once and then leave at the end, but we all know that you will be traveling home at least a few times a year for important celebrations, vacations, and to reconnect with family and friends. Are the costs of traveling to and from your campus going to make or break the budget you have established? If so, is still worth it? Do you trust yourself to control the number of times you travel home and back? How will the first and the final moves look?
Studying aboard is an amazing opportunity which can open your eyes to a different culture and lifestyle while filling your mind with a more cost-effective education. Though it will provide you with the experience of a lifetime, make sure that all the aspects of your living there have been explored, including the costs, the adapting to a foreign culture, the available services, and most importantly the value of the education you are procuring. When in doubt, ask to be put in contact with international students who are in or have finished the program. They will give you the most realistic perspective on this interesting opportunity.