Are you considering studying abroad for university? Here are a few suggestions for you from my own experience doing my undergraduate abroad!
Consider your interests
What are you interested in studying? Don’t worry, you don’t need to have your life planned out, or be sure of your interests because your interests are likely to change. Why? University tends to offer a much broader range of courses and programs than highschool subjects offer, engaging you in topics you never would have thought would have interested you. So, keep your options open, and consider a range of interests rather than one narrow path.
Don’t let rankings fool you
Do not fall into the trap of simply looking up world university rankings and only applying to a certain selection of universities. Rankings do not take into consideration the richness of your university experience, which includes the academic environment, social life, and future prospects. If you do have to resort to looking at rankings, look at the rankings of the various fields rather than the university as a whole. For example, if you are interested in computer science, look at the rankings of computer science rather than the entire university. But, keep in mind that it is not a comprehensive list.
More often than not, university-wide rankings are of their post-graduate programs rather than their undergraduate, and most funds are allocated to the services for postgraduate programs. Just because you want to go to a world-famous, highly acclaimed university for undergrad does not mean that you will be guaranteed a post-graduate position there, or that you will reap the true benefits of the university as an undergraduate student. The power of the name only goes so far. So, choose universities that put value in undergraduate education and will enhance your chances for the future.
Do your research
Do your research! After you find the rankings, if you do, research the courses available for that field in those respective universities. Many universities can offer the same program, but very different courses for that. For example, if you are interested in Political Science, some universities restrict that program to primarily government and politics, whereas others include international affairs. If you go to their websites, and the modules/courses available, you will get a comprehensive list of all courses available for that academic year and get an idea of what options you will have as a student in that university.
What environment suits you
When thinking about universities, don’t just think about academics or the name. Of course, academics is probably the most important factor for most of you, however, if you are going to an incompatible environment, it will only hurt your academics and future. The environment and lifestyle of the university you attend is very important. Research the culture of the university you want to attend. Look at youtube videos of room tours, or ‘a day in a life’ videos to catch a glimpse of what your life might look like as a student. If you are someone that enjoys solitude and peaceful campuses, perhaps universities in more nature-filled areas, farther away from dense cities is best for you. Or maybe you thrive in a buzzing city and want a life that is integrated with city life.
Your environment can affect your sleep schedules, your social life, your interests, your study life and productivity, and your energy levels. Think about the environment that provides the best support for you so that you can have the comfort of knowing that you will be studying in a place that is compatible with your needs, while also challenging you in a healthy way.
At the end of the day, your university life is an experience meant to enrich your understanding of the world and provide the backbone needed to enter into the professional world. Think about what is best for you and will be the best support system for you in the future.
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