Most people look at college as some of the best years of life, and while you cannot guarantee that they will perfect, you can certainly find many ways to make them interesting. You leave your hometown, create an entirely new social circle and explore an educational discipline that may set you on the path towards a fulfilling and financially rewarding career. But what if leaving your town or your state aren’t enough? What if you’re considering traveling abroad for college? Many Americans look at this as a real option these days, as foreign universities are generally less expensive than here at home, while providing a similar quality education. But is it always the right move? Here are five things to consider before deciding to travel abroad for college?
First off, can you be comfortable in a completely new situation? Leaving the safety and certainty of your parents’ home for college can be stressful enough. Travel abroad for college and that stress could be tremendous. You’ll be in a foreign land, learning a new culture and possibly even a new language, all while dealing with the same sorts of issues all college freshmen deal with. Are you up to the challenge? You won’t really know for sure until you go, but you should carefully consider if you have the personality and temperament for such a risk.
Do you understand how to make the financing work? While foreign universities are generally much less expensive than American schools, there are some tricky situations to contend with. You won’t be able to take on U.S. financial aid, and some grants and scholarships won’t be applicable internationally either. To make matters worse, most countries reserve their own government financial aid for residents, so you won’t find any help there. You’ll save money overall on education, but you’ll probably have to pay as you go, as opposed to financing your education with loans and then paying it off over time.
Is your potential major transferable internationally? This is another tricky question, and you’ll have to reach out to the specific schools you have in mind to find out for sure. But if you are going to study medicine, law, engineering or any other discipline where additional degrees are required you must make sure that graduate programs will accept the prerequisites from that foreign university. You don’t want to get stuck having to do multiple years of graduate school abroad out of necessity, and then find you cannot be certified to work in your home country without additional education. This will again cost you money in the long-term, so get all the details before you apply.
Do you have an acceptable back up plan? No one wants to think this way, but some percentage of college students drop out each year. Studying abroad complicates this decision. Are there alternative schools at home you are willing to attend if your first choice doesn’t work out? Or will you be stuck in a foreign country, alone and with no prospects?
Finally, be honest about your motivation for traveling abroad for college. Is it really about the school, or do you simply want to travel, and connecting it with education is making your parents go along with it? It is common in many countries for kids to travel for a semester or two before committing to college. Some people find opportunities to perform social work with children and families who need help. Others build houses or join the Peace Corps. Some kids just backpack across countries to learn new cultures and have fantastic experiences. All of the above are perfectly fine, as long as you are honest with yourself and your