At St Peter’s we are constantly talking to students and prospective students about the advantages and barriers to studying abroad. Sometimes there’s a difference between perception and reality; sometimes it depends a lot on the attitude of the person involved; but generally there are certain themes that are repeated time and time again. Those are the themes that I’d like to discuss in this article.
The benefits – in one word!
If I had to sum up in just one word the benefits of studying abroad for a young Latin American student, be they undergraduate or postgraduate students, the word would be “Growth”. During a one-year or three-year degree programme in the UK, the student can grow in all senses of the word:
Intellectual growth – the UK system lays a great emphasis on independent study, which means that the students has to learn how to analyse different sources of information, then come to some kind of conclusion or argument. British university education demands that students read and do their own research, as well as attending classes and lectures. They also have to be ready to present and defend their work in tutorial or seminar environments.
Cultural growth – this is linked to intellectual growth in that it involves opening up the mind to different cultures, ideas and points of view. Each year more than 400,000 international students arrive in the UK to study alongside British students. The result is that there a truly multicultural environment in every university, which foments the sharing of different backgrounds and cultures, faces, fashion and food. If study is an intellectual melting pot, then the overall student experience is a cultural one.
Emotional growth – a person who leaves the comfort zone of family and friends grows up quicker. They mature faster as they face the challenges of meeting new people and having new experiences every day.
Language growth – the experience of studying and living abroad makes students bilingual – a key competitive advantages in today’s workplace.
The result of this growth is a mature, bilingual, well-educated global citizen, with a network of social and business contacts that will serve them for the future.
If there are so many benefits of studying abroad, then why don’t more students go? What are the barriers?
Again, by speaking to many students and their parents, we can identify what are the main concerns and doubts.
- Lack of information
A lot of people just think that it’s too complicated, too difficult to study abroad. They have never been given the information they need to be able to consider seriously the option of studying in another country. When it comes to the UK, it is easier and cheaper than you might think.
The costs of studying in the UK can be less than you think, firstly because degree courses are shorter. Nearly all undergraduate degrees are 3 three years and Masters Degrees are 12 months longer. So less tuition fees and less time to pay for accommodation and food abroad.
The fees themselves vary, according to the course and the university, so you can shop around according to your budget.
Scholarships are available from most universities. Most of these are based on academic excellence – and on average range from 10% to 50%.
Living costs vary according to where you live. Capital cities like London are generally much more expensive than smaller provincial towns. And you can save a lot of money on living costs by taking a part-time job. With a student visa you can work for up to 20 hours a week during term time and full time during holidays. This can have a significant positive impact on your budget.
- Culture shock
Living abroad isn’t for everyone. If you can’t do without your mother’s cooking and your group of close friends, then it would be better to stay at home. But the great majority of students who go abroad with a positive attitude, ready to embrace the culture or cultures that they are going to learn about, have a great time and come back home with many new ideas and experiences that they can apply to their daily lives.
There will be some culture shock, but this is all part of an exciting journey of discovery – discovering a new land, new people and also yourself.
In all, the benefits of an international study experience far outweigh the possible disadvantages. Time and time again we have seen how students and their lives and their futures have been transformed by the experience. Don’t let your chance go by. Contact us at St Peter’s today.