As many colleges and universities as there are to pick from in the United States, some students find that their educational needs are better met elsewhere. Who chooses to study abroad? Well, there are two main reasons to consider going to college in another country.
The first is to save money by getting a quality education in a less expensive system. The second is to have an immersion experience in another culture and, in many cases, language. Whatever your reasons for considering foreign education, there’s a lot to think about before you pack your bags.
American schools can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, and as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars over four years. Schools in other countries can be much cheaper—if the idea of travel appeals to you and you can handle being geographically separated from your family, this might be an option for you! Keep in mind that your ability to work and earn money while on a student visa can be considerably limited or completely prohibited.
When making financial calculations about schools abroad, take the cost of living into account, too—you may be staggered by the costs of living in Copenhagen, or delighted at the cost of living in Chiang Mai. Combined with travel costs, going to school in a foreign country may not be the deal it appears to be at first, so budget costs carefully. If you can make a connection with American students in your country of choice you’ll get the inside scoop on the challenges they’ve faced, both financial and cultural, which is invaluable information in making your decision.
While most American colleges and universities have study abroad programs that allow you to travel for a summer, semester, or year, they don’t always offer the kind of immersion experience that is necessary to attain true familiarity with the complexities of another culture. If you want to study another culture and language, there’s no substitute for living and learning there.
What goes into a “college education” is cultural, and not all cultures have similar systems. In some countries, like Germany, you are expected to have started developing a speciality before beginning college. In others, like Canada, the system is more similar to the American one in which students declare a major after getting a taste of college and fulfilling some general requirements. Laws differ by country as well—take the time to make sure you won’t have any problem obeying the ones where you wish to go to school!
Of course it is easier to get used to life in a new place if you already speak the language fluently. But if you choose to go to school abroad, your world will definitely be turned upside down—that’s true regardless of where you go or what language is spoken there. From toothpaste brands to breakfast foods to how you say hello, every little aspect of life will take on new meaning. Are you up for the challenge? There’s only one way to find out!
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
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