Studying abroad is an increasingly popular option for UK students, and European universities attract thousands of British students a year.
Whether it’s the chance to save some money by studying in a country with no tuition fees, or the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and language; there’s no doubt getting your degree abroad can be an incredibly positive experience.
With so many options available it can be hard to make a plan. So, what should you consider before deciding to study abroad?
Are you interested in other cultures? Are you happy to be away from your family and friends? Does being outside of your comfort zone excite you? If the answer to these questions is a heartfelt yes, then congratulations - you are a perfect candidate for studying abroad.
However, even if these questions make you feel stressed or scared, you don’t need to rule it out. Studying abroad is a great way to gain confidence and life experience - whilst also being in a safe environment with a ready made social circle of like-minded people.
You will want to take time to make sure that you are going somewhere you will feel comfortable. Which brings us to the next point...
Do you want to study in the local language? Do you want the excitement of a big city, or somewhere smaller? Do you want to explore elsewhere in Europe at weekends? How often do you intend to come back to the UK to visit?
These are the sort of questions you should be asking yourself, gradually working your way down to a few possibilities. Use our guide on the best cities to study in Europe to learn more about the different options.
Studying in the EU can be a lot cheaper than staying in the UK - both in terms of tuition and living costs. Take a look at our article about how much it costs to study abroad to get some more detailed information.Studying abroad via a programme like Erasmus Plus can really bring the costs down - Erasmus students are even eligible for a monthly grant of up to €300, plus money towards their UK tuition fees.
You might also be eligible for a grant or scholarship from your home university (if you are just studying abroad for a semester or a year) or from your host university - contact your International and Finance Offices for more information.
Many EU universities offer courses in English - but some don’t. Fees can also vary in some countries, such as the Czech Republic, depending on whether you are learning in English or the local language. Some countries will require you to prove your proficiency in the local language.
Germany, for example, requires all international students to pass the TestDAF or DSH examinations to show their level of German is adequate, while French institutions require you to take a Test de Connaissance du Francais_ to prove you can communicate at the relevant level.
Nothing beats some first hand research. Talking to students who have been through the experience themselves is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for what to expect.
Most universities will have a Facebook page for international students, which is the perfect way to get chatting with current students and alumni. If you are studying through Erasmus Plus, speak to your university’s Erasmus office and see if they can put you in touch with someone who studied at your university of choice.
You won’t need a visa to study within the EU: An up to date UK passport is all you need to prove your credentials as an EU student. Find out how the healthcare system works in your new country, and whether you need additional insurance for that.
Make sure your travel insurance is comprehensive and covers you if you are living in another country - or find alternative insurance that does. Make sure you are registered to vote, even if you are studying abroad you are still entitled to exercise your democratic muscle and it helps boost your credit rating for when you return to the UK.
Rather than pay ATM fees every time you want to withdraw money, you will probably want to open a local bank account. Most will offer a special student account, so take some advice from your new university’s International Office as to which one might be right for you.
Register with TransferWise in order to transfer money between your UK bank account and your new account - you can save on expensive bank charges. If your parents are supporting you, you can send them a request so the money goes straight to your new account. This way, you maximise the amount you receive and it saves you from having to transfer money back and forth between your own accounts.
Make sure you apply for an International Student Identity Card - and use it at every opportunity. It unlocks an incredible 42,000 offers, from discounts on books and newspapers to exclusive deals on travel and cheap entrance to exhibitions and museums. It’s like your NUS card… but super-powered!
Whatever you decide to do, and wherever you do decide to do it, enjoy your adventure abroad!