At first, the decision to go study abroad may seem like an easy one. Who doesn’t want the opportunity to explore an entirely different country and culture while meeting inspiring people from all over the world along the way? But is it right for you? And if so, are you ready?
Many prospective study abroad students tend to have doubts about whether or not they are ready to take their studies overseas. There are many important things to consider before deciding if you should study abroad.
To help you make a decision, we have made a list of nine questions to ask before studying abroad that will ease your uncertainty.
Will studying abroad help me meet my long-term goals?
If you’re already thinking about studying abroad, you likely have some ideas of the benefits that it might bring you, but have you explored them?
Students go abroad for very different reasons. According to Study Abroad Survey, top reasons include achieving career goals, experiencing a new culture, accessing higher quality teaching, and personal development.
Everyone is different, and you may have a range of options. Exploring your motivations will help you ensure that you’re making a good decision and will also help you begin to narrow down locations and schools.
Is there a country or city that suits me?
If you have never been abroad before, perhaps all you know about a foreign country is what you have seen in movies or on Instagram. Although this is a good start, it’s important to have a deeper understanding of your motivations for moving your studies to a new country.
Ask yourself what type of culture you would like to explore, and what values are most important to you in a society. In Study Abroad Survey, students choose their country of study based most frequently on the cost of living, the language and culture, and the safety and socioeconomic climate of the nation.
Wondering where to study abroad?
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Pay attention to what exactly makes you interested or curious about a prospective city or country. It could be the language, the environment, or maybe the cultural traditions. These considerations will give you an idea of what to think about as you wonder how to decide where to study abroad. Your study abroad program will be worth it if you are fully enjoying all aspects of your new setting.
When you find a country that speaks to your values and vision, you’ll want to begin researching specific cities or universities, as culture, cost of living, safety, and other factors can vary widely.
Are there schools and programs that match my interests?
If you’re asking yourself: ‘Should I study abroad?’, a huge factor will be the opportunities that a foreign institution could offer you. By opening up your choice of university internationally, you’ll have a great chance of finding a school that matches your academic and social interests.
While some students prefer to research a country or city first, others prioritize the program or school in which they could enter.
According to Study Abroad Survey, the most popular ways students evaluate schools to study abroad are according to perceptions of teaching quality , general reputation, career services and industry connections, and accommodation factors.
Am I ready to move away from home?
Eventually, almost everyone moves away from home. However, moving abroad for the first time as a young student may make the distance between you and your family and friends seem bigger. Even if it is not your first time away from home, the decision to travel and study abroad on your own can be a challenging one.
You should consider your family obligations and commitments and whether those can be met through virtual communication. You might also think about prioritizing your studies in the short term for the opportunities it will bring in the future.
If you’re worried about meeting new people while studying abroad, you should know that many schools offer support networks for international students in addition to the other student activities on the menu!
Will studying abroad fit my budget?
Although there are usually many discounts and special offers available for students, studying abroad can still be expensive. When asking yourself: should I study abroad?, It is helpful to consider all of your expenses beforehand, especially if you do not plan on working while abroad.
Understanding the cost of tuition, housing, food, and extracurricular activities will help determine affordability as well as your extra funds for traveling or going out with your new friends. If you plan your budget in advance, you will be better prepared upon arrival to make sure you are living within your means.
If you are unsure if you have enough money, or if you would feel better if you had just a little more, consider applying for scholarships. Research which scholarships you are eligible for and pay attention to due dates.
Do you feel ready to study abroad?
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Do I know how to find study abroad accommodation?
Finding housing can be a challenge when you are thinking about how to go abroad. Housing can be expensive, especially in big cities. Furthermore, it may also be hard to navigate the housing market of another country, especially if listings are in a language that is not your own.
Despite these challenges, finding housing is possible! It is worth inquiring with universities to see if they offer international students accommodation. If this option is not available, university housing offices are usually willing to assist students in their search.
Spend some time considering what kind of accommodation you are willing to live in. Are you comfortable living on your own or would you prefer to live with roommates? Are you happy to share a room with another student? It’s important to consider this in advance, as your new living situation may be a big adjustment to what you are used to.
Am I ready to meet new people from different cultures?
Cultural exchange is both gratifying and meaningful for all involved. However, because it is so personal, it is important to consider if you are comfortable having your own values and traditions questioned or challenged. Just as you will have questions for people about their cultural background, other international students may have questions for you.
To some extent, you must be prepared to become a representative of your country. Likewise, it is best to approach others with an open mind, all the while understanding that a single person in no way represents an entire group, just like you do not represent the views and opinions of all your fellow citizens.
Many study abroad students consider meeting new people from around the world to be one of the most rewarding aspects of their international experience. Not only will you learn about other cultures and ways of life, but you will also share and gain a new perspective of your own worldview.
What do I need to know about the visa process?
On a practical note regarding how to go abroad, before applying to a program, you need to know the logistics of moving to that country. In many cases, you will need to know how to get a student visa.
If you are studying through an exchange organized by a university in your home country, the school will often sort out the details of obtaining a visa. However, if you are studying an entire program abroad, this step is often left to you. Start researching the visa process in advance, as some countries have strict requirements. Check out country guides to understand more about resident permits and student visas in specific locations!
How can I personally and professionally benefit from studying abroad?
It is a great idea to consider the many possible benefits of studying abroad in advance.
While some people study abroad to gather specialized skills to market themselves professionally, others are seeking to establish an international network of connections. There are also students who aim to learn as much as they can about another culture, which is a worthy plan in itself. The potential for study abroad to be life-changing for your personal and professional life is substantial.
Surveys report that most students have a positive experience abroad, on average current students ranked their experience as over 4 out of 5 stars. Your experience will be even richer if you consider specific goals and expectations as you decide if you are ready to study abroad.
Realistic mental preparation is the key step in determining if you should go study abroad. If you have already considered the questions above, this is a good sign that you are ready to take the next steps and apply for an exciting program!
If you haven’t thoroughly considered these questions, don’t be discouraged. No matter how prepared you try to be, your study abroad experience is guaranteed to be full of surprises — which is one of the most exciting parts! There will never be a dull day as an international student.