The Guide I Wish I Had When I Embarked in This Journey
I started studying abroad as many of us do, through an Erasmus. A beautiful, EU-sponsored project, where everything was set, collaborations between institutions was ensured and institutionalized even. Oh, good ol’ days. Ever since, I embarked onto several opportunities that allowed me to study in Canada, Portugal and Singapore. While this seems all nice and easy from the outside, it took a long planning and a lot of work in the background to make everything work. Sometimes I think that, had I known how hard it would be, I would not have left Italy. Yet, this is the beauty of it. I hope this guide will provide you the boost of motivation that will push you to research and potentially embark on your own journey as international student.
*Please note: the following guide is based solely on my experience. Indeed, you may find yourself in a different position than myself and may take advantage of other opportunities. My goal is only to provide you one perspective, there is no blueprint or one-size-fits-all here. Do what you gotta do!
Finding the “Right” University
There is not necessarily a right or wrong university, but there are certainly a few things to consider when shortlisting which university to go to.
- Location – not only will it impact the quality of life and the experience you may have there, but it may also impact the bureaucracy you will have to deal with. Like, will you need a VISA or is your EU passport enough? Will you be able to work or will your student visa prohibit that? Besides, it will necessarily have consequences on how often you can go home.
- Tuition Fees & Overall Cost of Life there – I know this is a sensible topic, but it must be taken into account. When my time came, I wanted to go to the USA, however, despite getting a pretty high scholarship, there was no way for me to sustain myself with the cost of life of San Francisco (and the inability to work on a student visa – see previous point).
- Programs Available & Network – Does the university offer your preferred course/major/minor/area of expertise? Shall you find yourself not happy with the choice, would you have a second option where you could transfer? What career opportunities have alumni pursued so far? How big is the alumni network and can you take advantage of it? What curricular or extracurricular opportunities do they offer?
- eventual feedbacks – if any, from current students, alumni and or professors.
Well, to be sure I provided you with a good article, I can proudly say I tried all of them and I am actually doing all of them, or did them at some point in my studies.
- Family Support – if you are lucky enough to receive financial support from any member of the family, leave the pride out of the equation and accept it, no shame whatsoever in that.
- Student Loan – if the above doesn’t apply (fully), or you want some extra insurance, there are several options for student loans in Italy and I guess elsewhere in Europe. I did it and from my personal perspective and experience, it worked out pretty well. Interest rates were lower based on my academic achievements and that was a major motivation
- Scholarships – this is the variable you can control the least, but it’s worth exploring. There are several scholarships available within and outside the university. Depending on how you position yourself as a student – academically excellent, social entrepreneur, active citizen – there are different options you can explore.
- Work – last but not least, you can work (VISA permitting). I’d like to spend a few more words on this, if you’d let me. I believe this is a strong, yet the hardest option to pursue. The most valuable thing you’ll learn if you decide to work and study at the same time is time management, as there is really no other way to survive it otherwise. It’s a tough decision, but if you ask me it’s also worth it.
- Government / university support – This varies a lot but there are several opportunity to receive financial support based on your parents salaries or your own salary. Worth exploring!
There are certainly other variables worth considering, but I feel that solving these two already puts you in a position to start packing. Let me know if there is anything else on the topic that you’d want me to explore!
Have a Safe Journey!