By Isabelle Bilton
There are a million and one things to consider when making one of the biggest decisions of your life: where should you study abroad?
While you can take every single quiz, read every single article and speak to every person under the sun about where might be right for you, really only you can make that decision.
Luckily we’re here to offer advice on what you should be thinking about when you make that final decision – and it doesn’t include where your best friend is going or where your teacher thinks you should go!
1. Visa regulations
Visa regulations vary hugely from country to country and in some countries, they vary from state to state and even province to province. You might want to choose a country that doesn’t require a visa at all or one that has a cheap, straightforward process.
Alternatively, you could just pay a little extra for a visa if it’s a country you’re really passionate about living and studying in.
If this is the case, you’ll need to factor the visa into your costs and time schedule. This may ultimately sway you towards one country and away from another, perhaps even to your surprise!
Packing your bags and heading off to Spain or Japan is unlikely to be a wise move unless you have even a basic grasp of the language.
Whatever language(s) you speak, check whether universities in your chosen country offer courses in it. Alternatively, if you have enough time, you could begin lessons in the language of the country you hope to visit..
You may have to take a language test and provide universities with your score in order to be accepted into the course or even into the country, so it’s definitely worth bearing in mind.
Check what the national language is, whether people speak English (or your mother tongue) on the streets, and of course which universities offer courses in languages you’re comfortable with. Whatever you do, do not assume. You need to ensure you’ll be able to communicate with people there.
If money is a real worry try looking at countries that offer cheap (or even free) tuition fees.
Remember, tuition isn’t the only cost you’ll have to shell out; you’ll also need money for living costs, accommodation, travel, visas, food, textbooks and more! Be sure to factor all this in when making your decision.
There are plenty of handy websites like this which will give you a good idea of how much it costs on average to live in a certain city so you could try out a few cities in a few different countries and see how they compare.
You might save yourself a huge amount of money by looking around to see which universities and cities are within your budget.
4. Proximity to home
How close (or far away) from home your host country is should definitely affect your big decision. Do you want to be able to hop on a plane – or even a bus or a train – and be home within a few short hours or would you much rather go somewhere thousands of miles away from home to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Whether you want to be as far away as possible or much closer to the place you call home, have a think about what going away means to you. What if you needed to get home in an emergency? Will you be able to afford to come home every semester break or will you stay in your host country? Will you start to feel too homesick after a while if you’re in a place totally alien to you?
There’s a lot to consider and you should weigh up the pros and cons of each.
5. The universities and courses offered
You might want to study at a prestigious university – have a look at the US and UK which consistently top global rankings – or a specialist school. You might want a course that one specific country is renowned for delivering to an expert standard or a program so specific only a handful of universities across the world provide it.
Before you get your heart set on a country, seek out which universities from all over the globe offer exactly what you want in a course or institution and you may find your decision is made for you!.
You may lean towards a US-style diploma in which you don’t choose your major until after you start your studies, or you might have a clear idea of which course interests you and choose the UK-style route where you apply directly to the course.
Whatever you decide just remember it is up to you. It’s your life and you’re the one who’s going to have to travel, live and study there. Happy researching!