How to study abroad: Choosing the right country, university, and course for you

By Edvoy• Last updated: Feb 5, 2024
How to study abroad: Choosing the right country, university, and course for you
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Imagine being one of the 6.4 million international students who study abroad worldwide.

With millions choosing this path, the decision can feel exciting.

But also confusing.

You have a vague idea of which country you want to study, you know a few people who have looked at certain universities, and your parents are desperate for you to study Engineering - but it all feels overwhelming.

How do you even begin to navigate this process?

This article aims to demystify the start of the journey and help you navigate through three pivotal decisions: selecting the right country, finding the ideal course, and choosing the perfect university.

You’ll know where to start and what to do once you’ve finished reading.

Let's dive into these key areas and make your dream of studying abroad a well-informed reality.

Deciding which country you want to study

Choosing the right country for your studies is more than an academic decision. It's about finding a place where language, culture, climate, and educational quality align with your personal and academic needs.

We've pinpointed eight key factors to guide you through this pivotal decision, ensuring your choice is perfect for you.

1. Language

Familiarity with the local language can significantly influence your academic and social experience. If you're not fluent in the native language, consider countries with strong programs in your native language or where English is widely spoken.

Example: Countries like the Netherlands or Sweden offer numerous programs in English, even though they're non-native English-speaking countries.

Also read: 10 tips to improve your English language skills

2. Culture

Cultural compatibility is vital for your overall experience. Research social norms, traditions, and the general lifestyle in potential countries. This will help you assess how well you may adapt to the new environment.

Example: In the UK, there's a strong focus on social etiquette and understatement, while the USA emphasises individual achievement and direct communication.

Also read: India culture vs UK culture: What students can expect and adapt

3. Climate

Weather conditions can affect your comfort and lifestyle. Consider if you prefer warmer climates or can adapt to colder environments. The climate can also impact your study habits and recreational activities.

Example: If you're from a tropical country, studying in Canada might require adjustments to cold weather.

4. Education system and quality

Look into the education system's structure, teaching styles, and the reputation of universities in your field of study. It’s important to note, some countries have longer courses in their programs than others. 

Example: A postgraduate degree in the US is often two years long, whereas in the UK it is one year long. This can massively impact costs.

Education system in different countries: USA | UK | Canada | New Zealand

5. Cost of living and tuition fees

Financial considerations are crucial. Compare tuition fees, accommodation costs, and general living expenses. Countries vary significantly in terms of affordability.

Example: While universities in the USA may offer a wide range of prestigious programs, tuition fees and living expenses are generally high. In contrast, Canada offers more affordable tuition fees, but cities like Toronto or Vancouver can have a higher cost of living.

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6. Opportunities for work and internships

Research the availability and ease of getting internships and part-time jobs. Post-graduation work opportunities are also an essential factor for many students.

Example: Australia allows international students to work part-time during their studies and offers post-study work visas.

Also read: Your step-by-step guide to finding an internship abroad

7. Safety and political stability

Ensure the country is politically stable and safe for international students. Look up safety indexes and current students' experiences in different locations.

Example: New Zealand, ranked as the second safest country in the world according to the 2021 Global Peace Index, provides a politically stable and secure environment for international students.

8. Healthcare system

The quality and accessibility of healthcare services are important, especially in the context of ongoing global health considerations.

Example: Full-time international students in the UK can use NHS services by paying an annual £470 surcharge, but those studying for less than six months need private health insurance.

Everything you need to study abroad
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Deciding what to study

Embarking on your educational journey includes a crucial question: What should you study? 

This decision is more than selecting a subject; it's about aligning your deepest interests and passions with your future career path.

 Let's delve into how to choose a course that excites you and sets you on a path to personal and professional fulfilment.

1. Understanding your interests and passions

Reflect on childhood dreams: What captivated you as a child? Were you intrigued by space, drawn to art, or curious about how computers work? These early interests can illuminate your innate passions and potential career paths.

Assess current interests: Consider what excites you now. Do you enjoy coding, writing, or maybe debating? Your current hobbies and favourite subjects often hint at your natural inclinations and suitable study areas.

Create a Matching List: Align your interests with potential professions. 

For example:

  • Environmental enthusiasm? Explore careers in sustainability or environmental science.
  • Love for storytelling? Consider journalism, creative writing, or film studies.
  • Fascinated by technology? Look into computer science, engineering, or IT.

Visualise Your Future: Imagine yourself in different professions. Which ones feel most appealing and fulfilling? This exercise can help solidify your choices.

2. Aligning career goals and life aspirations

Evaluate life goals: Your career choice should align with your long-term life goals. Do you aspire to travel, achieve work-life balance, or make a societal impact? Consider how different career paths align with these aspirations.

Consider practical Aspects: Consider where you want to live and your desired lifestyle. Some careers require living in urban centres, while others offer more flexibility.

Balance passion and market demand:

  • Passion: Choose a field you love, as it's key to long-term job satisfaction.
  • Market demand: Research the job market. Some passions might lead to niche fields with limited opportunities, while others offer broader prospects.

Harmonise choices: Strive for a career that satisfies your passions and practical needs, ensuring a fulfilling professional and personal life.

3. Financial considerations and market demand

Understand potential earnings: Investigate the salary range for your desired profession. Websites like PayScale offer insights into average earnings, helping you gauge the financial return of your degree.

Assess job market trends: Determine the demand for your chosen career. Use job search platforms like Indeed to monitor the number of job postings and industry growth in different regions.

Balance passion with practicality: While following your passion is important, consider the practical aspects of your career choice, such as job availability and potential earnings, to ensure a balanced and informed decision.

Also read: 11 highest paying degrees in the UK 2023

4. Exploring and understanding the field

Read job descriptions: Dive into job descriptions in your chosen area to get a clear picture of the skills and qualifications required. This can help align your studies with real-world expectations.

Connect with professionals: Use LinkedIn to reach out to industry professionals. Ask questions and seek advice to gain deeper insights into the field.

Engage with industry platforms: Beyond LinkedIn, participate in industry forums and groups. These platforms can offer valuable perspectives on how your studies apply in practical settings.

Additional practical steps:

  • Seek internships or volunteer opportunities in your field.
  • Join webinars or online discussions to stay informed about industry trends.

5. Utilising university resources

Explore university websites: University websites are a primary source of detailed course and faculty information. Delve into these sites for comprehensive academic insights, including syllabi and faculty expertise.

Watch university videos: Many universities offer insightful videos about campus life and academics. These can provide a closer look at the learning environment and facilities.

Leverage online resources: Beyond official university resources, explore digital libraries and virtual tours for a broader perspective. Student reviews and forums are also valuable for unfiltered insights.

Check out Edvoy's resources: Edvoy offers extensive information on various universities. Visit our university pages and YouTube channel for additional insights and guidance in your university selection process.

Bonus tip: Keep notes on information that aligns with your academic goals, helping you effectively narrow down your choices.

6. Seeking advice from trusted sources

Consulting with family, friends, and professionals can offer valuable perspectives in your decision-making process. They can provide insights based on their experiences and understanding of your strengths and interests. 

However, remember, the final choice should be yours. It's essential to ensure that your decision aligns with your aspirations and goals, not just the expectations or experiences of others. 

Trust your judgment and instincts when making this significant decision.

Deciding which university you want to study 

Selecting a university is about finding the right fit for your ambitions and lifestyle.

This section zeroes in on crucial factors - from courses that captivate you to campus environments that resonate with you.

1. Key factors to consider

Course offerings: Start by evaluating the courses on offer. Are they in line with your career aspirations? Check course details online to get a sense of the curriculum.

Location preferences: Think about where the university is located. Do you prefer a bustling city or a calm campus setting? This choice affects your daily life and study experience.

University atmosphere: Gauging the campus vibe is crucial. Utilise virtual tours and student testimonials to understand the social and cultural environment. Engage with online student forums or social media groups to get a feel for campus life and see if it aligns with your preferences.

Alignment with career goals: Consider how the university supports your career plans. Look for opportunities like internships and work placements. Research the university's career services and connect with alumni for real insights.

2. Learning style and university ranking

Learning style adaptability: Different universities have distinct teaching methods. Some focus on theoretical knowledge, while others emphasise practical skills. Identify your preferred learning style – do you thrive in interactive classes or in-depth lectures?

Understanding university rankings: Rankings can provide insights into a university's overall performance and reputation. However, delve deeper into specific departments or programs. A university might have a high overall ranking, but consider how well-regarded the department of your interest is.

Practical tip: Use ranking websites for initial guidance, then research individual programs or departments for a more detailed understanding. This approach helps make an informed choice beyond general perceptions of a university's standing.

3. Researching universities

Start with a broad search: Begin by exploring a range of universities that offer your desired course. Use platforms like Edvoy for an initial overview. They provide comprehensive profiles, including academic strengths and course descriptions.

Deep dive into details: Once you have a shortlist, delve deeper into each university’s offerings. Look at the specifics of course content, the qualifications of faculty members, and the facilities available. Check for any unique features or specialisations that stand out.

Consider job prospects: Research the universities' employability rate and career support services. How do their graduates fare in the job market? This information is often available on university websites or platforms like Edvoy.

Utilise comparison tools: Many educational platforms offer tools to compare universities side-by-side. Use these to weigh factors like course content, faculty expertise, and graduate outcomes.

Seek student insights: Finally, look for student reviews or testimonials. They can provide a real-life perspective on studying at the university beyond what official descriptions offer.

4. Lifestyle and location preferences

Evaluate your ideal setting: Reflect on whether a bustling city or a tranquil town suits you best. Urban areas offer cultural vibrancy, while quieter settings provide a peaceful study environment.

Budget considerations: Factor in living expenses. Cities might provide more social opportunities but can be costly. Smaller towns or suburban areas often have lower costs. Use online cost-of-living calculators to estimate expenses in different locations.

Align with your study needs: Consider how the environment impacts your focus and productivity. Need constant stimulation? A city's energy might be beneficial. Prefer a quieter study setting? A campus in a more rural setting could be ideal.

5. Types of universities and campus life

Understand different university types: Universities vary widely in size, setting, and culture. Large universities often provide diverse courses and vibrant campus life, while smaller institutions might offer a more close-knit community and personalised attention.

Consider campus settings: Some universities are self-contained campuses, offering a strong sense of community. Others are integrated into urban areas, providing a more city-centric experience. Think about which setting aligns with your preference for a college experience.

Research unique experiences: Each university type offers unique experiences. Large universities boast extensive resources and activities, while smaller ones often foster strong mentorship and tailored academic paths.

Also read: Is it better to study in a small campus or a big university?

6. Work experience and industry connection

Location impact on opportunities: The university's location can significantly influence your access to work experience and internships. Urban universities often have closer ties with industries and businesses, providing more opportunities in finance, technology, or media sectors.

University-industry partnerships: Research the university’s connections with industries relevant to your course. Strong partnerships can lead to internships and work experience opportunities integral to your career development.

Course-specific considerations: Some courses, especially those in fashion, media, or engineering, benefit significantly from being in or near industry hubs. Look for universities located in cities known for these industries.

Practical tip: Explore their industry links using the university’s career services website. Attend virtual job fairs and networking events to understand how the university facilitates connections between students and potential employers.

7. Financial considerations

Assessing tuition and fees: Compare tuition costs across your chosen universities. Remember, these can vary significantly, especially for international students.

Understanding cost of living: Consider the living expenses in the university's city or town. Factors like accommodation, food, transport, and entertainment can add up. Use cost of living calculators available online to estimate your monthly expenses.

Seeking accommodation options: Look into various housing options offered by the university and in the local area. On-campus housing might be more convenient, while off-campus options could be more affordable.

Exploring student discounts: Many cities offer significant student discounts on transportation, food, and entertainment, which can help reduce expenses.

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Related tags:
How to study abroad
How to choose country
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