4 Questions to Answer Before Committing to Attending College Abroad
There are already well over a thousand colleges in the U.S. to choose between. (Here's our book on 386 of them.) But there are also plenty of great international options. Keep your short- and long-term goals and aspirations in mind as you consider the following four questions that we've designed to help you commit to your best-fit college, whether that's local, across the coast, or abroad.
Question 1: How will a degree from a foreign institution impact my post-graduation job search?
There are several immediate appeals of studying abroad, including the lower cost of tuition (just over an average of $7,000 per year in Europe!) and the opportunity to experience life in another country.
Should you want to live and work abroad permanently, there is a clear advantage to building a network overseas and learning what employment opportunities are available to people from other countries. This is especially true if you're studying something with a global presence, such as international relations or foreign affairs, or a career that's highly in demand in a specific country. Speak with admissions counselors and advisors, and do some research to understand the big picture.On the other hand, if your plan is to return to the U.S. for work, you face a slightly different set of challenges. Similar to above, your field of study and career choice will play a role in the job hunt when you return. If you spend all of undergrad abroad to return to a field where cross-cultural perspectives or education do not give you a clear advantage, you may actually be at a disadvantage against grads who have U.S.-based educations, experiences and networks. Some fields, such as law or medicine, have specific qualifications or testing if you want to work in the U.S., so you'll need to confirm that you're setting yourself up to meet all requirements to secure a job when you're back stateside.
Question 2: Am I willing and able to adjust to the cultural and social differences that come with living and studying abroad?
Your college experiences will look different in another country than they would in the U.S. You're not going to be rushing a fraternity or sorority or experiencing a "Big 10" college football game. For example, in Scotland, you're likely to spend time at the local pub, join a society (i.e. club), and maybe catch a professional rugby team or go on a hike on the weekend. In St. Kitts, you may fill your time exploring historic sites, participating in outdoor activities and getting involved in the local island community. Every country is different!
Just as you would carefully research and ideally visit a school in the U.S. before attending it, it would help you to get a sense of the country you'd be moving to. As always, try to reach out to current students and your admissions contact to learn more about free-time activities and opportunities.
Question #3: Can you handle having a more limited support system?
College is often the first time you're living on your own, and the newfound independence can be overwhelming even if you aren't an international flight away from home. The transition and adjustment to your new country and being on your own might be challenging, so be sure that you have a plan in place to help you when you're feeling overwhelmed or lonely. A good place to start is contacting your school to see what type of support services are available to international students.
Question 4: Can you perform well with a different educational model?
Bachelor's degree programs differ significantly between the U.S. and other countries. Take a look at the following chart to see the comparison of American institutions to European colleges. Keep in mind: this chart is a generalization of most programs. There will always be exceptions!
The differences between teaching methods might sound intimidating. If you have any questions or concerns, an admissions officer will be able to explain the differences in education and grading systems. Doing research on the school's website will also give you insight to resources and support for international students.
Attending school abroad is an alluring and exciting prospect that requires some serious consideration of how you see your future. As you let these questions marinate and weigh your pros and cons, remember the correct choice is the one that allows you to strive toward your hopes and dreams. For more on finding your best-fit college and all things college admissions, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
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