Have you been thinking of going overseas to learn a new language or pursue your higher education degree? You have spent countless hours researching online but still haven’t got a clear path of what is the first step you need to take. It’s daunting enough to investigate for a career in your own country – never mind deciding a course in another country and language. Right?
Well, here is the good news: Studying abroad is within your reach. It doesn’t really have to be that daunting. You just need the right information and clear steps at your disposal. All in one place in this very blog post.
Keep reading and I will walk you through the main 7 steps you need to take to make your dream of studying abroad a reality within the next few months.
But first, why study abroad?
Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn a new language and improve your career prospects. Studying overseas means that you are going to have a wealth of personal experiences, learn about a different culture and add something very important to your resume when you return home.
Let’s face it: Education abroad is being seen by emerging economies as an important part of the job market. For instance, an initiative from Brazil called Science without Borders aims to send 10,000 students to study in "the best and most relevant Universities around the World".
Even in the US, Michelle Obama has been recently in the news pointing the benefits of studying abroad for young adults.
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1. Do you have what it takes to study abroad?
Studying abroad may be an interesting and stimulating experience, but it can also be challenging. That's why you need to be absolutely sure that it is right for you. Ask yourself the following questions. Feel free to discuss them with friends and relatives to get their perspectives.
- Do I enjoy being away from home (meaning city, family and friends) for long periods of time?
- Am I comfortable taking care of myself?
- Do I enjoy meeting new people and exploring a new culture?
- If you have travelled abroad, how did you feel in the new place? If you have not been abroad, how will you feel being in an unfamiliar place?
- Is learning a new language exciting for you? Or do you prefer to study in your own language?
No matter how well prepared you are leaving home will be emotional but parents can certainly help to make your study abroad successful.
The personal and professional growth that you will acquire from studying abroad is likely to keep you focused and motivated, and this will probably outweigh your reasons to study in your home country. Just look at these experiences from other international students.
2. So, what and where are you going to study?
Choosing a course in your own country and language is hard enough, but figuring out what and where to study abroad makes it that much harder. To help you make a decision on the right place for you, check out the list of questions below.
Would you like to learn another language? English is by far the most popular language for International Students. According to Study travel Magazine (Dec 2013) the United Kingdom (UK) is the top destination for students wanting to learn English, with almost 50% of the total market share, followed by the United States of America (USA) with 16.8%, Canada with 11.2%, Australia 8.3% and Ireland with 7.9%.
Is it important for you to study in a country with a renowned education system such as the UK or Australia? What about attending the best university in a certain subject?
Would you like to study in a country that is rich in culture (such as France or the UK) or would you prefer a more modern country such as Australia or the USA?
Is part-time working while you study a priority for you, as well as opportunities for post-graduate work?
Would you be interested in participating in extra-curricular activities such as sports, arts and music?
Read this article from the Independent Newspaper in the UK to understand more about the different overseas study experiences depending on country and education systems around the world.
Choosing the best possible subject and course that suit your interests can seem a overwhelming task, with so many choices available. We recommend you work on the following list to narrow down your choices:
- What type of subject do you not want to study?
- Make a list of your main interests and what you enjoy doing.
- What type of job or career would you like to study towards?
- Visit jobsites and graduate careers sites such as Milkround to get a better understanding for your future career.
- Make a list of the top 5 subjects you like the sound of it and find some more information.
3. Course chosen, so what are the entry requirements?
The entry requirements are the things that you are expected to know before you are accepted to a certain course. Make sure you check the entry requirements when deciding on the course - this will determine your chances of getting into a particular course. These requisites are usually specified very clearly within the course information literature on the institutions website.
For English Language Courses, the entry requirements are usually related to the length of the time of the visa:
- English Language courses for less than 6 months usually do not require any English language ability prior application.
- For English language courses longer than 6 months, you must prove certain English ability for your application to be taken seriously by a college or university. In most cases, if you do not meet the right level of English language requirement, the academic institution will not consider your application. The authorities assume that if you have a genuine interest to learn English you would have already acquired a reasonable level of this language in your home country.
For Higher education Courses or above, we suggest you check for the following in relation to each different course you are considering:
- The previous qualifications, subjects and exam grades and their international equivalent you should have.
- The English language skills and English language test and minimum score accepted as proof of these skills.
- You might be asked to take an interview and/or an admission test to determine your suitability for the course.
- A brief description of other abilities, interests or experiences that can make your application stand out.
4. Let’s talk about finance
Studying abroad requires a great deal of money. The tuition fees for international students will vary per country, program and by course provider. These fees also usually have an annual increase. It is advisable that you research these thoroughly, along with the living costs to work out the full cost of studying abroad. Start planning as early as possible and be realistic about how much you need and what can you really afford.
Please note that when applying for your student visa you will have to include evidence on how you are planning to pay educational fees and living and travel costs.
The international student calculator developed by Brightside will help you to create a student budget for the UK. They also have some case studies which should give you some idea of the investment required for different courses. This is a breakdown of what you will need to pay the United States, although your financial responsibilities will vary depending on the location of your desired institution. The official site for the University of British Columbia gives you an estimate of how much it will cost you to live in Vancouver as an international student. The Australian department of immigration has a simple financial requirement tool available here.
5. Applying for the course
Once you are sure that you fulfil the requirements, you need to start getting your paperwork together. If your paperwork is in a language different from the one in the country that you are going to study in, you will likely need to have to these papers translated and notarized. Make sure to write a list of all the papers that need to be translated before you can send them over.
Your intended study institution will probably have a comprehensive list of what documents you need to send and how you need to address it. Some, for instance, will request both the original and the translated copy, sealed and with official stamps on it. Some will just need an official, notarized copy of your transcripts. If you are not sure, get in touch with us, your International Education Advisor and we will be able to help you.
After you have all your documents compiled, make sure to make a copy of them. Often, institutions do not give back documents for a long time, so make sure that you clarify whether they are going to give something back, particularly if it is something very important.
You will need to pay an application fee, which will vary by institution. The application fee is non-refundable, even if you are not accepted for a certain course. You will usually get an offer within the next few weeks. Make sure that you fill in the application properly, using the right spelling and the right birthday, as these may vary slightly from place to place.
6. Getting your student visa
Your institution should have a breakdown of everything that you need to make sure that you get your visa. Your visa is not optional: you must have a visa specifically to study in the country or you may not be accepted when you arrive in the country.
Visa requirements are different around the world. The type of visa may not just depend on where you are going, but also on where you are from. Usually, you need to have both your acceptance letter and proof that you or someone who is going to pay for your schooling and all other costs associated with living in a particular country. As a student, you are very unlikely to be able to get any benefits from that country, so they will want to make sure that you are not going to struggle. You will also need to fulfil other requirements. You are much less likely to be awarded a student visa if you have a criminal record, for instance. To be awarded a student visa to any country, you must:
- Have a permanent residence in your home country and intent to leave the country you are studying in after a certain amount of time.
- A valid passport.
- An acceptance letter from an accredited institution.
- Proof that you can afford living and studying abroad.
Each country usually have their own immigration related site where you can find further information or you can contact us and we will more than happy to provide guidance in this matter.
7. Preparing to go
If you have been accepted to the course that you were applying for, congratulations! Now comes the hard part: preparing to go. You will need to consider many things before you actually step off the plane and into your adventure abroad. Below are some top tips to make sure everything is ready before you move.
Where would you live?
- You need somewhere to live. What is easier than going to the institution accommodation’s office and asking them to find somewhere for you? You may be able to live with a host family that can show you the culture or in a residence hall where you can explore on your own.
- Make sure that your choice matches with your age. For instance, if you end up on a residential hall, make sure it’s the residential hall for graduate students instead of freshmen. That will make a huge difference in the level of connections and the lifestyle that you can have abroad.
- Be ready to share, or pay more. A big part of studying abroad is sharing your living quarters with other students, but if you are not into doing that or think it would affect you negatively, remember that you are probably going to have to pay more for a private living space.
Is it cold? Is it hot?
- If you live somewhere warm or equatorial, the weather is probably not a huge part of your life. If you lived abroad, that would change. Make sure that you know what is in store for you by looking at weather forecasts and weather information from the past year, too.
- Cold weather doesn’t just mean bundling up. It means overages, dark days and difficult transportation. If you are going somewhere cold, make sure you come prepared for these challenges.
- Hot weather doesn’t just mean pool parties. Hot weather presents its own challenges, including tropical diseases, electrical overages and other dangers you may not have thought about. The bottom line is, whatever the weather, make sure to be prepared.
- Depending on the country that you are from or the countries you have travelled to, you may be required to have certain vaccinations before you can travel, if you do not already have them on your record.
- Some places will require that you purchase some sort of insurance before you travel, to ensure that you are covered if you ever need medical help.
These are just some of the most important tips that you need to remember before you go on your adventure. I don’t need to remind you of the most important one: Have fun and make some amazing memories!
What do you think? Where are you heading abroad? Let’s hear from you on the comments below. I will make sure to answer any questions you might have.
Also, remember here at International Education Advisor we will be exploring each of these steps further. So sign up now to receive our FREE Study Abroad Students Guide and to receive our weekly newsletter with actionable tips to help you get closer to your Study Abroad dream.