Studying abroad opens up a wealth of opportunities to broaden your life experiences, your language skills, your confidence and your employment opportunities.
You may have a compulsory time abroad as part of your course or you may have decided you'd like to have the opportunity to study overseas. Whatever the case you should research well before you go and make sure you are prepared. Either pop in to your careers centre on campus or speak to the person in your Study Abroad office.
If it is a compulsory part of your course there will usually be a decent preparation programme for you before you go, developing the language if necessary. You don't always need to speak a second language as you can opt to study in a country that speaks your first language.
Erasmus is a European Commission exchange programme that enables students in 31 European countries to study for part of their degree in another country. Over 150,000 students take part in the programme every year. You can go for as little as one term, right up to a whole year, and there are grants available to help you afford it. Wide-ranging courses offer the opportunities to take part in an Erasmus scheme, however many of them are very good at keeping quiet about them. If you are interested in taking part ask your department whether they run the scheme.
- Non-EU countries
Contact the embassies to find out what higher education links exist. For example, the USA's Fulbright Commission promotes educational and cultural exchange between the USA and the UK and makes awards to some graduates. American Studies courses may offer the third year of a four-year course over in the States. If you can't find a study programme you may be able to do a work placement instead.
The whole course
You can do a whole degree abroad if you so wish, but there are several things to consider when making this decision...
- What course
Don't choose where to go by country alone, it will be much better if you work out what courses you like the look of, and then see where you can study them. Check that the university you are considering is regionally accredited to ensure that your degree is recognised by employers.
While this is less of an issue for short courses, if you are planning on spending three years somewhere you should either go somewhere they speak English or learn the language of where you want to go. It is possible to take courses that are taught in English, but if you've decided to take a course in the national lingo make sure your language skills are up to speed. You may be able to chat with peers but can you really understand complex academic terms? Courses can be hard enough work without the added stress of not understanding what tutors are saying.
You/your parents will have to prove that they have sufficient funds to cover all the costs for at least the first year in order to receive a student visa. Fees vary considerably from $3000 - $25,000 per year. While there are some scholarships, they are few and far between and usually for the best academic students, so it is most likely you will have to pay your own way. However some universities offer scholarships for sports and arts students. If you get support/loans through your LEA, you will probably still receive this when abroad but do let them know you are going well in advance.
You could also ask for a year off to volunteer abroad.
- The European Voluntary Service
The EVS offers 18-25 year olds voluntary placements across Europe for six to twelve months. To get a place you need to find a charity/organisation that sends volunteers over and negotiate the time off from your degree. Travel, food, lodgings, training and a monthly allowance will be provided.
- Youth For Development
This is the VSO's training scheme for students who wish to work with grass-roots development agencies all over the world. The competition is fierce, and the selection process lengthy. Successful students are expected to raise £500 towards the cost of their placement, which will cover all their travel and living expenses. They will also be provided with a small allowance.
If all the above fails...
You could travel in your holidays, take a gap year before you go, and/or do your field trips or final year project/dissertation abroad.
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