A world-class education, invaluable life experiences, exploring uncharted territory. These are just some of the reasons why students dream of going abroad. And one of the key decisions students need to make, of course, is where they want to make these dreams come true. You may already know exactly which country you imagine yourself studying in. And if you don’t, that’s okay too! After all, the world is a huge place and there are hundreds if not thousands of universities to consider. How can you narrow your choices down to figure out the right place for you? In our How to Decide Where to Study Abroad guide, we walk you through the biggest factors to consider!
1. Figure Out Which Program or School You Want to Study In
Every student is unique. And this means their preferences in study abroad options are too! Some students already know exactly where they want to study. This narrows their choices down to the universities at this study abroad destination. However, since you’re here, we’re guessing you don’t belong to that group quite yet. Which is totally fine too! You can figure out your ideal study abroad destination the other way around too!
Okay, let us elaborate a bit more. If your primary concern is how to choose a study abroad program, pinpointing this helps determine the right study abroad country for you! Say that you’re looking into the best programs for communication studies. You happen to find universities in, say, Australia and Canada that look promising. You meet the eligibility requirements. The tuition fees are reasonably within your set budget. You might even qualify for scholarships. Well, there you go – you have your study abroad options on the table!
It’s not quite as simple as that, though. Choosing your university is one aspect of a bigger process. Then there’s figuring out the costs of living, the visa application process, whether the country offers part-time and post-study work opportunities, etc. But looking into the right university match gives you a good starting point for your research. And this is especially helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of considering each country one by one!
2. Compare Costs of Living Across Study Destinations
As an international student, costs are a pretty big consideration in your plans. In general, international student fees do tend to be higher than domestic student fees. Plus, there are all the additional costs of accommodation, groceries, transport, travel, and so on to consider. You and your family may have been saving up for your higher education for years. But we do understand that finances are finite. So, if budget is a big consideration in your plans, comparing the costs of living across major study abroad destinations can help narrow your choices down!
It’s hard to say which country is the most expensive for students. We advise against writing off a whole country because its average cost of living looks too high. The thing is, plenty of factors influence how much you spend monthly living in a country. Within the same country, costs of living can vary widely depending on which city you live in and even which parts of the city you live in. Then there’s the fact that tuition fees can vary quite a bit from university to university and program to program. You’ll often find huge variations within the same university in tuition fees, depending on the program! Even your lifestyle can make a difference in what your yearly expenses look like.
Studying abroad can involve a lot of money. And that’s why we highly urge you to make a careful, well-researched decision. Yeah, it’ll take some extra effort. But if that means you can find the perfect study abroad destination that fits your budget, we think it’s worth it!
Unsure about your budget plans?
UniSearch’s advanced search engine can help you out. You can filter out the courses and universities that specifically fall within your budget range. We also have detailed cost of living guides for major study abroad destinations, like Canada, the UK, Australia, and more!
3. How Far Are You Flying Off To?
How to decide where to study abroad may in part depend on how far you’re willing to go. This in turn depends on your circumstances and preferences. The distance might be a secondary concern for you when looking into study abroad destinations. On the other hand, especially if you’re a first-generation applicant or have never gone too far from home, you might feel more comfortable if you study somewhere closer to home. Lots of Indonesian students, for example, choose to travel to Malaysia to study since it’s close by and the language and culture feel familiar. And that’s completely valid! We understand how daunting leaving home and striking a path for yourself in a foreign country can feel! So, if proximity to your home country is important to you, you can start looking into study abroad destinations close by. For students in Malaysia, for example, studying in the UK or Australia is closer than, say, studying in the USA.
4. Is Ease of Travel a Priority?
Travelling to study abroad can be extremely exciting. It can also be an extreme headache. Juggling student visa processing times, ticket bookings, and making sure your luggage isn’t overweight can be challenging in and of itself. As an international student, you might also find that getting into certain countries is a bit harder than others. For example, needs you to sit for a credibility interview for UK. Depending on where you’re from, you might also need to do tuberculosis tests and give biometrics. Most major study abroad destinations will ask you to prove your English proficiency levels.
Depending on where you’re from and where you’re going, the process can be a lengthy and complicated one. On the other hand, you might find that you have a far easier time getting entry depending on your home and host country. Ireland, for example, doesn’t require an entry visa for citizens of specific countries.
If your heart is set on a specific destination or a dream university, we recommend researching the visa process thoroughly and starting on your application early on. This lets you secure a higher chance of it going through. But if you’re on the lookout for a study abroad destination that’s more accessible to you, look through our student visa guides to find the right place for you!
5. How Much Work Experience Can You Get?
If there’s one thing we want to share with prospective students, it’s this – learning goes way beyond the classroom. And the best universities recognise this. Some of the best study abroad countries get this recognition because their universities and job sectors work symbiotically. In other words, job sectors and industry directly inform course curricula. And in turn, students with the most up-to-date, in-demand skills and knowledge graduate and enter the workforce.
How to decide where to study abroad, for you, might hinge on how important getting this work experience is. Countries like Ireland and Canada often build internships and work placements directly into their university programs. And these opportunities are invaluable in giving you hands-on experience in highly developed economies. This is not the type of thing you can learn in a classroom, after all. Universities in study abroad destinations that recognise and incorporate industry trends and practice into learning tend to have much higher graduate employability too. If securing your future prospects is one of your biggest motivators, then looking into work experience opportunities abroad is a must.
Alongside work placements, you might also be looking for opportunities to earn a bit on the side to manage your expenses. Studying abroad, as we all know, can be quite pricey. Countries like the UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia all have provisions for full-time international students to work part-time while studying. If working part-time is a priority for you, we advise carefully looking into your eligibility requirements at your study abroad options. In some cases, you might find that even if you don’t qualify for part-time work, you can still get work experience if work placements are a considerable portion of your program.
6. Planning on Settling Abroad?
For some students, studying abroad is also an opportunity to settle abroad. If this is an end goal for you, researching your immigration options post-graduation has to be a big part of your decision-making! In countries like the UK and Ireland, you do have opportunities to apply for post-study work visas. But in Ireland, for instance, you can hold the Stamp 1G permit for a maximum of seven years. This means that you can continue living and working in Ireland for seven years after graduation. There’s a time limit involved.
Certain countries are very attractive to students because of their flexible immigration policies. These create routes for post-study work and permanent residency for international students! Canada, Australia, and New Zealand rank among countries with very friendly immigration policies. Studying in these countries, getting the necessary qualifications and work experience, and so on, lets you create a route toward permanent residency in the long run!
7. What’s the Weather Like Up There?
Now, the forecast might be the last thing on your mind as you wrangle out the details on how to decide where to study abroad. But it bears considering because you are setting off somewhere presumably far from home. If, for example, you’re from Southeast Asia, the blistering cold winters of Quebec might be a complete shock to you. Since you’re unfamiliar with this type of weather, it makes sense if you feel intimidated by it. You might want to head off someplace warmer, living alongside the golden coastlines in Australia instead. Again, figuring out the right location for you with the ideal climate will take some research. Both Canada and Australia are massive countries. And this means that their terrain and climate can vary quite a bit. While winters can be frigid and snowy in Quebec, you might enjoy a milder version of it in Vancouver! And yes, you do experience winter in certain parts of Australia more keenly than others.
If your dream school is in any of these places, maybe extreme weather doesn’t bother you too much. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare though, with the right clothing and gear, so we do recommend doing your research first!
8. Navigating Culture Shock
The prospect of leaving behind the home you grew up in is daunting to many. Lots of students tell us one of their biggest concerns is acclimating to a new culture. It’s completely natural to get homesick, missing your family and friends, the food you love, the familiarity of your native language. For some students, the anxiety of going so far away might be what’s holding them back from studying abroad.
If you’re one of these students, why not choose a place known for being a multicultural haven? Canada, Australia, the UK, the USA – all major study abroad destinations – have huge multicultural populations. You’ll see the term “melting pot” crop up often to describe how these communities represent cultures and ethnicities from around the world. Some cities are more cosmopolitan than others, like London, Toronto, and Melbourne. If you’re looking for a piece of home, you’ll very likely find it here! Some of the best student cities around the world have incredibly high student mixes. Among an international and intercultural student body, your culture, nationality, and background are a cause of celebration! And the chances of running into people who speak the same language, love the same food and know exactly what you miss about home are higher. Studying abroad lets you experience the best of both worlds. You get to ease your way into a new lifestyle and environment, while also appreciating your roots and background.
Our Final Thoughts on How to Decide Where to Study Abroad
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But we hope that walking you through what to consider has helped you get going on how to decide where to study abroad! Whether you work your way up by picking your program and university first, make your decision based on budget or travel ease, or are planning long-term toward permanent residency, we recommend approaching your study abroad options with care and patience. The more research you do, the more informed a decision you make. And since this is a pretty big decision that’ll affect the rest of your life, you owe yourself that!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I decide where I should study abroad?
You can consider a bunch of factors, depending on their importance to your personally, to narrow down your options:
- Which program or university you want to study in
- The cost of living at your chosen study abroad country
- How far from your home country you’re willing to go
- Ease of travel depending on visa regulations
- Availability of work experience opportunities
- Opportunities to settle abroad as a permanent resident
- Climate, culture, and other factors at the host country