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.
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.
If you need help making up your mind, then call us right away.
Eligibility requirements vary by university and program. Typically students must be at least sophomore or junior standing at the time of departure. The minimum cumulative GPA usually varies between 2.50 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, while more competitive programs have a higher GPA requirement. Other qualifications may include a personal statement or letter of recommendation. Consult your home university and/or program provider for specifics, and plan accordingly so you can meet all of the requirements by the time you want to study abroad.
The sooner, the better! When you start early, you’ll have more time to research in depth and find a program that suits your personal and academic needs. You’ll also have more time to decide what type of experience you’re looking for in terms of location, immersion, duration, and cost. It is best to start planning at least one year and no later than one semester before you actually want to depart. Pay attention to application deadlines and apply once you’ve decided on your program (they can fill up quickly!).
If you feel overwhelmed by your options and need help deciding where to go, take a look at the study abroad section of Go Overseas. Here you’ll find a quick overview of what it’s like to study abroad in a particular region, as well as reviews of programs from past participants. Once you have chosen a country, you can even read tips on narrowing down your program and read reviews.
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 for programs starting in the fall (September/October), applications will generally be open from early in the year (January/February) until the middle of the year (June/July).
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 eight.
To work out the cost of studying abroad, you need to consider the average tuition fees for international students in your chosen country, as well as the cost of living.
As a point of reference, the average tuition fees for international students studying in the UK start at £10,000 (~US$14,200) a year, with an additional £12,180 (~US$17,300) per year needed to cover living costs (with more needed if you study in London).
In the US, the average yearly tuition fee is US$25,620 at public universities and $34,740 at private universities with an additional recommended budget of at least $10,800 to cover your living costs. With these yearly figures in mind, remember that undergraduate programs in the US tend to last a full four years.
In some countries, there are no tuition fees at all. Notable examples include Germany and Norway.
Although many international students may find it difficult to get a student loan to fund their studies, there is 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.
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:
- Passport photos for identification
- A statement of purpose
- Academic references/ letters of recommendation
- Certificate and transcripts of your secondary education
- Proof of English-language proficiency (e.g. a TOEFL/IELTS certificate, for schools in English-speaking countries), or other language tests
- Admissions test results (e.g. GMAT/GRE results, for graduate programs)
Congratulations, you’re in! Now, all that’s left to do is to prepare for your studies, pack up your life into a single (large) suitcase, get your travel documents in order, apply for your student visa, research your accommodation options, and look for funding… don’t panic, it’ll all be worth it!
In fact, as soon as you gain acceptance from a university, the first thing you should start to consider is your travel documentation. Ensure you have a valid passport and travel insurance, as well as a student visa if you need one. Make sure you have sufficient time to get your passport/visa approved so that you’ll be able to travel legally.
For more information on what documentation you’ll need to travel, you should visit the government website of your chosen country to find information for travellers, visitors and international students (e.g. Gov.uk for UK travel information). All the travel information you need should be listed on these official sites.
Alternatively, you can ask your university for guidance. Often, admissions departments will help you to prepare for your travels, and, in some countries, they even apply for the student visa on your behalf. Make sure you check with your university, however – don’t assume someone else is going to sort everything out.
Student visas are a big question for those who want to know how to study abroad, though not all international students will need one. If you’re an EU citizen planning to study in another EU country, for instance, you don’t need a visa.
However, as a rule of thumb, if you come from outside of your chosen country’s geographical region/continent, you will probably need to apply for a student visa. This usually only applies to longer periods of international study; if you’re participating in a shorter exchange, last three months or less, a tourist or visitor visa may suffice.
To find out for sure, check either with your chosen university or the government travel website of your country of study. For information on how to apply for a student visa, see the articles listed below.
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).
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.
This will depend on whether or not your student visa allows you to work. In some countries, there are restrictions on the amount of paid work you can undertake during your studies. Often there’s a limit of 20 hours’ paid work per week during term time, with full-time work permitted during holidays.
If you don’t need a student visa, it is more likely you’ll be able to work as many hours as you like, as long as this doesn’t affect your studies – but check with the university and/or official government site. If you do work during your studies, it’s not a good idea to rely on your wages to fund living costs, and in many cases, you’ll need to prove you already have enough money to support yourself when you apply for your visa.
There are many choices that can fit your time frame and budget. Programs are typically for the summer, semester, or academic year. If you aren’t able to spend many months away, short term travel study is also available, lasting only a few weeks. Another option that is often overlooked is the ability to study abroad multiple times. Students who choose to pursue more than one program abroad will often do a combination of semester and summer programs. Some students, however, will choose to spend back to back semesters abroad. Fall in Namibia and springtime in Germany? Sounds cool to me!
Many students who leave their comfort zone may encounter culture shock, homesickness or loneliness, financial issues, and language barriers. Remember to see these challenges as an opportunity for self-improvement, and the benefits of studying abroad will greatly outweigh the difficulties.
Studying abroad is an incredible life-changing experience, but before you jump in, you need to do your research and plan accordingly. Your advisors will be there to support you along the way. Good luck!
Many schools require a certain level of English proficiency. One of the most common ways to determine your level of English proficiency is through IELTS – the International English Language Testing System.
If you have any more questions regarding how to study abroad, that haven’t already been addressed, feel free to ask them. You can mail us your queries or you can call us. (followed by the contact form)