Is studying abroad worth it? It can be a great opportunity for you and your career. Find information on funding and other opportunities.
Studying abroad is much more than just an extended holiday. It’s an academically-rewarding and culturally-enriching experience. It challenges your existing knowledge by introducing you to new perspectives and ideas. Most courses at the majority of universities offer the option to spend a year abroad – or you could study your whole course in another country.
Here are five reasons to consider studying overseas.
1. It’s not much more expensive than the UK
You may think studying abroad is expensive, but with UK universities charging up to £9,250 a year, studying at home isn't necessarily cheaper than studying a degree-level course overseas – or going abroad for an exchange year. Some European countries, such as France and Germany, have lower tuition fees and a similar cost of living to the UK. Post-Brexit, UK students will no longer have home fee status at European universities, but some may charge low tuition fees for international students.
2. You’ll have a great chance to travel
Although studying abroad means you’ll spend a lot of time on your studies, there'll also be many opportunities to travel. What’s more, the new friends you make will provide opportunities for places to visit in the future. Remember that travelling can be expensive so look at getting a part-time job beforehand to save some money.
3. You can learn new skills and subjects
Many study abroad programmes don’t count towards your final degree as they're more about the experience of living and learning in a foreign country. This means you get more freedom when it comes to module selection. So, if you’re a Chemistry student who wants a taste of Art History, for example, studying abroad could give you that chance. Also, depending on where you go, it could give you a great incentive to learn a new language.
4. You’ll grow as a person
Leaving home to study in a new country is a big step for any young adult to take. It presents a whole host of challenges – culture shock, homesickness and language barriers to name a few. You’ll overcome these obstacles, and in doing so, become a more confident and adaptable person, as well as gain a greater insight into other cultures you may otherwise not encounter.
5. It'll make you more employable
Many people have degrees, so the graduate job market is highly competitive. It’s important for graduates to stand out from the crowd and studying abroad is a great way to show you have unique experience.
According to Universities UK, students who go abroad are 9% more likely to gain a 2:1 or 1st and are 24% less likely to be unemployed. There's good reason for this. Studying abroad shows you're willing to go out of your comfort zone and can work in different environments alongside different types of people. It also gives you something different and interesting to talk about at interviews.
Making the decision to study overseas is one thing. Working out how you're going to pay for it is where the real challenge begins. In addition to any tuition fees and living costs, other costs will include visas, health insurance and travel.
The most affordable way to get a taste of university life abroad is through an exchange programme, where you’re enrolled at a UK university but study part of your course overseas. You remain eligible for a UK student loan and may even have access to grants to help with living costs.
One of the best-known exchange schemes was the Erasmus+ programme. Following Brexit, the UK no longer participates in Erasmus. However, students in Northern Ireland who hold a British passport can continue to take advantage of the Erasmus scheme, funded by the Irish Government. Elsewhere in the UK, current Erasmus+ projects will continue until their funding ends, expected to be May 2023.
New UK exchange programmes have been developed in response to the exit from Erasmus. Since September 2021, UK-resident students can participate in the government’s new Turing Scheme, as long as their institution has been awarded funding. This enables students from universities, colleges and schools to go on placements and exchanges in countries around the world. It targets students from disadvantaged backgrounds to give them life-changing opportunities.
As well as whatever maintenance loans students are eligible for at home, through the Turing Scheme they’ll also get a grant to cover the additional costs of living abroad. The amount of money a student can get will depend on where they choose to study and for how long. As was the case with Erasmus+, it's expected that students on the Turing Scheme won't have to pay overseas tuition fees.
The Welsh Government has launched its own exchange programme, Taith, to run alongside the Turing Scheme. It’ll include exchanges for university students, with further details to be announced later in 2022.
In addition, ISEP (International Student Exchange Programs) runs an exchange programme that may be more suitable for those looking to study further afield than Europe.
Studying your whole degree overseas
If you want to study an entire degree abroad, you’ll usually have to apply to universities independently. This can be financially difficult as loans aren't available from the Student Loans Company if you study outside the UK.
Bear in mind:
- Living expenses can be difficult to fund as in most cases there are no loans or grants to cover them
- Many universities and countries ask for high fees paid in advance
- You can self-fund your study through part-time work but some countries don’t allow you to work while you study
- Finding a job abroad can be hard if you don’t speak the local language well, so consider working in the UK beforehand and during breaks
- You can take out a personal loan from a UK bank but unlike a student loan, repayments will be due immediately and interest starts accruing as soon as you access the loan
There are scholarships available for international students at universities around the world. These can be awarded on merit or need and vary in the amount provided. However, competition is tough, especially at undergraduate level.
Look at the websites of universities you’re interested in to find out what schemes you may be eligible for. Some UK organisations provide awards to help UK students study abroad, such as the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and Rotary International. You can search databases at InternationalScholarships.com and ScholarshipPortal.eu.