How to pick a country when studying abroad

How to pick a country when thinking of studying abroad


Studying abroad is not for everyone. Some might be afraid of the changes that it can bring, while others can’t wait to explore foreign countries. If going abroad isn’t you think, there are ways in which you can get an ‘Erasmus-like experience’ while staying home. Now if doing a study abroad is right up your alley, here are a couple of tips to help you decide where you want to go.

One of the most eye-opening experiences I had during my studies was spending 6 months do a semester abroad at Keimyung University in South Korea. For me, the great thing about South Korea was that it wasn’t as popular as Thailand, Vietnam and another Southeast Asian country. If this already sounds enticing for you, read this review about doing a study abroad in South KoreaThe customs and education in South Korea were so much different from my home university, Maastricht University in the Netherlands that it pushed me many times to reflect on my values and norms.

Staying at a university to learn topics that aren’t offered at your home institute

I’m an educational scientist focusing on professional development. Hence, my first advice is to pick a university that offers courses that your home university doesn’t. It goes without saying that you need to understand the teaching language. There are two valuables ways to pick a university based on their course offerings:

Firstly, do you want to deepen your knowledge?

Most universities offer courses in a lot of disciplines, but the quality of teaching will vary. Check out the reviews on EDUopinions and search for universities who get good scores for their teaching. Also, ask your professors for what are the expertise centres in your favorite field to learn from the best.

Secondly, do you want to broaden your knowledge?

This means picking courses that sound interesting, but you have no or hardly any experience in. If this is your approach, picking a university will be easier. You can check for universities, and then check for reviews to make an informed decision.

You can also see if you can combine studying abroad with an internship. That gives you the added advantage to enrich your CV and network. Pick a company that doesn’t operate in your home country.

Do you wish to learn a new language?

If you don’t know the language of the country, the stakes become high for you. You face the choice between learning the language and fully immerse yourself in the culture of the host country, or forfeiting this challenge and sticking to the crowd of international students. The choice is yours. Consider if you will have an opportunity to speak the language after your study abroad. Think about how your time ‘investment’ will pay off. Also does your host university offer free language courses. If yes, make use of them! Some of our reviewers commented on the quantity and quality of language courses on EDUopinions. Have a look.

If learning the language of the host country isn’t an option, pick a university that offers courses in a language that you already speak. From what I know studying, living, and working in the Netherlands for many years, many universities in the Netherlands offer their education in English. For example, Rotterdam Business Schools. Exemptions are medical courses (e.g., doctors degree) or courses whose content are only applicable in the Netherlands (e.g., Dutch law).

If you want to learn a new language and already have a country (or a list of countries in mind), check out reviews other students left on EDUopinions about universities in your target country. Just type in the country you like to visit and check out the reviews on EDUopinions.

Studying abroad for the pleasure of travel

Let’s be honest, going abroad isn’t just for enriching your learning experiences. It is also a chance to explore the world.

If travelling is one of your main goal for studying abroad, best is to pick a hub city, one with a very good connection to airports, and trains. That will make travelling easier. This means you might not stay in a big city, but one that connects you cheaply to other places you like to visit. For example, from personal experience, I can tell you that from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, you can be in 1.5 hours at 3 different airports: Brussels, Eindhoven, Düsseldorf.

Another tip is to pick an unusual country. One that you wouldn’t think about first. What about unusual destinations such as Qatar, Namibia, or the Antarctic? If you have problems making a destination, open a world map, close your eyes and let your finger circle over the map. After 5 seconds drop the finger, open your eyes: Now, commit to the country and check out reviews from universities in that country. Of course, if that country isn’t safe, do the exercise again.

Next step!

Now that you have the top tips from an educational scientist who went abroad, what will you be doing? Will you stay at home and help international students adapt to your home university? Or will you go abroad to deepen or broaden your knowledge, to learn a new language or to enjoy the time you have during your studies to explore the world and travel? Make the experience smoother, by checking out reviews on EDUopinions.


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Written by
Katerina Bohle Carbonell, Ph.D, writes on topics related to higher education and people management in companies in high ranking international journals and on her personal webpage. She obtained her Ph.D in organizational behavior at Maastricht University. She currently teaches at Northwestern University’s and works on products and services to increase the use of data-driven decision making at Maastricht University.

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