Studying abroad is highly rewarding, academically, culturally and personally. Students are taken out of their comfort zone, at least to some degree, and learn to be independent and to communicate effectively with people from other cultures. Adaptability, flexibility and strong interpersonal skills are much sought after by potential employers, so studying abroad can significantly improve their career prospects.
Take the UAE, for instance, and some of the leading universities in the UAE, such as the United Arab Emirates University and the American University of Sharjah, which is licensed in the UAE and US. Other highly ranked overseas universities that have branch campuses in the UAE include Heriot-Watt University and the University of Wollongong, among many others, so there’s plenty of choice for international students. In the case of the UAE, the sub-tropical climate, with hot, humid summers and warm winters and, of course, the prospect of tax-free earnings after graduation, are other attractions.
Students who dislike examinations (but then again, who likes them!) might prefer to study in the United States instead, where continuous assessment is the norm, but they also need to be aware that tuition fees in the US can often run into thousands of pounds, as they do in Australia. By contrast, European courses are more heavily dependent on examinations, but some European countries, such as Norway and the Netherlands, charge little or nothing by way of tuition fees. The European Commission’s subsidy scheme, known as Erasmus, and other similar programmes allow students to study abroad as part of their degree relatively cheaply.
Travelling abroad is an experience in its own right, but studying abroad allows students to experience day-to-day life in the country in question, much of which remains out of sight of traditional holidaymakers. This is particularly true of language students, who are wholly, or almost wholly, immersed in the foreign language and learn from native speakers how it’s used to complete everyday tasks and activities. Fluency in a foreign language isn’t necessarily a requirement for studying at a university that teaches in that language, but it is worth checking what language level is required.
Of course, homesickness can still be a problem, but with roughly two-thirds or more of the population of Europe, Australia and North America and roughly two-fifths of the population of the Middle East connected to the Internet, keeping in touch via Skype is straightforward enough (and often eases the longing for home). For other problems, such as finding suitable accommodation or simply dealing with the culture shock of studying abroad, help is usually available locally from a variety of sources, including an accommodation office and a welfare office.
Studying abroad is highly beneficial. Once you get into the swing of things, you hardly notice that you’re away from home. In fact, you can have so much fun while you’re out there that you may even have to remind yourself that you’re there to study!