Would you like to earn your BA or MBA abroad? Finish your doctorate in some Middle Eastern or African country while volunteering? Pack in adventure or international work experience, or immerse yourself in another culture? Students study abroad all the time, and you may be able to as well. Here are some pointers and resources on how to achieve this dream.
If you’re taking a course at a U.K. college, you may be able to spend some time working or studying abroad from three weeks to a year as part of their Erasmus program. The European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, commonly known as Erasmus, can arrange both for you. Better yet, the European Commission (EC) attaches a stipend to your Erasmus program that ranges from €270 (£215) to €370 (£315) a month depending on your country of choice and your needs. Fees to your U.K. College and your international university are reduced or waived during the year you’re away.
Here’s what you need to get into Erasmus:
- Your university or college needs to be recognized by the organization.
- You’ll need to be enrolled in a course that leads to a reliable undergraduate or graduate degree.
Twenty-seven EU and five non-EU countries accept ErasmusPlus students. (Erasmus simply accepts international students; ErasmusPlus also gives these students volunteering opportunities). The non-EU countries are Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Liechtenstein and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as some so-called partner countries. You’ll find the list on the Erasmus Plus website.
If you’re looking to study outside Europe, contact ISEP Exchange. They allow you to choose up to 10 schools and will place you with the best option, depending on the ISEP Exchange space and your academic needs. ISEP gives financial aid and scholarships and covers 47 countries and 105 universities.
Non-government bodies that provide partial grants include:
- British educational trusts and charities that provide support for students studying abroad (ask your library or careers service for the resources).
- UK research councils and professional bodies that provide grants for postgraduate study overseas.
- The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), which also has a list of contacts for further information.
Terms depend on your academic and income level. They’ll vary with each grant.
Your other options are to:
- Work on a vacation placement for eight to 12 weeks between June and September as part of IAESTE (for students of science, technology and engineering).
- Work in a paid or volunteer placement with AIESEC, which works on developing leadership for social enterprises.
- Study at a summer school (e.g. the UK government funded Study China Programme).
The organizations that can help you include:
- The UK Government - Conditions differ if you’re a student from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
- UNESCO Fellowship Bank scheme – Grants are meant for short term use in a specialized institution with the condition that you apply what you’ve learned in the country of your choice. UNESCO rarely lends for studies that result in graduate degrees.
- GoAbroad.com - Degrees Abroad lists colleges and universities in various countries that offer full or partial degrees.
Alternately, ask your school of choice if they offer anything from their end. Many European universities offer free or cheap tuition to UK students, and you may find some available scholarships, bursaries or fee-waivers. Your chosen country’s government may be able to help you, too. Ask their embassy, consulate or education office whether they can point you to student grants, loans or benefits.
If you’re intelligent, lucky or need financial assistance, you may be able to land a full scholarship, but competition is fierce especially on the undergraduate level.
Here’s where you can find them.
- Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan for studies in selected commonwealth countries, mainly at the postgraduate level.
- The Fulbright awards scheme for study in the U.S.A, mainly at the postgraduate level.
- The Marie Curie scheme for doctoral study in the EU.
- The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) which aims to boost international education.
- Funding for US Study which lists American universities that award about 1000 scholarships to foreign students each year.
- InternationalScholarships.com and ScholarshipPortal.eu which point you to countries that offer scholarships.
- The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom and Rotary International list British organizations that can help you study abroad.
- TopUniversities.com lists scholarship resources in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
- The Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Scholarships helps you study anywhere in the world (except the U.S.A) at a graduate level.
- BUTEX Scholarships – You can get a £500 scholarship for a semester or a year as long as you study at a BUTEX affiliated institution in a country excluded from ERASMUS.
- Generation UK China Scholarships – Scholarships cover 5-12 months of study and provide accommodation and a basic living allowance.
- Japanese MEXT Scholarship program – Selection is highly competitive. In 2014, for instance, only nine applicants were accepted. You have to have at least a 2:1 in final degree classification to be accepted.
- Mexico AMEXCID Scholarship – You need a minimum GPA of 8.0, or the equivalent, on the last academic degree you received. Also, you need to have an undergraduate or graduate degree and be accepted to, or enrolled in, a program at one of the participating Mexican institutions.
Unless you’re a student in Scotland or Ireland, getting a student loan abroad is far more complex, since the Student Loans Company doesn’t provide these at the moment. You can move to Denmark, Finland, Norway or Sweden, where tuition is free, but you’ll need to cover the higher cost of living. Your other option is to sign up for the challenging selection tests in Italy and the Netherlands where you’ll receive some coverage if you pass.
Some students bypass these requirements by self-funding their study with part-time work, either in the UK before they travel abroad or in their country of chosen study. Still others get a loan from a UK bank to help them, although, unlike student loans, you’ll need to repay this loan almost instantly, and interest begins accruing as soon as you’ve landed the loan.
By the way, consider non-EU countries such as Australia and the States carefully since you may end up paying higher tuition than local students.
Keep your eye on the the foreign exchange rate since it’ll influence the countries and programs that you choose. To do this you can use this helpful currency converter to help you track the exchange rate. You may want to study in a certain country, but if your home currency lags behind the currency of that country, you’ll find yourself having to spend more in order to cover basic tuition and living costs.
On the other hand, foreign currencies in emerging education markets such as Turkey, Russia, Malaysia and Brazil may influence you to go there since directors of academic institutions give you impressive grants - particularly in the language studies or cultural programmes. Indeed, the ICEF Monitor found last year that more students are leaving the expensive programmes of Britain and USA for affordable destinations such as Canada, Australia and parts of Europe. Many choose Malta, South Africa and Ireland.
It’s interesting that the foreign exchange rate has been one of primary reasons for driving students to study abroad. Not only can you find adventure and expand your experience by studying abroad, but you may also slash your study costs and save yourself years of scary loans. If the need arises to transfer money to the country you are studying in and you or a friend you know has access to a bank account there, consider using Transferwise. It's a quick and convenient way to get your cash, with no hidden fees.
Here’s all you need to know about the best credit cards for international students. We cover some of the best options and advice out there.
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