Giving 'study abroad' a go!
We discuss money, experience and the element of choice :)
I've been going around the World in 80 Universities... and I've learned alot!
I set out with the intention to run a UK wide campaign inspiring young people in the UK to give serious thought to studying abroad – my first campaign in the UK was International Education Week (IEW).
Why International education?
Why not? We’ve got National Apprenticeship Week, National Careers Week, and National Enterprise Week! We needed a week to focus on international education - our nation needed to get to grips with the world’s wider educational opportunities. IEW worked!
Our first season featured an exhibition of 17 universities from all over the world keen to come to the UK and talk to UK students about the opportunities to study overseas. Our second season consisted of 18 events in 6 days touring the UK from Birmingham to North Yorkshire - visiting schools and running regional shows in accessible event venues and schools for UK students to attend.
Almost 2 years on and I’ve also managed to personally visit 40 universities overseas in my mission to go around the world in 80 universities and blog about my experiences (check it out at #aroundtheworldin80universities) and convey my learning back to students in the UK, so they can make better choices.
So is the UK a better choice than study abroad?
On my travels, and between destinations I got reflective about the reasons why UK students don’t study overseas as often as students from other countries. The obvious answer is that we have a fairly robust higher education system here in the UK with a global reputation for higher education excellence – but the tide is changing, especially as the UK gets more expensive. The average annual cost of studying at a university in the UK is £9,188, which is almost £2,000 more than the average fee paid by students in the US, according to the Student Loan Calculator, the average US student pays around £7,568 per year.
However, it isn’t always about the money. Students that I’ve worked with who go overseas to study do so for the experience, money becomes a secondary theme, which often they find ways around. Yes, education has become a commodity but that shouldn’t prevent students from exercising their right to choose the best place for them when they leave sixth form; even if that means choosing a UK university with a placement abroad option, which is often a way around the financial barriers.
Experience, experience experience…
It’s the experience that counts when studying abroad (the life skills you learn when you step outside of your comfort zone) that will propel you into the jobs market with a level of confidence that most people can only aspire to. When you’ve visited a new country you’ll know that there are fears and anxieties that can often only be dealt with in the moment. Like when you have to work out a route home by asking an unfamiliar face or ordering coffee in an unfamiliar neighbourhood using the English language.
The whole point of studying overseas is to get international experience which will help prepare students for working in the global economy, whether it be here in the UK or abroad. International experience helps prepare students for working in a world where intercultural skills outweigh IQ and emotional intelligence.
But don't just take my word for it - see what UK student Anna has to say about the option of study abroad too - here.
My personal experience of visiting 40 Universities outside of the UK gave me enough insight to know that the world is a much smaller place than you might imagine and the opportunities to study outside of the UK are real and life changing.
Giving it a go!
During my travels I met students from the UK who were studying abroad with levels of confidence hard to find in the UK, students who had a sense that there is more than one lens to view the world! I met with British students at The University of Groningen, Maastricht University and Fontys who had all chosen to take a leap of faith and give studying abroad a go – not one of them regretted it. I met students from Bishop’s University – a small liberal arts college in Canada who were the friendliest students I’ve ever met and who were incredibly articulate. I could go on.
Read about Abigail's life (pictured above) at Leiden University here.
Where next for me?? I’m now half way through my blogging mission with 3 key places in mind: the USA, Asia, and New Zealand so stay tunned for what’s to come. More adventure and more opportunities for sure.
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