It is almost every student’s dream to be able to study abroad but due to a spread of misleading information and false rumours, it has created a great deal of controversy surrounding the whole issue of going abroad. These misconceptions lead students to believe that studying abroad is something almost-impossible. Lo and behold, you’d be surprised to find that these myths students have about studying abroad are nothing but just myths, and here are some facts (as well as real experiences) to debunk them.
Myth #1. Studying Abroad Is Too Expensive
“If only my wallet had that much money to clamp.”
I think it is already a known fact that no education comes cheap. Many are forgetting that not every country is the same, and the cost actually varies depending on the type of program you choose to pursue. When it comes to analysing the real expenses, it all goes down to one thing: Have you done your research? Most people only think about the tuition fees and forget about other expenses like cost of living, transportation, accommodations, etc. A program can be a lot cheaper, more or less the same or more expensive in other countries. But again, it all depends on which countries you are considering. Programs in developing countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica, Philippines, China, India are of course less expensive than in Sweden, the United States, Ireland or Scotland. We tend to overlook cost of living expense such as rentals (Are you renting out of campus or staying in a dorm?), transportation (Are there any subways/buses/taxi?), food (Are you going to be cooking more or dining out more?), healthcare (Mind you, not every country has free or low cost services like Malaysia, in fact, medication or hospital services in countries like China are crazy expensive!) and utilities (electricity, water, gas, heater).
Another fact that most people, including myself, are unaware of is that most countries actually do offer scholarships, financial aids and discounts if you have good grades. For example, in China they offer many kinds of scholarship for foreign students. Some covers half your tuition fees, some even covers your full tuition fees. In UK, the tuition fees might cost around £12,000, but if you score good grades, you’re entitled to a discount of £2000 (or maybe more). All you need to do is to spend more time researching and to understand the processes and procedures of applying for scholarships. You’d be surprised to know that it’s easier to apply for scholarships abroad than competing among locals. AND, unlike back in the days, today there are many non-profit organisations that help guide and assist students to study abroad. These study abroad providers actually help students search for the right programs at affordable prices: CUCAS (China), Centre for Study Abroad (CSA), USAC, ISA, and many more. These study abroad advisers can actually help you search for scholarships as well.
Myth #2. International Students Have More Fun, Get To Party More
“Now let’s all drink till we’re drunk cause that’s what all international students do”
Unless you are majoring in language or business, most programs are actually pretty hectic. Students pursuing degrees in medicine, engineering are mostly pretty tied up with endless labs and practical, assignments and revisions that they barely have any time off to actually enjoy themselves or “party”. While it is not entirely false that there are students who study abroad and spend most of their time partying and hooking up with other foreigners, some programs actually keep students rather busy. Certain universities actually take students’ attendance seriously, for example if you missed a certain amount of classes, you won’t be allowed to sit for the exam at the end of the semester. For those who are in a non-English native country, it is mostly compulsory for you to take up elective classes like learning the local language, participate in cultural groups and trips. So with your schedule jam-packed with classes and activities, do you really have time to ‘party’?
Myth #3. I Can Do More Traveling Since I’m Studying Abroad
“If only everyone knew that studying overseas literally means studying in a foreign country and not study travel.”
Somewhat similar with Myth 2#, with a busy semester most people don’t realise some students who study abroad actually don’t have the time to even start a travel plan. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions I’ve heard many times, so far. I constantly get “Oh, you’re studying abroad; you must be able to travel to different places!” or “Studying overseas, you must have a lot of time to check out the neighbouring cities/countries.” Truth is, we wish! As I’ve mentioned before, it really depends on the program that you are studying, but for most cases, even if you don’t have classes on weekends, your weekends are usually occupied or filled with endless assignments and projects that are due the following week.
Myth #4. It’s Too Dangerous
“No we’re not saying studying abroad is akin to CSI type danger.”
Let’s be honest, with crimes and messy political disrupts happening around the world lately, regardless of whichever the country., unwanted accidents are bound to happen if we are not careful. Of course, avoid choosing countries that are in a state of war. Then again, there usually aren’t any programs offered at war-stricken countries! Even if there are any, your study abroad advisers would advise you otherwise. Or if you just keep up with world events, you’d pretty much be aware of what’s going on. Growing up in Malaysia, you’ve automatically become more conscious of your own safety with issues like snatch-theft (quite common in Southeast Asia, South America and Southern Europe), fraud, robbery, rape and many more.
Simply abide by the laws wherever you are, avoid getting involved with drugs and be more conscious of your own safety and wellbeing, then you’re pretty much fine. Not kidding about the drugs, most countries do take drug abuse cases very seriously and if caught, you may very likely get deported back. Other than that, stay safe and just be careful as you would at home, then you’ll be alright. In fact, there are many countries that are a lot safer than you think. For example, Australia and New Zealand are probably one of the safest places to study in (with low murder and assault rates). Norway is not only one of the cheapest places to live in but has an incredibly low crime rate making it a safe place to stay and study! an>
Myth #5. I Don’t Know Any Foreign Language Other Than English, So I Can’t Go Abroad
“If only we could install a translate plug-in into our ears, that’d make life much easier.”
While countries like US, UK, Australia, Ireland, and South Africa are English-speaking countries, many non-English speaking countries now offer programs in English too. English is undeniably one of the most spoken and important languages in the world and many countries are keeping up by offering Bachelor, diploma and vocational courses using English as a medium of instruction. If you’re thinking of pursuing your Master’s degree abroad then you’re in luck as almost every Master’s program is in English. Learning a new language can be difficult and challenging, but picking up a second (or third or more) language is never a bad thing. Instead, it may actually help boost your resume. Today, translating jobs are high in demand, be it Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Russian, etc. In every country, translation is a very lucrative industry. While translation may not be your ideal or main career choice, but acquiring the skills of an extra language may come in handy. I learned Chinese Mandarin for a year during my first year in Beijing and I never thought that a translating job is such a great way to earn some extra money during my free time. And it has definitely helped me sealed more job offers than expected. There really isn’t a con when it comes to learning a new language. It helps you understand a particular culture, expand your knowledge and all in all, a very enriching experience.
Myth #6. There Are Very Few And Only Selected Majors Or Programs In English, I Won’t Be Able To Cope
“Yes and this seems to be a problem to many apparently. Especially for studying abroad.”
My sister is actually studying Bachelor of Flight Vehicle Design and Engineering in Beijing, and her program is entirely taught in English with pretty fluent English-speaking professors from the US. Just like Myth 1#, you need to do your research and find out more about the programs you’re interested in, whether or not it will be taught in English (if non-English speaking countries). This is probably why programs in English-speaking countries are far more competitive. Students limit their choices to English-speaking countries only. Many share this misconception because they are simply unaware that non-English native countries actually do offer many programs in English, some with native English speaking professors!
Myth #7. My Grades Aren’t Excellent, Only Students With Perfect GPA Will Get Accepted In Colleges/Universities Abroad.
“Can someone tell me the secret to getting a perfect GPA?”
While your chances of getting admitted into a university are a lot higher when you have impressive grades, not being accepted for less than perfect GPA however is actually a ‘myth’. Some programs do have a minimum GPA requirement, but are usually very flexible. Most universities actually welcome international students even if they have just average grades. Many universities today are looking to create a more “diverse community” and will accept students from all over the world, regardless of your GPA. Programs such as language courses do not even request for your GPA. Even if they do, in most cases the minimum GPA required to get admitted is around a GPA of 2.5. Excluding UK, where students are required to submit current transcripts and GPA for some universities.
Myth #8. I Have A Student Visa So I’m Not Allowed To Work, Therefore Studying Abroad Means I’ll Be Financially Restricted.
“I’ve got my pen, paper and some coins. How do I get part time jobs now.”
When you’re studying abroad, working can be a great experience for you to learn something new and have the opportunity to earn some money at the same time. It’s true that in some countries, you are not allowed to work full-time with a student visa. Then again, can you juggle school life with a full-time job? Different countries have their own set of rules when it comes to working while studying. Going back to Myth 5#, (that is if we’re looking at non-English speaking countries) if you have a good command in English, you can always teach English as a part-time. English teaching is actually quite a lucrative business in non-English speaking countries because it is so high in demand and everybody wants to learn English these days. And if you’re pretty good with multiple languages you can always do part-time or freelance translating jobs too. While some countries do not allow international students to work, my advice on that is to just stay under the radar, avoid signing contracts and full-time positions. If you’re not allowed to work but still want to earn some extra money, private tutoring and translating jobs are pretty safe.
In European countries like Germany, Spain, France and Italy, students are allowed to work while studying. In English-speaking countries like US, UK, Australia, Ireland and Canada, students can work with a student visa but with a couple of minor restrictions. For example, in Australia, students may work up to 40 hours every two weeks during their study semester and can work full-time during their study breaks. In US, international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during study periods and up to 40 hours per week during their study breaks. In the UK, if you are granted a Tier 4 Visa (studying in UK for a period of 6 months or more) then you are allowed to work. Regardless of which country, as long as you follow the rules and the right procedures to it, there’s no harm in trying to work part-time or even freelance jobs. As I’ve mentioned before, do your research beforehand.
Myth #9. I’ll Most Likely Get A Job Abroad When I Graduate , I Will Have Better Opportunities Too.
“If only getting a job upon graduation overseas was as easy as this big lighted billboard.”
As the number of students who study abroad increases, it is not surprising that when it comes to getting a job abroad after graduation, it often gets pretty competitive. Don’t forget you’re competing with native graduates as well. Unless you have a very impressive and exceptional set of skills, it’s not that easy to get a job. That is why many of my friends who spent years abroad, still end up returning back home to look for jobs. Many students and parents think that by studying abroad, chances of you landing a good job are higher. But looking at the global economy today, European economies are still battling with high unemployment rates and emerging economies like China are facing financial crisis trying to maintain and expand their economy. Times are tough for many graduates these days, both local and international. Many are still jobless and stressed out. Despite the fact that many countries now welcome international students with open arms, it is not a guarantee that you will have a job after you graduate. Note that studying abroad does not guarantee you a job but what it does is that it provides you with a more exposed and richer learning experience and most of all, the opportunity to realize your inner capabilities and strengths.
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