UNESCO has recently reported about the rise of internationally-mobile students across the globe. One driving force behind the trend is the aggressive recruitment strategies of college and universities to attract the best and brightest students. In 2013, more than 4.1 million students pursued their college degrees abroad, up from 2 million in 2000.
Governments work hand-in-hand with academic institutions in attracting foreign students because of the latter’s significant economic contribution. According to Kalpesh Kapadia, CEO of SelfScore, international students in the US spend $18 billion in tuition and $13 billion in living expenses per year. In an interview with Forbes, the CEO said that the population of fully-paid graduate students is growing by 6% to 8% annually.
Lucky for you, you have two options to maximize your ability to go mobile: study abroad (here’s a look at where American students went in 2015) or get an internship overseas. Know the difference to help you decide the path to take.
Study abroad, be a globetrotter
Studying abroad will ensure you get the exposure to cultures, languages and practices that you’re after. You live a globetrotter’s life and gets credits for it! You may study abroad for a semester or for the entire duration of a four-year course (more on how to choose where to go, when and for how long).
Studying abroad is highly recommended if you’re majoring in foreign languages, international relations, world history and other related liberal arts degrees. An increasing number of architecture students are flocking to European countries regarded as architecturally significant locations. Where else can you polish your Mandarin but in mainland China? Enrolling for a full semester or for an entire bachelor’s program is also a great way to demonstrate your passion and intellectual curiosity in your field.
Are you ready to be an international student?
Before studying abroad, there is one thing you should consider: it can be quite costly (but there are ways to do it – even if you’re broke). Aside from tuition fees, you have to consider lodging, medical insurance, daily allowance, etc. In most schools, foreign students are charged a higher rate. Landlords also tend to charge foreigners double the rate since they don’t have a credit history. Living in a country with a currency more powerful than your own will add to the financial burden (definitely do some research on where your dollar can stretch the furthest).
The questions you need to answer when considering study abroad involve your financial capacity to support your stay, your health, your adaptability to other cultures and your knack for adventure.
The vast horizons of internship abroad
An internship abroad offers a more practical option. If you’re about to graduate from college, this path suits you well. At lower costs, you can get the credits you need to boost your curriculum vitae. It’s just a matter of choosing the right program. This can offer you a full semester’s worth of credit and work experience in your field of study.
An internship abroad will also give your prospective employers a positive impression on your dedication and your flexibility in performing in a diverse environment. If you’re taking up a business course with hopes of making it in the investment banking industry, an internship in New York, London or Tokyo can give you plus points.
Are you international internship ready?
Before signing up for an internship program abroad, there are a couple of things you should consider. First, many internships are free labor. Corporations pride themselves of hiring the best interns and the experience of working before graduation is worth more than financial compensation. Truly, the benefits of an internship is invaluable. Be careful in choosing an employer as there are some that take advantage of unpaid interns.
If you’re considering of getting a summer work experience in a foreign country, the essential questions you should ask yourself are basically similar to those related to studying abroad. The only difference is you may or may not be paid for the work you render.
If you can’t decide which is better between studying abroad or an internship abroad, you can choose both.
You may also engage in volunteer work while you’re away from home. The best way to understand people and their ways of living is to go grassroots. Not only do you render community service (and make the world a better place!), you can also practice speaking foreign languages with locals and fellow volunteers. You’re able to forge relations with different people even after you’re done with your international journey. Finally, volunteer work will boost your resume. Contact your school administrator for information on how to start volunteering in your host country.
Be a smart international student or intern
Here are some quick tips for a no-stress stay in a foreign country, whether you’re bound for a four-year college degree or a summer internship:
- Open an account in a local bank to save on foreign exchange charges, remittance fees and other costs related to cross-border transactions
- Always keep an emergency fund in your bank
- Purchase discounted railcards that you can use for a week or a month
- Inquire about student discounts in transport, communication and retail establishments, StudentUniverse can help with flights, hotels and tours!
- Know whether tipping is an acceptable custom in your host country (leaving tips in Japan is frowned upon)
- Explore free or inexpensive modes of communicating with family and friends back home such as Skype, Viber, etc.
- Get a local SIM card as soon as you arrive at the airport
- Purchase a comprehensive health insurance if your school does not provide for one
- Join sports or leisure clubs to expand your network and help you overcome homesickness
- Visit your local embassy once in a while for travel warnings, health updates and other important expat information
Staying abroad for educational purposes is a worthwhile endeavour. Make sure you keep track of all your activities via photos, blogs or even traditional journals. Employers are increasingly depending on applicants’ online profiles when assessing applications so take caution on what you post in your Facebook or Instagram accounts.
The most important thing about exposing yourself to a new environment is to learn how to embrace diversity. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask. Curiosity is the secret ingredient for any enjoyable journey abroad. As Hans Christian Andersen once said, “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.”