This is the second installment
in a two-part guide.
Read the first one here
After a year of researching international universities and the rules that govern them, I had decided not to apply….but I felt really terrible about it. With deadlines looming and a lot of soul searching, I tried to work through the doubt and myths about getting a degree abroad.
Will a non-American degree be valuable?
It surprised me how often this came up, so I turned to one of the most common resources used by undergraduate students here in the states: US News & World Report issue the “Best College” guidebook. They also have an online Global University Ranking.
In the 2017 guide, their method looked at 1,262 institutions in 65 countries. They included schools based on “academic research and reputation overall” rather than “their separate undergraduate or graduate programs”. It also considered those that “had published the largest number of articles during the most recent five-year period (2010-2014)” (Read more here). With this data, cross referenced with the rankings here and here,I was able to get a better idea about reputations.
The verdict? In some cases the schools I was looking at abroad were either higher or comparable to the ones I was considering in the US.
Here’s the thing. If you have arrived this far in the process of finding a degree program abroad you already have a personal conviction and drive for this particular path. Will you feel resentful of an individual who tries to guilt you away from it? Is the “Fear of Missing Out” all in our heads? (spoiler: yes)
So load up on Skype credits and use the internet to your advantage. Home becomes about the people you know, and returning to your loved ones will feel all that much sweeter with a degree in hand.
When I began telling others I wanted to go abroad for school, it felt deviant. Yet for students in other countries it’s not unheard of. Erasmus (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is similar to American style studying abroad programs, but seem to offer more for students. University of Tokyo in Japan and Tsinghua University in China are in the Global Ranking as top 15 schools (For reference, Harvard is #1), and what about the individuals that come to the US from elsewhere to study?
The world is increasingly becoming more accessible and smaller, and there are employers that look for people with that experience. I see this as an opportunity to become competitive while also immersing myself in new thought that’s not solely defined by where I am from.
You know what’s truly crazy? The cost of a higher education in the United States.
I’m going for it.
A letter of motivation, a certified copy of your diploma via mail (NOT digital), a transcript, additional docs. In the end I applied to three programs at only two schools.
Make sure you have looked each school’s application website because some places require registration in advance. Be timely, you can’t expect to upload all your docs on the day you are ready to hit submit. If needed, renew your passport before you start the process.
I notified the department heads that I applied, and had I emailed sooner I would have had my fee waived. They noted my visit as an international student, and I regret not following up.
Each school strictly required a bank transfer to pay your application fee, no credit cards or online payment, and my local banking branch was confused. In addition to the application fee:
1) The bank has a fee to send the money.
2) Some schools have a fee to receive the money.
You must have the exact amount needed and confirmed with the university, and have every detail of their routing numbers correct.
Then, you wait.
and know that you’ve done all you could do.
Congrats! You’ve earned this!
I emerged with an acceptance to my top choice and began the process of working with my future university’s International Student office. It’s wise to purchase a printer with a scanner if you don’t have access to one because of the amount of paperwork that needs to be signed and scanned over on a regular basis. Save phone numbers for specific administrative offices and note the time zones.
If you’re going through with a Federal Loan, the Financial Aid office will be in contact with a series of steps, and more documents, in order to secure it. You need that information completed in order to apply for a visa.
In the Netherlands, students must have health and liability insurance or else you get fined. My American policy (surprise) wasn’t accepted, so I signed up for one through the university.
When the above paperwork has been completed, you can then submit a visa application. By now you should have a renewed passport ready to go.
While all of this is going on, finding viable housing either though the university or through outside channels should be something you keep your eye on. Join Facebook Groups, communicate with current students, or ask your department head for details.
This is also a good time to start learning the metric system and military time.
Making a commitment to an international school requires A LOT of thought and planning, and to commit means you’re diving straight in.
It’s my hope that my experience will guide you in your search somehow, and if you’ve got something you want to share or questions I’d love to chat.
As for what it’s like to START a degree program abroad? I’ll know soon enough!