Want to know how to study abroad? Our guide explains the steps, from course search to travelling on a student visa. We also answer study abroad FAQs.
Motivation to study abroad
Studying abroad is a great way of gaining a qualification. You get to experience living in another country.
- The popularity of studying abroad grows every year.
- Millions of international students travel to universities and colleges across the globe.
- Surveys of graduates show that most people, almost 9 out of 10, are glad they did it.
Studying abroad is not that difficult. The process can be explained in 5 steps.
Step 1: Passport and study funds
To be in a position to study abroad, you need a passport and study funds. A passport is required for any international travel and you can use it as an identity document when applying for courses, visas, etc. Study funds are needed to pay up-front tuition fees and to demonstrate you can cover living costs.
Step 2: Apply for courses
You need to choose a course and apply for entry to universities or colleges. Start early (at least several months before you want to travel) to avoid time pressures.
While there are many different ways of finding courses, one approach is to first select preferred destinations (countries and cities). Then research individual universities and colleges located there, along with the courses they offer.
Education providers will ask for evidence of your academic record and, for some courses, work history. You may also need to demonstrate language skills if you will be learning in another language. Some providers also conduct aptitude tests or ask for results on standard admission tests for the country.
Step 3: Accept a course placement
Hopefully, the application process is successful and you receive at least one offer of a placement in a course. It is usually easier to accept an offer and receive confirmation of enrolment before moving on to the next step. In accepting an offer, you may be required to pay a deposit and undertake to pay part or all of your tuition fees before the course starts.
Step 4: Apply for a student visa
Almost all international students travel using a student visa. This is issued by the country where you are studying. It allows you to enter the country and have an extended stay while completing the course.
To get a visa, documents you need to supply include identification, details about the course, a medical certificate and evidence of adequate language skills. Some countries, such as the USA and UK, require you to attend a short interview with an immigration official located near you.
Step 5: Book travel, accommodation
You can save money by booking travel and accommodation early.
One approach is to get permanent accommodation (i.e. for the year ahead) before travelling. Universities and colleges can organise accommodation for you, and generally give priority to first-year international students. Options include shared university housing, student villages, and residential colleges and halls.
The alternative approach is to organise permanent accommodation after arriving. While this doesn’t give certainty, it can be cheaper and allows you to see the different options for yourself. In this case, you only need to book temporary accommodation but should probably depart earlier.
Study Abroad FAQs
1. Why should I study abroad?
Every student should study abroad if you can afford it and fit it in with your overall study program. The experience of living in another country is stimulating and will develop you as a person. It also looks good on your resume or CV to have that international experience. One of the best times to live abroad is when you are a student. It may be difficult later on because of family or job commitments.
2. Do I get academic credit for studying abroad?
Yes – normally. You can gain a qualification by studying in another country, from a multi-year bachelor degree through to a part-year diploma or certificate. If you are only doing some units (not enough for a qualification), then you need to check that your home university or college will recognise them. It would be a waste to study overseas and not gain academic credit.
3. How do I start the process?
Option 1 – use a program provider specialising in study abroad. You can find them on the internet. Your college or university may also offer study abroad services. A program provider has a range of education institutions that they have relationships with. They offer a smooth process in which you pay for them to place you and help sort out accommodation, etc.
Option 2 – start by applying directly with a university or college that is located abroad. This is generally easy to do online. Applying directly yourself gives you maximum choice and flexibility. You will be relying on the overseas university or college to help guide you. Most universities and colleges have plenty of experience helping international students.
4. How much does it cost?
Studying in another country can be expensive, though costs vary. You have living costs and tuition fees. As a rule-of-thumb, living costs add up to roughly the same as tuition fees. But it depends on where you study and how much you like to spend. Studying abroad tends to be more expensive because you are living away from home and may not get some subsidies available to local students.
5. Do I need to speak the local language?
It is important to have a reasonable grasp of the language of the country in which you are studying. This is true even for English speakers learning in English in countries such as Japan or Germany. Knowing some of local language makes living in a country easier. It also allows you to mix with more people than just other international students on your campus.
6. What kind of travel documents do I need?
All international students need a passport, which should be valid for several months beyond the end of the course. You also need to obtain a student visa from your destination country before departing (which you should normally get before booking plane tickets). Visa procedures vary and processing times can take as little as 1 day or as long as 3 months. You need to have evidence that you are enrolled, such as a confirmation of enrolment letter from the university or college you are attending.
7. Where will I live?
Often the first choice to make about accommodation is whether to live on-campus or off-campus. For some colleges and universities, there is a large amount of on-campus accommodation at reasonable prices. It may included catered halls (where you have your own room and there is group dining) or shared apartments (where you live with a small number of other students and organise everything yourselves). However, normally, more students live off campus.
A popular option for international students doing multi-year courses is to start by living on-campus. Then you can move off campus into private accommodation after making friends (to live with) and becoming familiar with the city.
8. How will I get to know other people?
Meeting people and making friends is usually not a problem for international students. There are always plenty of people in a similar situation who are keen to form friendships.
Living with other students is a quick way to become part of a group. There are also many clubs and societies to join. It is easiest to do this if you arrive a bit before the start of the academic year when clubs are actively trying to sign up members.