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You may have already decided that getting a university education is something you want to do. But have you decided where to attend university? Going to the closest institution to where you live is the choice most students make. And going abroad for one semester during the degree is another popular choice. But why not go abroad for the full degree? Few students consider this option, which is sad as there are many benefits to getting your degree abroad.
Disclaimer: this article is mostly geared towards those from the United States, Canada, and other countries with high tuition costs and stringent admissions.
With that in mind, these are 11 benefits to getting your degree abroad:
One the biggest benefits to getting your degree abroad is an easier admissions process. It’s no secret that gaining admission into a university in North America is incredibly competitive, and only getting worse! While I have my undergrad, if I had to go back and apply again with the same grades I had in high school, I don’t think I would get it. In fact, a few years ago when I was applying for masters, I was rejected by all Canadian institutions. But I did get into University of Copenhagen, which is ranked much higher!
So I was “forced” to attend a better institution abroad because I was rejected at home.
Furthermore, the application system is also easier and more straight forward abroad. You (likely) won’t need any reference letters, personal essays, sports, volunteering, or any other extracurricular activities. This really simplifies the process of applying and makes it fairer to the students who didn’t have such opportunities growing up. And if you’re applying for graduate programs, it’s also unlikely that you will need to take any pricey standardized tests like the GRE.
It’s well-known t that same countries like the U.S. and even Canada have some high tuition costs. And if you plan on living away from home, you’ll be spending even more money. Between tuition costs, textbooks, and living expenses you can expect to spend at least 20,000 CAD per year as a domestic student in Canada! Which is supposedly “cheap” compared to the United States.
By going abroad, you can save money on all those expenses. Yes, even on textbooks! When I studied in Canada, the average science textbook was around 200 CAD. When I did my masters in Copenhagen I found that similar textbooks were the equivalent of around 150 CAD. And I only needed to buy 3 textbooks because most courses did not require them!
Moreover, when going abroad, it’s unlikely that you will have to pay “hidden fees” in addition to your tuition. These include mandatory gym membership on campus, SU fees, health insurance, and so on. The tuition universities abroad advertise is often the final price; no other taxes or fees are added on top.
Additionally, there are some countries like Germany that don’t charge any tuition. And this also applies to international students! Plus between accommodation and food expenses, living in most places in Germany is significantly less expensive than living on/ near college campuses in North America.
Another benefit is that some universities don’t charge you an application fee. This means that you can apply to as many institutions as you wish and increase your likelihood of admission.
Not only that you may pay less per year to study abroad, but study programs are also shorter. For example, most undergraduate degrees in Europe take 3 years of full time study to complete, while in North America they take 4 years. Thus you not only get to save money on expenses, but you also get to move on with your life faster. Not that university isn’t a nice period of life, but earning money and being independent is better!
One reason why this is possible that European programs are more specialized and don’t have unnecessary prerequisites. For example, if you are going to study chemistry, the university won’t make you take arts classes and vice versa. Which I would say is another benefit, and that brings me to my next point.
I read many on Quora argue that the last year of high school (the A levels) in the U.K. is equivalent to first year undergraduate in North America. Although I never attended any school in the U.K. I am fairly sure that’s wrong. I attended both high school and undergraduate in Canada and they really kicked my butt. You many not believe me, but I found my masters program in Copenhagen to be at times easier and at time just as challenging as high school in Canada. And my British classmates didn’t seem to have an academic advantage to me. Quite the opposite.
Thus I think it’s accurate of me to claim that education in North America is more challenging than in Europe. And not only are courses easier, there are also fewer of them. In my experience, the terms in Denmark were much shorter and I only took two classes at a time. This made it easier for me to focus on each class rather than trying to balance 5 or more at once. Moreover, most exams were open book, which means you can use all your notes and textbook during the exam. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to not have to memorize random values, numbers, formula, latin names, etc. In the end I learnt more due to the lower stress levels. And that makes me question North American education systems.
Despite education being much easier, the average wage in Denmark is higher and workers are more productive than their North American counterparts. And no one thinks of Danish people as being less intelligent than North Americans. So is all that studying and unnecessary grind really worth it at the end of the day? I’m staring to believe all that work-life balance thing might be onto something.
In other countries, campus life isn’t a thing. In fact most countries don’t even have designated university campuses. University buildings are scattered throughout the city and you go to whichever building is designated to your faculty. It is likely that all your classes will be in one building, and you won’t have to run around from building to building trying to make it to class on time.
Additionally, everyone in your study program is likely to have the same class schedule as you. This means that you won’t take course A with one person and course B with another person. Thus, as you’re spending more time with the same people, it is easier to get to know them and build deeper connections.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most universities abroad don’t typically have gyms or a large students’ union. You go there to attend classes and that’s about it. There are no sororities or other distractions/ expectations for you participate in. Life is easier.
With a lighter course load and simpler student life, it is easier to work while attending university. And there are many benefits to this. First of all you get to see how business abroad manage their affairs compared to businesses at home. Observing the flaws and benefits of each system teaches you a lot about productivity and good management. Additionally, working allows you to meet new people and make friends. But most of all, you can earn money. Money which you can use for expenses so you can graduate without debt. Or you could travel and enjoy life during school breaks.
However work doesn’t have to include paid jobs. If money is not an issue for you, you can use your spare time to explore hobbies. It was the free time I had between classes and studying during my masters degree that allowed me to think and research. It was during that time that I learnt about blogging and planed the start of this blog. I would have never had the time for that during my undergrad in Canada.
If you are attending a higher ranked institution, like I did, you will already be seen as a better qualified applicant when applying for jobs. Plus many universities abroad will have you do some sort of internship/ industry project during your last year or semester of study. As a result, you will come back with practical, real life experience that you may have access to as home.
In addition to that, you also would have acquired skills like thinking outside the box and communicating with those from different cultures. Most companies try to hire a diverse pool of employees to minimize groupthink. And with your foreign credentials and life experience you will make yourself a very unique hire.
Speaking of employability, this may be one of the biggest benefits to getting your degree abroad. Many countries abroad are much faster when it comes to adapting education to current trends and technologies. So if you want to study something like a bachelors in applied AI, your best bet would be to go abroad.
On the topic of what’s not available in your home country, you will have so many new experiences while studying abroad. From new cultures, new languages, to a whole new way of thinking and living, going abroad will truly open your eyes.
It was shocking to me how many people were starting businesses in Denmark. In Canada, everyone just wants their university degree and a job. No one ever speaks or considers starting a business. I used to think that starting a business was the hardest thing in the world, but studying abroad really changed my view on that. And that’s not something I would have expected to gain from a health-related degree.
You really don’t know in which ways your study abroad experience will change you. And that brings me to the next point.
Of course that moving abroad and being away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known won’t be easy. But with challenge comes growth. If this is your first time living independently, going abroad will teach you a lot of skills. You will learn how to apply for a student visa, open a bank account abroad, read maps and navigate a foreign city, how to use a foreign washing machine, and more. This experience will bring you out of your shell and make you more confident, independent, and reliable.
You may also be able to pick up a foreign language. With apps like Duolingo you can learn a little bit of vocabulary. But when you’re out and about, surrounded by locals you pick up the language much faster.
You will come back with more creative problem-solving skills. And you will also be more aware of what you need/ want in order be happy and live a fulfilling life.
Lastly, you will have more opportunities by getting your degree abroad. As a national, it is always easy to go back to your country. But moving abroad is not so easy. With a foreign degree, it makes it easier to stay in your new country after graduation.
Moreover, if you attend a university that connects students with industry partners for their final project, you may graduate with a job waiting for you. I cannot tell you what a blessing that is.
Furthermore, there are additional individual and situational opportunities. For example being able to graduate with low/ no student debt. Starting your working life free of debt in another big blessing. Being able to work during studies and investing early. Being able to travel to foreign countries during short term breaks, and so on.