Studying Overseas

Should I go to college outside of the US?

Tara Cunningham College Life

Going to college is an exciting time for everyone. Picking a college and choosing a major… Why not think of a bigger picture and look overseas?

There are advantages to going to college overseas or outside of the US. Many colleges in Europe offer very low tuition rates compared to the US and also teach courses through English, You can also decide on your major and only study that from the start, such as Medicine.

Applying to college overseas is a brave move. It will involve a lot of organizing well in advance. College admissions processes are different in UK and Europe compared to the US. Be sure that you have a correct timeline if you are thinking of this route.

What are you going to study?

If you have decided that you are going to study abroad or outside of the US then it is important that what you are going to study matches where you are going to study. There are a couple of key important things you need to factor in.

Are you planning on travelling to Europe?

Can you speak a second language?

Is your course choice specific to where you want to study?

It makes sense if you are planning on studying history of art to travel to Italy. Here you can immerse yourself in Renaissance Art in Florence or Rome.

On the other hand you might be considering Russian, where better to study than in Russia. This all sounds amazing, but you need to make sure you are allowed to study in this country.

If you are travelling to Italy, can you speak Italian? Courses in Europe often offer certain majors to be taught through English, but you still have to live there day to day, so having some basic language skills is always a plus.

Or why not choose a country that speaks English, such as Ireland or the UK. (The UK is now a special case due to Brexit). There are other options outside of Europe, such as South Africa or Australia.

If you are considering a science or medicine, then studying abroad should definitely be given some thought. Graduating as a doctor will take 5-6 years in the UK or Ireland which is pretty much half the time it will take in the US.

The difference in European colleges is that you decide from the get go that you want to study medicine.

Tuition Costs

This is probably the most favorable part of studying abroad. The tuition costs in most European countries are subsidized by the government.

To study medicine in Rome, Italy for example will cost between $200 - $4000 per year. This is dependent on your parents’ earnings but it is inclusive of all students no matter where they are from.

This is a far cry from the $10k per year for an in-state college in the US. You do of course have to consider accommodation and living costs. However, most colleges have on campus accommodation which is also subsidized.

It averages at 300/600 euro per month, depending on how big the city is and how far from the college you are.

Double Room Floor Plan

Ireland is the only native English speaking country in the EU since the UK left in 2021. It has one of the best education systems in the world. Their government has invested greatly in the education system with 7 Universities for a population of 4 million.

As a non-EU citizen your tuition fees could be in excess of $20k. However, the path to becoming a doctor is much shorter.

Accommodation in Irish Universities is generally on campus (however it is not mandatory for freshman, unlike a lot of US schools). You will find that it must be paid per semester and not monthly.

You also must acquire a student Visa, which shows you have a place in a college, have paid your tuition fees, have access to money to fund your stay, and have private medical insurance.

The other way to offset some of the cost is to apply for an International Scholarship. These can be government run or specific to a particular college. If you do some research, you can find that many International Scholarships cover all tuition fees and some of your board and living costs.

You also can still apply for FAFSA while studying abroad, so do not forget to also fill out that application by the correct deadline.

Overrseas Pros and Cons

How do I apply?

For each country that you are considering, each has a different application process. Many will initially require a student visa. These can be applied for at your local embassy. These can take some time to process so make sure you apply with plenty of time to spare. Many schools will not even start your application without proof of your student visa.

To apply to Ireland as an International student is different than applying if you are an EU citizen. They have a centralized portal similar to the Common App but for non-EU you apply directly to the college you are interested in attending.

Trinity College – Dublin City (Ireland Capitol)

  • You must have a high school diploma
  • An SAT score of minimum 1290 on any two Reading, Writing or Math
  • GPA of 3.3 unweighted
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • An essay on why you wish to attend Trinity
  • English and one other language
  • Pass in 3 other subjects

Some Irish colleges (UCD) can be processed through the Common App (or direct)

The UCD school of Medicine, Physiotherapy and Vetinary have a different application process, either directly to the college or through a North American agent. Applications open for Irish colleges at the start of October (Direct), Common App – mid September if applicable.

Applying to the UK Universities is done through UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) before January 15. There is a cost involved. For all courses to Oxford or Cambridge or most medical courses the deadline is October 15. Most also require a personal essay. Since the 1 January 2021, the UK has now an immigration points system. You also need a student visa (Tier 4). In order to acquire this, you need to supply the following:

  • Passport details
  • Letter of acceptance from a college
  • Proof of English proficiency if not a native speaker
  • Financial means in the form of a bank statement

South African applicants apply to specific schools that you are interested in.

  • You need a GPA of 3+ and good scores on SATs.
  • You also are required to have a Visa to study which can be obtained from a local embassy in your home country (US)

Australia is much the same as other countries. You apply directly to a specific college or consider employing an education agent.

You will still be required to provide all paperwork

  • High school diploma
  • Health insurance
  • Sufficient funds
  • English proficiency
  • A placement offer form your chosen college.

To study medicine, in Italy, I would say that applying is relatively easy. You must follow the deadlines for application.

  • The main difference is that you must sit an entrance exam
  • This is 60 MCQs over 100 minutes
  • You must register to sit the exam. There is only one opportunity to do this per year
  • The test is negatively marked. This means no guessing
  • You are deducted marks for every incorrect answer

Embracing the Adventure

Going to college outside of the US, or even considering it is a massive decision. If you go you can’t just decide to go home for the weekend and maybe not even for Thanksgiving or the Holidays. But that shouldn’t be a reason to put you off.

This will be the adventure of a lifetime. There will be so much to discover in your new home. Even if it is just for a year or even a semester. There will be new ways of doing things, new culture, new food, new friends, new learning.

It is important that you embrace this with fully open arms. A chance to do something this exciting may never come your way again. For European kids it is quite normal to up sticks and go and study in a different country, for a year or a few months. You may find that there are lots of different International students in your course.

This is a fantastic way to expose yourself to new cultures and people’s different points of view.

Let us not be naïve though. It’s not something that is going to be plain sailing. There is a lot of organizing before you go – paperwork, visas, finances. When you step through airport security you are on your own. You must take responsibility. Of course, your parents will help if there is a major issue but all the small day to day stuff you will have to manage on your own.

That can be very daunting initially. Especially if you are going somewhere that they don’t speak English as a first language. Most if not all Europeans speak English. If you have a few key phrases

‘My Italian is not great, sorry’,

‘Do you speak English?’

You’ll find most are much more willing to help if you meet them halfway.

You also will have to overcome homesickness. This would be the same if you were to attend college out of state. There are ways to overcome this. The urge to jump on a plane and go home will come and go. Making sure you have some items from home and access to online calls will ease the feeling. It might come over you when doing exams, or birthdays – your own, or family members. This is totally normal. There will be a time difference but don’t worry, your parents will take a call from you at any time.

The most important thing to remember is to get the most from your time abroad. Europeans see nothing odd about hopping on a plane to another country for the weekend and it’s pretty inexpensive to do so.

Try and experience as much as you can in your time away. Yes, you will miss home, and it is expensive, and you might struggle with homesickness, and a language barrier. But this is the biggest adventure you have ever had and maybe will ever have but who knows where it will lead you to next.

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Mum, Graphic designer, Website owner, Writer at Tweentotwenty | Website

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
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