Studying abroad: Things to consider

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Studying abroad has long been a dream for many Viet parents and students - the foreign education symbolizes opportunities, knowledge, and a ticket to professional success. Every year, millions of students apply to schools all over the globe, from the U.S to Europe and even Asian countries like Korea or Japan. But is studying abroad the right choice for everyone? What are the costs and benefits of making this choice? Let’s examine it thoroughly.

1. What are you hoping to gain from studying abroad?

Before googling “Top universities in _”, ask yourself “What do I want to get out of my education?” Not only are you paying a hefty sum for your education, you’re also pouring a lot of time and energy into it, so what do you want to accomplish in the end? Go beyond the general “get a good job and make good money” to define what “good” means to you. It can mean having research opportunities, exploring certain disciplines that aren’t popular in Vietnam, or living in a diverse community and experiencing a global culture.

2. Should you go or stay?

Once you have the list of things that you want in an education, examine whether you can best obtain them in Vietnam or other countries. For example, if extracurricular opportunities are an important reason why you’re considering studying abroad, find ways you can participate right in Vietnam. If quality art courses are what’s important to you, search for ones available right here. After exhausting your possibilities in Vietnam, if you conclude that going abroad would be better for your goals, you’ll be able to make that decision with confidence and present your case to your parents with clear reasoning.

Another factor to consider when making this decision is your family’s financial background. Is your family able and willing to support you with several years’ worth of tuition and living expenses? Student visas often place a restriction on the hours you can work, so you will likely need some support from your family. Do your research and ask people you know who’ve studied abroad for an estimate of the sums you’ll need.

A note on scholarships

We see advertisements with students who earned multiple scholarships all the time, it won’t be that hard to get one ourselves if we work hard and plan for it, right? In reality, more factors come into play when it comes to scholarships than your competence and strength as a candidate. Not all foreign universities offer financial aid to international students, or if they do, the budget will be limited as they’d prioritize domestic students. Competition is fierce, especially for high-ranking universities in the U.S or U.K. If you’re applying for financial aid, be aware that it might affect your chances. Whether you’ll get financial aid or scholarships is not guaranteed, so make sure you have enough financial support from your family even if there is none from the school.

3. Factors to consider when choosing a destination/school

If you’ve decided to go study abroad, take your time to research and have fun “shopping” for your next destination! Some factors that you should consider are:

  • Your intended major/career path: What are the best sch0ols and cities for your career path? Where can you obtain the best education in the field and have access to the most professional opportunities?

  • Culture: This is often overlooked but is so crucial to your quality of life abroad. What kind of community do you want to live in? Do you like the hustle and bustle of U.S cities, or the peacefulness and scenery of European countries? Where would you call home for at least the next four years? Finding a lifestyle and cuisine that you love can make your transition easier and decrease the chance of culture shock or homesickness.

  • A university’s degree’s value: Don’t just look at the tuition, weigh in factors like average starting salaries for their graduates, the school’s reputation, employability, etc. to gauge what the returns on your investment in this school can be.

  • Types of schools: What type of school would you prefer - public or private, liberal arts or research, big or small, urban or rural? Each school has its own culture and “vibes,” so definitely do your research and talk to people, either from your social circle or in social media groups, to figure out the one for you!

  • Academic: going back to what you want in an education, look for institutions that match your goals and priorities. Some schools are more research-based, while others lean towards a more hands-on approach to learning. If English is a concern, find schools with a good support system for students with English as a second language.

Throughout this process, remember to stay in touch with what you really want. Do not let others’ opinions, expectations, or societal standards be the sole reasons for your decisions. Ultimately, studying abroad is about finding what environment works for you and will help you grow the most. You’re not only committing to a school, you’re committing to a new country and culture, so take your time to figure things out and have fun!

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