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TURN YOUR STUDY ABROAD DREAM INTO A REALITY

In the end the allure of experiencing a part of the world one might not otherwise explore is a powerful draw — studying abroad will provide students an unforgettable experience.

Ramon Carlos Urenia

10 Expert Tips for Selecting a Graduate School Abroad

Finding the right program is an arduous task, but “enjoy the process of looking into schools,” Ramon advised. “You may have thought that Australia, for example, was the perfect fit for you. As you conclude your research, however, you find yourself applying to schools in South Africa.” The takeaway? Research and study programs and countries extensively. The following are tips to get you started.

Tip 1 Tip 2 Tip 3 Tip 4 Tip 5

Commit to what you want to study and then search for the right program. According to Ramon, “There is a program available abroad for nearly any discipline. You just have to look.”

Look for high-caliber programs recognized in the U.S. “Internet research can produce viable options, or you can find a sister program through undergraduate and graduate schools in the U.S.,” said Bridget. “Know what’s expected throughout the program and what your options are when it’s complete.”

Consider living expenses and cost of tuition. “Studying abroad can actually be less expensive,” according to Bridget, “as U.S. schools are cost-prohibitive.” Select programs are offered free.

Research length of the program. Some that take 4-6 years to complete in the U.S., for example, might require only 2-5 years in a different country. “And shorter programs mean savings on tuition and living expenses,” noted Ramon.

Find out about exam and application requirements for admission. Many schools abroad involve less paperwork and fewer or no exam scores, such as the GRE.

Consider financial aid. According to Bridget “traditional student loans are available through the U.S. for studying abroad — amounts can be adjusted to assist with airfare, housing and other expenses.”

What is the potential for residency and employment abroad upon completion of the degree? “Once abroad,” Bridget explained, “it’s easier to get a visa extension or work visa. And the student likely has made valuable career connections.”

Research language requirements. There many international programs offered in English. And since you’ll learn the native language out of living necessity, consider whether it appeals to you.

Find out if students have access to resources pertinent to the program they select — like specific documents, source material or collections available only in certain libraries, vaults or museums?

Consider probability of acceptance. According to Ramon, “many international schools allocate for a certain number of international students they can accept, which definitely improves your odds.

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Insiders’ Share 10 Ways Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life

  • #1

    “If you’ll be working the in the states, a foreign degree can set you apart from the competition,” said Bridget. Ramon concurred. “While your undergraduate friends earn their MFA from a stateside school, imagine how impressive your CV would look with an MFA from a school out of London, Hong Kong or Dubai.”

  • #2

    While experiencing a new culture can be seen as a challenge, it’s also one of the greatest benefits of studying abroad — it’s a life changer. You’ll discover new ways of viewing the world: education, values, human interaction, customs and relationships. Acclimating can be difficult, but ultimately experiencing a different part of the world is one of the most enriching aspects of study abroad.

  • #3

    “The opportunity to learn a foreign language is invaluable,” said Ramon. If you study in a non-English speaking country, the opportunity to learn a new language or improve your existing foreign language skills can serve you throughout your career and your life.

  • #4

    According to Ramon, “Study abroad affords specific courses of study that directly relate to a location — Marine Biology in Australia, for example. “If your area of study is specific to a foreign country, there’s no substitute for actual experience on the ground.”

  • #5

    Study abroad provides travel opportunities not otherwise possible. “The U.S. is huge. Countries in Europe and the UK, however, are much smaller and offer easy, accessible excursions,” noted Bridget. “The ability to travel and see so many different countries and cultures was incredible.”

  • #6

    In a different country, students will experience a different teaching philosophy — which while challenging is a wonderful learning opportunity. And students have the chance to collaborate with esteemed professors on various research projects. In fact, if there is a specific researcher or project that interests you, it’s worth exploring grad programs at that university.

  • #7

    With exposure to new ideals, opinions and ways of seeing the world, studying internationally broadens one’s approach and perspective on their career choice. “Living and obtaining a degree in an unfamiliar setting can offer a deeper understanding of your subject matter,” said Ramon.

  • #8

    Studying abroad affords the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, as many of your classmates are likely international students. You’ll make lifelong friends. “The friendships I established on study abroad 20 years ago have endured,” said Ramon. “We’re actually planning a reunion in Spain in the coming months.”

  • #9

    In basic terms, study abroad is fun — experiencing another part of the world, immersing yourself in a new culture, new people, exposure to different ways of thinking and learning, traveling. It’s a singular opportunity. So dig your heels in and enjoy. “It might be your last chance to travel extensively before settling into a career,” according to Bridget.

  • #10

    Personal growth and change is inevitable while abroad. Being on your own in foreign country, away from family, friends and everything familiar fosters independence, exploration and personal reflection. International study is an unparalleled opportunity to truly discover who you are.

It can be a challenge finding employment back home after completing a foreign program — make sure your degree is recognized in the U.S.

Bridget Ausman Global Programs Advisor and Lecturer in Law, UC Hastings College of the Law

Learning Curve: Challenges of Culture and Learning Abroad

It’s one of the greatest benefits of studying internationally, but can also be one of the toughest challenges. Just ask Ramon: “Culture shock, culture shock, culture shock! Students should really prepare for everything to be different and be pleasantly surprised when certain things are similar.”

Study the country before you go and familiarize yourself with the culture. “But the best way to cope with this challenge is to remember you are on an adventure. Nothing will be as you expect it, and that’s exciting. It builds character and is a wonderful opportunity to learn the value of differences.”

Here are a few other challenges you’ll more than likely experience:

Academic Differences

Count on academic differences: different pedagogies, methods of testing, writing styles. Peak performance may be assessed differently, and you may not initially perform as well academically as you’re accustomed.

How to cope

Get to know your professors and communicate openly with them. Turn to your classmates and peers for support, many of whom are from different parts of the world and in the same boat as you. Help each other make the adjustment together.

Language Barriers

Although English is commonly spoken in other countries, language can still be a barrier — you’ll need to learn and use it outside the classroom. Even in English-speaking countries language can be onerous with its variant accents and vernacular.

How to cope

Study the language before you go abroad and continue after you arrive. Make it a priority — immerse yourself in the culture and take any opportunity to practice the language with the locals.

Technology

According to Ramon “I think technology now can be one of the biggest deterrents to really immersing oneself in the culture. It’s too easy for students to sit in their apartments just scrolling through Facebook or texting back home instead of getting out and seeing what their new world has to offer.”

How to cope

Set aside specific time to get on social media or Facetime and Skype. Keep international calls and texting to a minimum. Basically let go of your smart phone and embrace the world around you. But don’t hesitate to call in those moments when you just need to reach out to family.”

Budget

If you haven’t been budget conscious in the past, expect to be now. You don’t want the stress of money to interfere and distract from your education and your cultural experience.

How to cope

Generate extra money beforehand, and practice your graduate school budget prior to leaving. Once settled in your new surroundings, look for cheap or free alternatives to the things you love. But be prepared to possibly forego the cappuccinos and pricey dinners out.

The Pains of Everyday Life

The day-to-day in a foreign country can be troublesome: seeking medical attention when you’re sick, communicating with police about a bike accident, opening a bank account or negotiating rent.

How to cope

These obstacles are part of the entire experience of living and studying abroad. They make the experience memorable — things you’ll laugh about when it’s all over. In the moment, however, they’re frustrating. Call a friend for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed in a given situation.

Emotional Burdens

In their new surroundings, students build a completely different life from friends and family back home. It can feel isolating. You may feel like you’re missing out. And you’ll more than likely battle a little homesickness and possibly some degree of depression.

How to cope

Focus on creating a social life in your new country. Academics are your top priority, so seek out friends who understand your school responsibilities and are willing to accommodate your busy schedule. You’ll return to your old life eventually, and those you left behind are a phone call away.

Be Prepared to Spend

Even if you find a program with low or free tuition in a relatively inexpensive country, you still need to be prepared financially to cover myriad expenses. So take a look.

Costs will vary, but here’s where your money’s going:

  • Program application fees
  • Passport or passport renewal
  • Airfare
  • Tuition
  • Student visa/residency permit
  • Entrance and/or departure fees
  • Health insurance, immunizations and/or medical exams
  • Rent: don’t forget security deposit
  • Books and supplies
  • Additional course fees
  • Daily living expenses: utilities, Internet, groceries
  • Monthly transportation pass
  • Miscellaneous: entertainment, travel, cultural activities
  • Exchange rate
Don’t Forget the Exchange Rate

It can be brutal, that fluctuation in currency. And while it may work in favor of certain students — those from China, for example — it can take a financial toll on students from the U.K., Europe and the U.S. Be reminded that a favorable exchange rate at the onset of a program doesn’t ensure the same at the program’s completion.

So what’s the solution? It’s simple. Think forward, and cushion your budget to accommodate the inconstancy of the exchange rate.

Break Cultural Barriers, Not Your Bank – Scholarships, Grants & Fellowships

Study abroad isn’t cheap, but there are free options to help cover costs if you just look deep enough. So before you search for loans, opt for free grants, scholarships and fellowships. We’ve culled a few options.

Amount: Grant amounts, lengths and dates vary by country. Please consult the specific country summary for details.

Deadline: October 15

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in more than 140 countries to recent graduates and graduate students to further the “promotion of international goodwill through the exchange of students in fields of education, culture, and science.

Amount: CLS covers many of the costs of studying abroad such as airfare and housing with a host family. Amounts vary. Students receive a stipend to cover incidentals and meals.

Deadline: November 30

The Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) is part of a U.S. Government effort to increase the number of American students mastering critical foreign languages. Programs in 14 different languages are offered, and students from any discipline or area of study may apply.

Amount: Varies per scholarship or grant — $1500 to $5000.

Deadline: Deadlines vary. See specific program for dates.

CIEE scholarships and grants make study abroad affordable for students “who are devoted to specialized areas of study,” those with financial difficulties and high-achieving students. Students can choose from more than 200 programs in 40 different countries.

Amount: Fellowships are awarded for up to $24,000; lengths vary.

Deadline: January 28; on-campus deadlines may vary

Boren fellowships provide graduate students the opportunity to add an “international and language component to their education.” Recipients of Boren fellowships study in areas of the world “critical to U.S. interests,” with students committing to “working in the federal government at least one year after graduation.”

Amount: Minimum grant amount of $30,000.

Deadline: Applications are always accepted and reviewed as received.

Grants fund scholarships for international study with sustainable, measurable outcomes in one of the Rotary’s area of focus: Promoting Peace, Fighting Disease, Providing Clean Water, Saving Mothers and Children, Supporting Education, and Growing Local Economies.

Amount: Nine awards given in the amount of €10,000 each (currently $10,596.80).

Deadline: Round 1 — November 30; Round 2 — June 30

ISIC views study abroad as a way to develop personally and succeed in a future career. To that end, the organization sponsors this award to help cover costs, allowing students the benefits of international study and the opportunity to experience new cultures

Amount: $2,000

Deadline: Monthly deadline before the end of each month.

The Niche $2,000 No Essay College Scholarship is awarded each month to any student enrolling in a program within the next 12 months. The recipient is determined by random drawing, and students may apply each month.

Amount: Award covers “university fees, cost of living expenses, annual book grant, thesis grant, research and daily travel grants, fares to and from the United States and, where applicable, a contribution towards the support of a dependent spouse.

Deadline: Early October of year preceding tenure.

Forty American graduate students of high ability are selected each year to study at a UK institution in any field. Awarding Marshall Scholarships, the organization believes, serves to strengthen relationships between the “British and American peoples, their governments, and their institutions.”

Amount: The maximum stipend is $30,000, with the institutional payment estimated at $13,755.

Deadline: FAFSA applications accepted January 1 to June 30, but recommended to apply as early as possible. Students must reapply each year to continue receiving funds.

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program awards fellowships to students exhibiting high academic achievement, financial need and potential. Students earn graduate or Master of Fine Arts degrees in fields pertaining to the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Amount: Grant amounts, lengths and dates vary according to program.

Deadline: Dates vary according to program.

The Henry Luce Foundation offers several grant programs, aimed at “broadening knowledge and promoting the highest standards of service and leadership.” Programs range from American Art to Theology to Public Policy.

Cost Comparison

It can be hard to estimate what everyday items can cost in other countries. Explore how costs fluctuate across the world in cost comparisons of popular study abroad locations including New York; London; Florence; Sydney; Beijing; and San Jose, Costa Rica.

U.S. UK Italy Australia Beijing Costa Rica
1 Gallon of Gas $2.86 $4.65 $6.46 $3.82 4.18 4.70
McDonald’s Combo Meal $8 $5.36 $7.50 $7.20 $4.70 $6.65
1 Gallon of Milk $4.21 $5.26 $4.74 $4.56 $7.23 $5.38
Utilities (915 sq. ft. apartment) $130.10 $148.76 $126.90 $134.60 $40.89 $71.53
Transportation/Monthly Pass $116.50 $140 $37.54 $115.21 $23.50 $56.98
Meal at Mid-Range Restaurant for Two $80 $84.06 $58.94 $60.07 $25.42 $33.86
Monthly Internet $55 $23.91 $22.70 $49.55 $22.73 $43.31
1-Bedroom Apt. City Center $3,000 $1,058.50 $742.01 $1,273.19 $1,078.95 $446.42
1-Bedroom Apt. Outside City Center $1,820 $812 $569.25 $918.58 $537.08 $374.47
Movie — International Release $14.50 $12.23 $8.57 $12.93 $12.53 $6.5

The Countdown to Departure

Month 12

Start researching study abroad programs. Work with your department if you’re currently in school, research programs online or seek the help of a study abroad placement advisor.

Month 10

Contact former professors and colleagues to request letters of recommendation

Compile your transcripts

Apply to the program

Start saving

Month 8

You’re going to experience culture shock, so start studying your host country’s culture and language. Research online; seek out and speak to people who have lived in or are from the host country; and expose yourself to foods, music, films — anything related to the country’s culture

Know the laws of the country. Culture Crossing Guide

Begin studying your host country’s language

Month 4

Start preparing mentally. Journaling or blogging about your experiences is a great way to record your journey and get your head in the game.

Create a bucket list: What cities and countries do you want to visit while abroad? What artwork is a must-see? What cultural events unique to your host country do you want to attend?

Month 2

Address the type of phone you want to use abroad and the service plan to best suit your needs

Many students opt for a cheap phone while abroad to communicate for locals. A little internet research can easily produce a solution.

Make a packing list. Check out The Official Year Abroad Guide for additional tips and advice. Note any items that need to be purchased, such as converters or adapters.

Check with your bank to ensure your ATM card works internationally

Notify people you’re leaving — friends, relatives, employers. Consider creating a Google doc with important information that everyone can access. Include flight information, contact information for people at home and abroad, contact info for your coordinator, health insurance information, and anything else you deem important.

Month 11

Once you’ve found a program, do the math. Consider academic expenses, cost of living in the host country and any application requirements.

Meet with an advisor to review potential costs and options for financial aid that may cover expenses. Remember there may be international financial aid available.

Apply for relevant scholarships, fellowships and grants.

Month 9

Obtain or renew passport and apply for visa(s)

Apply for an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). It will afford you a wealth of discounts for everything from shopping to rail passes to museums and entertainment

Months 7-5

Apply for an international credit card — MasterCard, American Express or Visa

In the throes and excitement of planning, don’t forget to maintain your GPA

Confirm that financial aid is in place and all necessary paperwork has been filled out and submitted

Month 3

Book your flight. Check your ISIC card — there may be applicable travel discounts available

Pay a visit to the doctor for a physical and any necessary vaccinations/immunizations. Keep a copy of your medical record with you.

Discuss any prescription medications you’re taking and their availability in your host country

Month 1

Complete a change of address form so you’ll receive mail in your home country

Purchase travel insurance

Stock up on any medical necessities, such as prescription medications and extra contact lenses. Have a doctor’s note authorizing use of your meds and refills, and ensure that all over-the-counter drugs you carry are legal. Take your eye prescription along in case you lose eyewear or need replacements.

Make three copies of important docs: credit cards, passport, school acceptance letter, medical records, proof of health insurance and license. Leave a copy at home in the U.S., carry a copy in your bags when you travel, and once there leave a copy at your home abroad.

11th- Hour Details

Make sure all financial aid docs are in order and up to date — such as scholarship application, loans and FAFSA renewals.

Confirm tuition and study abroad fees are paid

Confirm your flight

Exchange currency for local cash, around $200

Pack your luggage and carry on

STUDY ABROAD HOUSING OPTIONS

Housing has the potential to make or break your study abroad experience. You basically have three options: dormitories, apartments or homestays. Consider your finances, your personality and the type of environment in which you thrive so you can choose a home away from home that facilitates your academic pursuits.

Dormitories

PROS
  • Close proximity to campus.

  • Easier to make friends with students from around the world — not just those from your host country.

  • Fewer rules than a homestay arrangement

  • A meal plan, so no shopping and cooking required

  • Opportunities to practice local language

  • Less homesickness when surrounded by a group of students

conS
  • Communal bathrooms, dining and laundry

  • Rules regarding overnight guest, smoking and drinking

  • You may not like the food

  • Lack of privacy

  • High noise levels

  • You may not room with a local so you can practice the language and be tempted to hang out with other English-speaking students.

  • Roommate challenges.

APARTMENTSEstimated Monthly Cost

Apartment Rental
1-Bedroom Apt. City Center 1-Bedroom Apt. Outside City Center
U.S. $3,000 $1,820
UK $1,058.50 $812 $850 – $1,000
Italy $742.01 $569.25 $450 – $1,200/one room in an apartment
Australia $1,273.19 $918.58 $940 – $1,311
Beijing $1,078.95 $537.08 $306 – $540/one-bedroom apartment
Costa Rica $446.42 $374.47 $366 – $450/one-bedroom apartment
PROS
  • Live like the locals.

  • Make your own rules.

  • Adhere to your own schedule.

  • More privacy — especially with a private room

  • Live with a mix of locals and internationals and share household responsibilities

conS
  • You may feel more isolated than those students in dorms or homestay

  • Doing your own grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning and cooking

  • Difficulty of paying rent and bills in an unfamiliar language

  • Possible roommate conflicts

  • Fewer opportunities to practice local language.

  • Paying rent and bills in another language.

Home Stay

PROS
  • Authentic, home-cooked meals

  • Experience the culture of the country through the lens of a local family.

  • You’ll learn the language quicker

  • Exposure to real family life in another country who can offer advice and tips

  • Make social and local connections

  • No responsibility for grocery shopping, cooking or laundry

conS
  • Difficulty communicating with the family initially

  • Chores and rules about overnight guests, smoking and drinking

  • Privy to family problems

  • Unusual foods you may not like

  • Lack of privacy

  • Possibly a lengthy commute