If you have already decided to study abroad and everything is done from your end: visas, plane tickets, packing etc., then you’re most likely freaking out about studying abroad. Many students choose to leave their home country and study overseas in search of exposure, new horizons to explore, or just to get a better education outside their home country.
Heading to a university in itself is a big deal and if you have to move away from your family and friends then the prospect becomes even more daunting. So, here at EDUopinions, we’ll tell you what it’s really like to study abroad. The pros, cons, how you should prepare yourself, and also some real student reviews about what it’s like to study abroad. This will give you a wider perspective, bust your myths, and also help you in your journey!
EDUopinions is a unique platform where you can read real, verified student reviews about universities from all over the world as well as get free information about them.
How to Prepare Before Going Abroad to Study
As a student who’s leaving their home country and also their “safe space” and taking the plunge to study abroad, it’s really important to be prepared both mentally and physically before you leave. And no, just packing your suitcase isn’t enough preparation! Here are some tips.
- Pack light: Though you’re going to be there for a while, it’s still not worth taking ALL your belongings to another country. Not only will it cost you more, but you will have to figure out a place to keep all those belongings. And if you’re in a hostel, then it’s going to be tough. Also, chances are you are going to quite a bit of shopping in your host country anyway. So, leave your heavy stuff at home! Otherwise, you will end up having to ship them back home and imagine all the extra costs!
- Pack your essentials: If you’re a tea drinker from the UK going to the US, then pack your tea with you! Chances are if you’re moving to a small American town that you won’t get as much tea as you want. Or any other essentials that you’re used to in fact. Some ready-to-eat items to remind you of home-cooked food also never hurts.
- Hope for the best but plan for the worst: They rightly say, “Precaution is better than cure” When studying abroad it’s also necessary to adopt the same theory when planning your abroad study essentials. It sounds negative, but that way, when you’re out in your host country and living independently, you’ll have a safety net of ‘Plan Bs’ that you ensured before you left. For keepsakes make two copies of all your visa information. Take your laptop receipt in case you need to make an insurance claim. Most importantly, buy the most extensive type of insurance coverage because it’s always better to be safe than sorry when you’re living in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster: It’s best to prepare yourself mentally before leaving your country. Spend some quality time with your friends and family and even when you reach your new home make sure to keep calling home so that you have someone to talk to always. It can be quite a life-altering experience and also can be emotionally disturbing. You will feel homesick, excited, lonely, and overwhelmed all at the same time! It will take some time to let these feelings set in, but it is going to be one great adventure for sure.
- Be ready to experience a culture shock: If you’re leaving your European home for an American one, for example, then be prepared for a culture shock. From big departmental stores to the way of talking and cultural innuendos that you will take time to understand. But as you settle in your new environment, when you go back home for holidays you will experience a reverse culture shock as well when you head back home!
Now that you’re prepared for the good and the bad, let us have a look at some real reviews of students who have studied abroad. These reviews have been taken from EDUopinions.
David about ESERP Business School
He says the “Making the decision to study abroad is not an easy one, especially with the number of offers that exist nowadays.” However, he chose the ESERP Business School in Spain as “ it provides an excellent alternative to the studying experience, with a great list of teachers with amazing experts in their fields, and a student community with a variety of backgrounds that help you get a better understanding of different cultures and realities throughout the world.”
Jessica about studying at EU Business School
She says that EU Business School had international students from all over the world and she was able to build a great network with small classes and nice teachers. She adds, “Location is in a nice safe area of Barcelona. Would recommend EU Business school for anyone looking to study abroad or to pursue an international career. They have schools in other countries as well.”
Gabriela says about Erasmus University Rotterdam
She compliments the nice campus that Erasmus University in the Netherlands has and how it offers an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and expand her horizons. She also liked how she got acquainted with all sorts of different cultures and cuisines from different places. “It has the facilities that enable you both to study hard and have a good social life,” she says. Gabriela also says that she also had a wide range of societies to choose from which offered many opportunities for training, additional courses, tutoring and a chance to study abroad for some time. “Most of the lecturers were competent. However, the content of the material and the preparation of some of the tutors might have to be improved a bit. Overall, I had a positive experience at Erasmus and have an excellent opinion about it. I would definitely recommend it.”
Kinanti about Tohoku University
She took the Undergrad English programme at Tohoku University in Japan and says she went there in 2013 to study chemistry in one of its English program, named Advanced Molecular Chemistry, designed to nurture its students to be an outstanding researcher. She learnt a lot abroad and her experience was thrilling and exciting. “The people are nice and supporting, I made lots of friends here and the food is incredibly good although there are only a few choices when it comes to Halal/Moslem friendly food”
She adds, “The curriculum in English program adopts the Japanese curriculum. The teachers are more than qualified, always up for questions and well-regarded in their field. Since the English program for undergrad is relatively new, up until the time of writing we haven’t seen much variety of output; most of the seniors go on to the graduate program in Tohoku.”
She also talks about scholarship and says that the financial side of things changes from time to time. In her year no one got a full scholarship (living expense + tuition fee) guaranteed for 4 years. Students mostly got scholarships from private foundations or merit-based government scholarship which should be extended every year. She says, “Fortunately every accepted scholar has their tuition fee freed and has the opportunity to apply for a waiver so that the money can be used as living expense. The good news is, since 2015, there are several 4-year full scholarships reserved for excellent individuals, although there’s no guarantee that it will still be available in the future.”
Tohoku has a “research first” principle and true to it undergrads in their third (second semester) and fourth year are required to do their own research in one of the laboratories. “ The available choices depend on the affiliation of the program and for my course, most of the affiliated labs are advanced labs with students master degree and above. Having said that, it can be daunting to be the only undergrad in the lab with zero knowledge of the field. Of course, there are advantages such as being familiar with advanced techniques and cutting edge technology that is essential to be a researcher, early.”
She also warns people about language barriers. It may be the biggest barrier she says. “With no prior study of Japanese before coming, students are only equipped with Japanese classes up to intermediate level (from first to third semester). For basic needs it is more than enough, but not for taking classes which you may think it’s necessary since we’re in English program but actually it is! There are basic laboratory classes side by side Japanese students and we need Japanese to communicate and discuss more efficiently. Also, in our chosen laboratory, members are more comfortable discussing in Japanese regardless of their English ability (plus, valuable these are in Japanese, duh.). Language is the biggest hindrance to fully absorb knowledge. So, if you’re excellent in academic, have the desire to study abroad, are excited to learn new language (very hard!) and culture, and an aspiring chemist (TU also has an aerospace and mechanical engineer program and marine biology program in English), you might want to give this program a shot and hopefully win the scholarship!”
Ellen about University College Cork – UCC
She applauds University College Cork in Ireland and says it has much to offer to all types of students. “UCC is an excellent university with much to offer both from an academic point of view and a social one. The lecturers come from varied backgrounds and are all experts in their field. There is huge support for students throughout the year and the facilities are constantly improving. UCC has many connections with other high-class universities all over the world and offers study abroad and exchange programs for many students.”
She adds that she travelled to the Netherlands for her year abroad. “The process was made infinitely easier by the UCC staff and their advice throughout my year away. Another benefit of attending UCC is the wide range of societies on offer which is constantly expanding. Through societies, you make friends, learn new skills and get the opportunity to experience things you never thought you would. In my time in UCC I founded the Harry Potter Society and it made my UCC experience. UCC offers so much to its students and gives an all-around brilliant college experience.”
Veronika about the University of Economics in Prague
She says that the University of Economics in Prague has given her the opportunity to experience a total mind change. “Not only that a learnt so much from my field of study, but I also had an opportunity to attend workshops, presentations and discussion with locally or even internationally known and super smart people (for free).” She also said that she visited the job and study abroad fairs which helped her connect more easily with specific institutions. She adds, “I was also lucky enough to become a member of Erasmus Student Network (my local section is ESN VSE Prague) through which I not only learnt how to responsibly organize all kinds of events or present in front of people but I also made friends with foreign students who came here to study. That opened my mind about inter-culture misstatements. In general, anyone studying here is just privileged.”
Covadonga from University Rey Juan Carlos
She says that University Rey Juan Carlos in Spain is a modern, up-to-date, engaging university that offers numerous career paths and opportunities to develop your preferred studies. They have many campuses which offer a wide variety of majors (and even more, an incredible amount of interesting double majors that are not offered at any other public institution in Spain). It also offers an incredibly complete study abroad program that gives you the chance to explore other parts of the world and improve your CV. She says, “ Also, I would really recommend it for international students looking for a place to study in Madrid as it offers a lot of their classes and majors in English. As a part of the Erasmus Student Network at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, I can assure you that we provide all the help needed to make Madrid your home away from home and make sure you make the most out of your stay!”
Covadonga from Northeastern Illinois University
She chose Northeastern Illinois University to study abroad in the US and was quite happy with her choice. She says, “The university’s location, in the north-west side of an incredible city like Chicago, draw my attention, but what made the difference with other institutions is their academic offer and their engaging atmosphere. You are free to choose whichever classes you want to attend and they have a great variety in many fields. There are just 20/25 students per class so that makes the lessons somewhat personalized and you feel close to the university’s staff and fellow classmates. “ She also says that there are a lot of opportunities on campus for students and organises a ton of events to make you feel integrated into the community. Their facilities (Gym, pool, library, parking lot, theatre) are free for students and are excellent places to relax and take a break from studying.
Sara from VIA University College
From Spain, Sara came to VIA University College in Denmark and was quite pleased with her decision. She says, “Since a very early age I knew I wanted to study abroad, so I started to consider a couple of Scandinavian countries known as the “happiest countries in the world” for my education. At the end, Denmark turned out to have one of the best educational systems in the world, a system which the main objective is to encourage students to think by themselves, and that was exactly what I was looking for.”
She says that only one university teaches ICT in English in Denmark. She adds, “Regarding my studies, I started to learn new things, in different ways. I changed individual projects for group projects, written exams for oral exams, and memorizing useless things for actually learning and enjoying what I was studying.”
She advises students who are looking to study abroad, “If you are thinking of studying abroad my advice would be to be as prepared as possible before making such an important decision. When it is the time to go abroad you have to take into account many factors, for example, the weather, or if you really need a change in your life, you should consider the ease of finding apartments and living standards, the quality of education, the job opportunities…You can always undertake this adventure having no idea of what is going on and learn over time. However, it is much easier to have everything planned so as to avoid surprises. In short, I could say that since I moved to Denmark my life has been a dream, and I wouldn’t change anything.”
Octavian from VIA University College
He says, “I am studying ICT Engineering at VIA University College in Horsens. I come from Moldova and idea to study abroad was born about 3 years before. I must admit, this idea was suggested by my older sister. There were many reasons to study abroad, e.g old-fashioned study programmes, inexperienced teachers, lack of necessary facilities and equipment. Now, looking back at myself, I am extremely happy that I made that decision to move and study in Denmark. I think, this is one of the biggest and most exciting challenges I’ve ever taken in my life, which changed my attitude to life, my personality and priorities. Regarding VIA, it’s an amazing university, I am very satisfied with it. The campus is spacious and colourful, which should increase your passion for studying 😀 It has lots of facilities, e.g music room.”