Graduating from high school can be a very liberating experience. For some people, this may be the perfect time to really spread their wings and study abroad.
Other students may perhaps want to spend just a year or so overseas as part of their education requirements. Some even plan on getting their degrees from a college overseas.
Before you study overseas, here are some factors you really need to consider:
1. Local connections. Who do you know in the country where you’ll be studying? Will you be living with family or friends, or are you going to be on your own? Being far from home but with friends around is one thing. Being far from home and with absolutely no one to turn to is another matter entirely. This can be very stressful, and homesickness can be a major problem.
2. Language barriers. Even Americans experience some difficulties when they study in the UK or Australia, where people speak English. But how much more if they don’t speak English? Your best bet is to at least have some knowledge of the language they use, or perhaps you can choose a country where English is widely spoken.
3. Different customs. If you’re an American studying abroad, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with their customs. More importantly, you need to know the laws that apply to you.
For example, if you’re studying in an Islamic country then you may need to know about the rules regarding attire, drinking, and social interactions between different genders. And you don’t want to insult the King while you’re in Thailand.
4. Costs. You’re studying in a different country, and chances are, they’re using a different currency. You need to consider the tuition, room and board expenses, school supplies, and other related expenses. You may also have to look for scholarships and grants that you can qualify for.
5. Safety. In some countries, Westerners may be seen as rich people, and there’s a risk of getting kidnapped for ransom. Wars, political unrest, and armed rebellions are also prevalent certain parts of the world.
6. Career consequences. It’s important that you have a very clear idea of where you’ll be working after you graduate from college. Many employers in the US consider American colleges as the best, with only a few exceptions.
Just to give you an example, most employers in the US will think highly of you if you have a degree from Oxford or Cambridge (UK). But a degree from the University of Tokyo (which is widely considered as the best university in Asia and among the top universities in the whole world) may not be as impressive to an American employer.
Studying overseas can be one of the most unforgettable experiences you’ll ever have in your life. But you need to think it through carefully or you may end up regretting your decision.