Thousands of students study abroad, but far fewer individuals consider earning their entire degree by attending college or university full time in another country. Doing so can unlock many unanticipated benefits, and it may lead you to finding your ideal school.
While leaving the U.S. to attend college is not for everyone, there are some potential advantages of an international education, particularly for these types of students.
- A student interested in other cultures:
International schools provide you with a natural opportunity to spend several years immersed in a new culture. In certain instances, such as with European colleges, students can experience many countries. The compactness of Europe allows those attending college in the United Kingdom, France, Germany or another nation to travel to neighboring countries with relative ease, especially within the European Union.
In addition, exposure to a foreign language over multiple years can permit you to graduate with knowledge of not only another culture, but another language as well.
- A student with a clear major and academic path in mind:
If you know exactly which major or specialization you would like to pursue, an international school may boast educational and research opportunities with which many American schools cannot compete.
- A student who isn't afraid to take risks:
Attending college abroad presents many opportunities to enhance your resume, some of which might seem intimidating, but nevertheless are excellent initiatives for a student to take.
As society becomes increasingly globalized, gaining experience in another culture or being able to speak multiple languages fluently may be to your advantage when applying for jobs.
In addition to the practical benefits your experience can offer a company, the simple fact that you decided to attend college internationally demonstrates that you are not afraid to take risks, try new challenges and step out of your comfort zone.
- A student who is comfortable with a different academic structure:
Other than standard factors like location and size, potential students should make sure they are comfortable with the other elements of an international school's setup. They should research aspects like how much transitional support exists for international students and whether the teaching style of a particular college or country matches how they would like to learn.
For instance, think about how you'd feel if most of your learning is done through independent reading. Contemplate, too, how large a cultural shift you are actually willing to make. For those students who only want a moderate change, some countries will be a better fit than others.
While attending a college internationally does offer the above benefits, it is not the answer for everyone. Anyone considering it as a serious option should know what to look for when examining schools abroad.
For the most part, many international schools tend to place more emphasis on an applicant’s grades and test scores than American colleges do, so a student with mediocre grades but an outstanding and interesting set of extracurricular experiences may have better chances of gaining acceptance into a prestigious college by staying in the U.S.
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Students should also make sure to use the Internet to thoroughly research any international schools they are considering, since campus visits will certainly be much more difficult to organize. The websites of any of these schools should provide details about the institution’s academic environment and requirements.
Moreover, perusing the department pages, course listings and any available syllabi of the types of courses you may want to take is a good way to get an idea of the teaching style and academic expectations that different schools have for their students. If you need further help exploring these options and finding a match, consider using the College Board International website as a resource.
As long as you weigh these factors appropriately and make smart decisions, attending college internationally can be an extremely rewarding experience that offers a number of unique benefits.