We fear what we don’t know. To millions of students accustomed to their educational milieus for nearly a fraction of their lifetime, studying abroad can be an intimidating prospect. There are lots of reasons to pass on international education. Some are justified. Many others amount to myths, and they need to be debunked. Here are some of the most oft-vocalized:
“I want to study abroad but I can’t afford it.”
International education is not as expensive as you think. If anything, the cost of a semester of study abroad may not be pricier than one at home. Many universities abroad strive to match the tuition fee schedules of their peers worldwide. Of course, how much you spend depends ultimately on your desired location; course length; and sector (e.g. higher education, secondary school, vocational education). If you study in a developing nation—and prepare yourself for possible trade-offs in education standards—the cost would be even staggeringly lower. Finally, with the plethora of scholarships, loans, and exchange programs at your disposal, there really is no excuse.
“Scholarships are hard to get, let alone find.”
Maybe you aren’t looking hard enough, because scholarships abound, simply abound, for students of all stripes and colors. You can get one on the strength of your academic achievements—or the weakness of your finances. Other scholarships are targeted sheerly for diversity, while some are awarded to those with special interests, e.g. arts, sports, research, and leadership.
You can get scholarships from private bodies and governments, both domestic and foreign. The Australian government, for instance, invests $200 million in scholarships for international students every year.
“Only rich kids study abroad.”
Even when they have successfully applied for a foreign education (and have the scholarship to show for it), many students still see studying abroad as the domain of the jet-setting One Percent. This couldn’t be any more false. In fact, scores of international students from the US are recipients of the Pell Grant, a federal grant for financially needy undergraduate students. Besides, studying abroad is not just posh bacchanalias and frat parties. It has to boil down sometime to hours of studying and revision. Education, indeed, is the great social equalizer.
“I won’t graduate on time.”
According to research from the University System of Georgia, students who went abroad to study had a higher 4-year graduation rate than their domestic counterparts. A year of studying abroad even allows you to graduate in less than four years, provided you attend accelerated classes.
“Studying abroad won’t attract employers anyway.”
On the contrary, employers are attracted to people who can assimilate into multicultural teams and speak multiple languages. Studying abroad gives you these competencies as well as much-needed soft skills like self-confidence and flexibility. Additionally, a qualification from a top 100 university would be very appealing to organizations in government, commerce, and foreign diplomacy.
“Only Caucasian students study abroad.”
There is no racial supremacy in international education. Just hear about the guy from Cameroon who is taking his masters in Adelaide. Or the refugee from Afghanistan who is serving as a student ambassador in Brisbane. The world is becoming a pluralistic place, and we’re all the better for it. Still doubt you can integrate well in an alien society? The only way to know for sure is being there. Don’t worry; international institutions tend to have support services for overseas students.
“I will be homesick.”
Sure, you will. However, all these leaps and bounds in technology make potent countermeasures against homesickness. You can easily keep tabs on your familia, amigos, and pets via Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. Soon you will establish your own community and there will be no more need for cyber-stalking them.
In an increasingly border-less world, the cost of missing out on education abroad is a sublime waste of opportunity. Too much comfort keeps us from living up to our potential as cross-culturally successful individuals.
Yes, the world is now our classroom. Many times, the only hindrance to individuals getting an international education and consequently finding a solution for the world’s ills is, well, themselves.
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