5 Questions To Ask When Picking A Study Abroad Destination
Meet schools from 25+ countries at the Study and Go Abroad Fair (happening Feb 25 – Mar 4 in Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto)
So you want to study abroad… but how are you supposed to make a decision when there are so many exciting places you could go?
We got in touch with Katie Idle from the Study and Go Abroad Fair (happening in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto this spring) to learn how you can pick the study abroad destination that’s right for you.
“There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a destination—some of which you might not expect,” said Katie. “Here are five questions that will help you with your decision.”
1. Do you want to learn a language?
If you’d like to learn a new language, the best way to do it is full immersion abroad. Many schools will give you the opportunity to take language courses in their home language at an introductory or more advanced level. There are also many language schools that you can choose to attend in various destinations, such as Academy Antonella Italian Language School or EPA! Español en Panama. It’s a great move, especially if you want to work internationally.
“However, these days you don’t need to speak another language to take a degree program in a non-English speaking country”, says Katie. “All the exhibitors at the Study and Go Abroad Fair offer programs in English.”
However, some people prefer to continue speaking English outside the classroom as well. This was the case for Melanie Murchison, who completed her PhD in Law at Queen’s University Belfast.
2. Which schools are ‘well-known’ for your area of study?
Depending on the program you’re interested in, different schools may offer more specialized courses or programs. For example, if you’re interested in studying medicine, selecting a school like Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, which ranks as the top medical school in Italy, might be the right choice.
“The college was the main attraction, since this institution has trained some of the best chiropractors from around the world,” says Kaitlyn Matheson, who studied in New Zealand.
Checking international school rankings is the best way to understand reputation. This can help you get a leg up in the international job market, or make it easier for you to apply for grad school in the future.
3. How easy is it to travel to and from your country of choice?
Many students see studying or working abroad as the perfect opportunity to travel, so the location of your chosen destination can make a big difference. For example, if you’re living in mainland Europe, flights are very cheap to other parts of the continent, or you could get a Eurorail pass to travel easily.
The ability to go see relatives and friends in other countries is also something to consider. This was certainly the case for Kirby Dick-Frank, who completed a degree in the Netherlands. “I’ve made friends from all around the world,” he says. “I’m definitely planning on visiting every single one of them in their home countries one day.”
It’s also important to consider less exciting factors like the need for a visa. “Some countries will require students to get a visa before coming to stay there, which could restrict your movements in and out of the country,” said Katie. “However, we have embassies at our fairs which can help with this process (it’s usually quite easy for Canadians).”
4. What’s the total cost?
In all the excitement of studying abroad, something that students might not always remember to consider is how much it will cost. Don’t forget that different countries’ currencies are valued very differently.
It’s also important to consider other costs, such as insurance and how you’ll set up your banking (or how to access your bank back home), says Alona Bazlova, who studied in Scandinavia. “I tried to find out as much information as possible about the university, the city, what things I might need to bring with me that might be very expensive abroad.”
The cost of housing in certain cities can also be much more expensive—or considerably cheaper—meaning that you’ll have to budget accordingly. For example, choosing to study at the Czech Technical University in Prague, a highly affordable city, might be a good choice if you want to be budget-conscious.
One more thing to consider is the length of your program.
“Degree programs abroad are frequently shorter than those in North America. For example, a bachelor’s degree could be three years instead of four, and a master’s program might only be one year,” said Katie.
This means that you’ll pay for both a year less of accommodation, and a year less of school, than you would at home. However, many schools offer bursaries and scholarships for international students who have chosen their school. Don’t forget to look into this as well for a little extra help!
5. Where do you most want to go?
Of course, don’t let all these other factors distract you from the last and most important question: what are you most interested in? Studying abroad should above all be an enjoyable, memorable experience for you, and choosing a destination that you’re passionate about will make the whole process a lot more exciting.
That’s how Malala Rakotondranaivo, who completed courses in finance at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, chose her destination. “Australia has always been one of my dream countries – its beaches, its beautiful scenery, its culture and the numerous parks that the country has,” she explained.
This can be the case both for how the country currently operates or even for its historical context. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn more about the French Revolution, why not go to Paris?
Whatever you choose, just remember: the world is your oyster, and you should have fun with it!