1.Why study abroad?
There are many reasons why study abroad programs are becoming so popular. For most international students, the appeal is likely to be a combination of gaining a high-quality education, experiencing immersion in a new culture (and often a second language), gaining a global mindset and expanding future employment prospects.
For some, the prospect of leaving home and heading off into the unknown is daunting, but studying abroad is also an exciting challenge that often leads to improved career opportunities and a broader understanding of the way the world works. The type of experience you have during your time abroad will vary hugely depending on where you go, so make sure to pick a study destination based on your own personal interests as well as the country’s academic reputation, in order to keep a healthy work/play balance.
2. Where in the world should I study?
Choosing where in the world you wish to study is not always an easy task. As well as your own personal interests you should think about practicalities such as the costs of studying in that country (both tuition costs and living costs), your graduate career prospects (is there a good job market?) and your overall safety and welfare.
You should also think about what sort of lifestyle you wish to have during your studies. Do you want to live in a big city or a small university town? Do you want arts and culture on your doorstep or world-class sporting facilities? Whatever your interests, be sure to match them up with your study destination so that you really give yourself the best chance of loving your international experience.
3. How do I get started?
Once you’ve made up your mind about where you want to study, you should start to think about choosing a program and a university, if you haven’t already. You can research leading universities online and use the programme rankings to discover universities which are best for your programme, and also consult national rankings of universities in your chosen destination. You’ll then want to look closely at the courses offered by the institutions on your short list, as well as researching the local area and lifestyle, admission requirements and costs.
Once you’ve firmly decided on your program and institution, you should start to think about your application(s). Application processes differ depending on the university and the country, but generally each institution will provide full details of how to submit your application on the official website.
In some cases there is a “two-step application process” for international students. This means you must submit two applications: one for a place at the university and one for a place on the course itself. This should be clearly stated on the university’s website. If you still have questions about the process, you should contact your chosen university directly.
If you think you might need a student visa, remember that in most cases you won’t be able to apply for one until you have received a letter of acceptance from your chosen university. Each stage can take several months, so allow as much time as possible.
4. How long do study abroad programs take?
The length of time you spend studying abroad will depend on the program and level of degree you’re undertaking. Generally, an undergraduate degree will take three or four years of full-time study (for example, in the UK the typical length for most subjects is three years, while in the US the norm is four), while a graduate degree such as a master’s degree or equivalent will take one or two years. A doctoral (PhD) program will usually take three to four years.
At many universities across the world, there is also the option of studying abroad for a shorter period of time. Student exchange programs allow you to study abroad for a year, a semester or even just a few weeks. Information about these shorter programs should be available on the website of the main university you plan to enroll at, as well as the university you’d like to be hosted by.
5. When can I start applying for study abroad programs?
Considering your application as early as possible is the best way to go. After all, the sooner you gain acceptance into a university, the sooner you can arrange your travels. To avoid disappointment, note down all the relevant application deadlines (set out by your chosen university) in HUGE LETTERS on your calendar.
Application deadlines will be different depending on the school, but generally speaking, for programs starting in the fall (September/October), applications will be open from early in the year (January/February) until the middle of the year (June/July).
6. What are the requirements for study abroad programs?
Entry requirements vary widely between universities and between countries, so be sure to check the information provided by your prospective university before submitting anything.
Speaking generally, however, if you are applying for an undergraduate degree you will be asked to show that you have completed your secondary education to a standard that is in line with the required grades (e.g. your GPA, A-level grades or equivalent) for the program you’re applying to. If you have an international qualification and are unsure whether this is accepted, you should contact the admissions department of the university.
For non-native English speakers wanting to study in English-speaking countries, it is also highly likely that you’ll need to provide proof of your English-language proficiency by taking an English-language test such as TOEFL or IELTS. Similar tests may be required for those studying in other languages. For more information about language tests, refer to question 8.
7. What documents should I submit with my application?
You may be asked to provide some supporting documentation as part of your application. Once again, requirements vary depending on the country and university, but international students are often asked to provide the following:
1. Passport photos for identification
2. A statement of purpose
4. Academic references/ letters of recommendation
5. Certificate and transcripts of your secondary education
6. Proof of English-language proficiency (e.g. a TOEFL/IELTS certificate, for schools in English-speaking countries), or other language test
7. Admissions test results (e.g. GMAT/GRE results, for graduate programs)
8. How can I get financial support to study abroad?
Although many international students may find it difficult to get a student loan to fund their studies, there are a myriad of other funding opportunities available to make studying abroad more affordable, including scholarships, fellowships, studentships, sponsorships, grants and bursaries.
Your chosen university is perhaps the best place to get funding information relevant to you, so make sure to scour the school’s website for advice, or contact the school directly. This is also where information about study abroad scholarships offered by the university and other external organizations can be found, along with details regarding eligibility and how to apply.
Many scholarships are granted based on academic merit, and are highly competitive. There are also lots of funding schemes targeting specific groups of students, such as students from developing countries and women studying male-dominated subjects.
9. Where can I find study abroad scholarships?
Study abroad scholarships can be found in many places! Your first port of call will be the website of your chosen university, where you’ll find information on available scholarships. Sometimes the university will also list external scholarships, such as those offered by the government or business partners of the school. If not, you should research governmental schemes in your home country and your country of study, as well as funding offered by external organizations relating to your field of study (e.g. an engineering firm might offer a scholarship for engineering students).
10. How do I find the right accomodation outside my university?
If your chosen university has readily available campus accommodation, it is likely that you will be able to apply for a place in these student halls. If this is not the case, you will need to find your own accommodation.
If money is no object, you can consider renting your own flat, while those on a smaller budget can find shared accommodation with other students or use spare room listings found online. In all cases, you should make sure you do your research before signing anything or handing over any money. Your university’s student support team and student union should also offer advice on how to find accommodation locally.