Deciding to study abroad is a huge decision for anyone, and one that you want to get right. There are so many things to consider it may seem overwhelming, but working your way through these 10 steps can help you narrow down your choice of where to study.
1. Which country?
This is going to be the place where you will be living for the next year or two, so make sure it is one that you want to visit! There are a total of 28 countries or ‘member states’ in the European union, and each one has its own unique culture and geography, from the Northern Lights of Finland, to the bustling cities of the UK. Take a Tour of Europe on the EHEF website and see which country captures your imagination.
2. One or more languages?
All EU countries now offer degree programmes in English to international students, giving you the opportunity to improve your English language skills for the workplace, while you study. But this could also be the chance to learn a completely new language – in today’s global economy knowing more than one foreign language can be the key to making you stand out to employers. So why not choose to study in a country where you can learn the local language at the same time, and maybe add Spanish, German or Polish to your CV?
3. City or campus?
Are you a city-loving person? Some students love being in the heart of a buzzing city while they study, having the culture, nightlife and attractions within easy reach. But others find that they can work harder in a campus environment, or in a smaller town with a more relaxed pace of life.
4. The course, of course!
For the majority of potential students, the most important thing to consider will of course be the course you want to study. Are there any particular countries that are well-known for teaching or research in the subject you want to study? Where is there a high concentration of businesses in your chosen field? And in that country, which are the universities that are best known for your subject? You may find that it is better to choose an institution that concentrates purely on your subject, or you may want to study somewhere that offers you the chance to study a variety of disciplines at the same time?
5. Everybody loves Rankings
Everybody loves looking at rankings, such as the THE World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities but it is important to consider them carefully. Each uses different methods and measures to calculate their lists, so as well as checking what place universities have, have a look at the methodology that ranking uses, and what weighting they give to teaching, research, student satisfaction etc.
It is also important to look not only at the university’s overall ranking, but their place for your specific subject – all 3 of the rankings listed above also rank by subject, department or field.
And once you have narrowed down which country you’d like to study in, you may also be able to find country-specific university rankings, often complied by newspapers, such as The Guardian in the UK, El Mundo in Spain and La Repubblica in Italy, which will include a larger number of institutions for your chosen country.
6. What will it cost and what can you afford?
There is a huge variety of university fees within the European Union, including some countries that offer free tuition fees to all students and others that have a large range of fees depending on the institution and the course. Your choice will depend on what you can afford, after taking into consideration all the other important elements. But also remember that that your education is an investment and one that will bring you benefits for the rest of your life. You need to find the right balance of cost vs. benefits for you.
You also need to take into consideration the livings costs of where you will be studying – some countries are much cheaper to study in than others, and sometimes there can be a big difference in costs even just between cities within a country, with capital cities often being much more expensive in terms of rent etc. than smaller cities and towns.
7. Scholarships and funding
Many EU universities offer scholarships to international students – either through the Erasmus+ scheme, through national schemes such as the Holland Scholarship in the Netherlands and Chevening in the UK, or through individual university funding. This information should be easily available on the university website. Be prepared though, you often have to apply for scholarships quite far in advance, so don’t leave your application too late!
8. What is student life really like?
Do a bit of research to find out what it is really like to study at that university. Check their website and social media channels - do they have student ambassadors from your country that you can contact? Is there an alumni organisation in your city where you can meet people who have already studied there?
Although your priority is obviously to study, it is important that you also enjoy your social time, so you need to know what the opportunities are for keeping up with your hobbies, making new friends and getting to know your host country.
9. The local community and support
It can be hard to adjust to living and studying in another country, especially one that has a very different culture to your own. See the institution’s website for what support they provide for international students – do they offer a social calendar, student support staff, an induction week for international students? Are there student groups or societies you could join? Maybe you would prefer to live somewhere where there is already a local established Indian community, with local restaurants, hang-outs and places for prayer.
10. Work, work, work
And last but not least, you may also want to know about the job opportunities that will be available to you, both while you are studying and after; some countries have special visa schemes in place for international students after their graduate and some universities offer work placements as part of their programmes. Have a look at the institution website, usually in the ‘careers’ section to see what opportunities and support they can offer you.