Watch out world, here you come! Whether for a term or for your whole post-secondary journey, studying abroad is an exciting opportunity that offers a unique cultural experience and, in some cases, the first step towards an international career.
In the workplace, employers may see your studying abroad experience as a reflection of your cultural mobility and maturity, making you stand out from other candidates. In fact, international students studying in the UK made up 20.7% of the student population in 2020 alone whilst 24,000 students from the UK chose to study abroad the following year.
We’ve tailored some key considerations below at every point of your decision-making: from when you’re still considering whether this may be the right option for you, up to the point when you’re all packed and ready to go!
Why Should I Study Abroad?
For some, studying abroad can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where you’ll be exposed to a different way of life, meet new people, and experience all sorts of exciting foods and landscapes! Moreover, in an increasingly global world, it’s important to build international connections and develop transferable skills.
Having said that, whilst an obvious advantage of studying abroad, the overseas experience is only second to selecting the right subject and course for you! In fact, most students that study abroad are studying towards a language degree, which makes sense considering that one of the main advantages is building on foreign language skills and fluency.
In some cases, students want a world-class education from other leading international universities whilst others may want to consider universities which teach specialised courses not offered in the UK (or if you’re an international student in the UK, the reverse may be true!).
No matter your reasons, it’s imperative to do your research and consider all of your options carefully.
Research the University and Course
Now that you’ve come to the decision to study abroad, you’ll need to consider where and what to study! Did you know that the United States boasts some of the world’s best universities to study social sciences and that France enjoys one of the most renowned animation schools in the world?
After you’ve chosen your place of study, keep on top of deadlines and important forms like when to submit your application or how to apply for a student visa. Likewise, if you’re applying as part of a placement abroad with your UK university, liaise with your respective department and foreign study coordinators regularly. With their help, you will be able to learn more about the modules you’re interested in taking and discuss any areas of additional support you may need.
UCAS offers an excellent summary of what to expect depending on where you’ve applied.
Learn About the Country You’ll be Living in
Congratulations on being accepted to the university or module of your choice abroad! You know better than to kick up your feet and relax until your flight - take the time to look up where it is you’re jetting off to so you know exactly what to expect when you land.
Have you thought about…
Your host country’s customs and values?
From overarching ideals (like collectivist and individualistic cultures) to specific cultural norms (like taking your shoes off indoors or eating with your left hand), it’s important to exercise common courtesy wherever you end up and to avoid offending the locals! Culture shock is a real problem and going prepared will help mitigate any negative effects you face.
Whether your language skills are up to scratch?
Even if your classes will be taught in English, it’s never too late to have a quick Duolingo session or remedial language practice in order to brush up on the language you will be hearing day-in, day-out! This will help you in everyday life: from navigating public transport and ordering food to integrating yourself in your new community.
Where you’ll be living?
Will you be boarding in university accommodation? Will you be staying with family or friends you may already have in the country? If you plan to rent, have you contacted local rental agencies yet?
What will you be doing during the holiday period?
Spending Christmas alone in a foreign country is probably not everyone’s idea of a good time! Work out when holiday periods are and whether you would be able to book intermittent flights home. If you’re staying abroad, are you legally allowed to work in the country? Some student visas do not allow self-employment, but do allow for part-time employed work.
Have you signed up for a new phone plan? Bought adaptors for your electronic devices? Contacted your existing bank? The possibilities are practically endless, so write everything down in a list and go through each item step-by-step.
Seek a Support System
Packing and moving to another country away from what you are familiar with is a struggle for anyone. To ease the transition, find a support system by joining an expat community or finding like-minded people in a club or society at your university. Depending on your university, you will most likely have access to student services that not only offer academic support, but also mental health resources.
Most importantly, keep in touch with the support system you already have! Schedule frequent calls and stay in contact with your family and friends to ease your feelings of homesickness.
Enjoy Life Abroad!
Like any other university student, one of your top priorities should be to keep on top of your workload and academics, but don’t forget to just enjoy the time you have in a new country, experiencing new and exciting things! Make friends, explore, and see the world.
Blog Post Crafted by Cheryl
Cheryl manages our Admin Team, and is a qualified teacher with 5 years' experience in schools across England and Canada.
Cheryl graduated from McMaster University with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce and a Minor in English, and from University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Education, with a specialisation in Aboriginal Studies. She tutored secondary school students in English for over nine years in Canada.
Cheryl speaks Cantonese, English and French, and in her spare time, she can be found illustrating and reading children’s books for inspiration.