Study Abroad

How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter

Research shows that experience in other countries makes us more flexible, creative, and complex thinkers.

How does studying or working abroad change you? You return with a photo album full of memories and a suitcase full of souvenirs, sure. But you may also come back from your time in another country with an ability to think more complexly and creatively—and you may be professionally more successful as a result.

Students learn to adopt an open and adaptive attitude toward foreign cultures and become more able to make connections among disparate ideas. More generally people who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity. Moreover, people with this international experience are more likely to create new businesses and products and to be promoted.

People with more experiences of different cultures are better able to generate creative ideas and make unexpected links among concepts.

Studying or working in another country can make you better thinkers—more flexible, creative, and complex—adapting and learning from other cultures.

As the title of an article by William Maddux advises: “When in Rome . . . Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do.”

Study Abroad Center

An international education is something that will provide you with such an enriching and rewarding experience that it will last with you for the rest of your life – you will learn new things, experience new cultures and it will open up your mind to the wide world in which we live.

The ACCESS Study Abroad Center has been designed to provide you with information, resources and assistance for those students who are interested to further their education studying abroad. We offer a program search to locate courses around the world, plus you can learn more about the “study abroad experience” through our study abroad counsellor.

Study Abroad Guide

We have compiled a useful resource for students looking for study abroad information and advice. The Study Abroad Guide will offer both helpful advice articles that will give you practical advice for those looking to study abroad, but also we have a number of articles written on various topics from students who have, or are, currently studying abroad – we hope you enjoy them and they help you in some way:

Study Abroad Advice

Our advice center offers a number of articles that provide guidance, advice and assistance to students who are looking to learn more about studying abroad and about how they can prepare themselves to get the most out of their time abroad.

An Overview of Study Abroad

An international education, be it a semester abroad or a full degree program in another country, can be one of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences in a person’s life. There is so much to be gained from learning a new culture, experiencing new challenges and opening your mind to a whole new world. Although the events of September 11th may have had repercussions to hinder this, it also spells out the need for more students to study abroad so cultures can mix and create a greater understanding among nations. In the USA alone, 2000/2001 saw the greatest increase in foreign students to their shores since 1979/1980, with 547,867 foreign students studying in the USA.

The biggest barrier to students studying in the USA is money. The average for a low-cost private institution costs $12,000 US Dollars a year, excluding living expenses. This of course can be lower or higher depending on the school, but for international students, this is a huge burden and one that stops many from attending. However, it need not be an obstacle, with international student loans now available and a wealth of scholarships and resources for students to utilize.

Along with the cost, admission to top schools in the USA can also be extremely competitive and require advanced planning; application forms need to be completed, test scores need to be produced, and some may require application essays or letters of recommendation. This at first may seem a daunting prospect, but students should not be put off. Hard work and planning are the key factors for students wishing to come to the USA. Students need to obtain the best grades possible and plan well in advance (at least 18 months) and this will give them the best chance to study in the USA.

Studying abroad can do so many things for an individual. On the personal side, students are able to experience new cultures, religions and new ways of thinking thus enhancing their acceptance and tolerance of minorities and their outlook on life. On a professional level, it can enhance their career by exposing students to a variety of new perspectives, the latest technology or state of the art research and training. There are so many benefits from spending time studying abroad, and arguably the most important benefit is to create a better understanding of the world around us.

UK vs. USA Education System

According to the world university rankings compiled by the Times Higher Education, more than half of the world’s top 200 universities are located in either the US or the UK. Both countries share a rich tradition of quality higher education, excellent research facilities, and a culture that promotes intellectualism as well as academic freedom. However, while both certainly provide an excellent environment for learning, there are many differences between the two countries regarding the structure of the university as well as student life. In this article, we will explore the primary differences between the American and British systems of education.

Length of Time

Perhaps the most important difference between the education system in the US and the UK is the amount of time it takes to finish your degree (except in Scotland, where a bachelor’s degree also lasts four years). In general, degree programs in the US take about one year longer than programs in the UK, although this varies depending upon whether you receive a Master’s degree prior to a PhD. In both systems, you can go directly to a PhD program out of your undergraduate program, but in the UK it is more common to complete a Master’s degree program before moving on to a PhD. Courses of study are shorter in the UK because the course programs are generally much more focused than in the US.

Academic Term

Most universities in the US begin their terms in mid to late August, although smaller liberal arts colleges may start later. Most take a rather lengthy break beginning in mid-December and begin the second semester in early to mid-January. However, universities that are on different calendars, such as a trimester or quarter-based system, may begin their winter break at the Thanksgiving holiday, which falls at the end of November. The academic term in the UK is a bit more varied. While most also use the semester system, the trimester and quarter systems are used in some universities. Many schools start in September or October and end in May or June, making for a slightly longer academic year. However, the academic term is less standardized throughout the United Kingdom; if you choose to study there, your university might use a much different calendar.

University Organization

Many universities in the UK are made up of “colleges” which are dedicated to a specific subject matter. While the colleges are still governed by the university, each college has quite a lot of autonomy from each other as well as the university itself. You live with others in your college, eat with others from your college, and generally stay within your college for the duration of your studies. Rather than applying to the central university admissions department, like you do in the US, you either apply directly to the college of the subject you want to study, or in the case of undergraduate programs, you apply through a centralized system which allows you to apply to several colleges at once. This system is called the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS. This means that you have to know what you want to study before you even apply.

By contrast, in the US, you apply to the larger university and for the first year or more, you take courses from a variety of fields and only declare a major at the end of the first year or perhaps even during the second year. American universities have different “schools,” or departments, such as the School of Arts and Sciences, which houses a number of related majors. However, even after you declare a major at an American university, you are still expected to take classes outside of that field, known as “electives.” For this reason, we can say that the general emphasis of higher education in the US is breadth, or getting a range of knowledge from a variety of different subjects. In the UK, the emphasis is more on depth; getting a very thorough understanding of your chosen subject.

Homework and Grades

Because the US system emphasizes breadth, courses require weekly or even biweekly readings as well as other assignments such as small writing projects, major research papers, and oral presentations throughout the course. In the UK, most schools are much more lecture-based, with only occasional assignments throughout the semester. In some cases, there may be no actual required assignments and instead your entire grade may be based on one final exam. In the US, your grade will be based on your performance on the variety of assignments, with a final exam making up only a percentage of your total grade.

Cost

The cost of education in both countries is far from cheap, but the cost of an education in the United States is generally higher. According to a law passed in 2012, universities in England may charge up to £9000 (approximately $14,300) per year. Of course, this applies only to citizens of the UK and the EU, not international students. Fees for international students can be significantly higher. The government sets the limits for tuition fees, and each individual school sets its own fee up to that limit.

By contrast, the government has very little control over what universities charge in the United States. The US differentiates between in-state tuition fees and out-of-state tuition fees, as well as between private and public universities. These distinctions determine the tuition fee. The average tuition fee for public two-year institutions is around $3000 per year, while the average fee for private four-year institutions is around $29,000 per year. Finally, some private four-year institutions can cost up to $50,000 per year. In order to help students cover the cost of tuition in both countries, loans are available through the government with favorable terms and interest rates. Visit our Financial Aid Center for more information about financing your education in the US.

Accommodation

Both countries provide students with residence halls in which to live. They are roughly equivalent, although in the UK it is more normal to have a bedroom by yourself, whereas in the US, you may very well share a bedroom with at least one other person. However, after the first year, students in the US may have additional housing options available to them, such as private housing or off-campus housing. It is also more common for dormitories to be self-catered in the UK, while the US normally provides a range of full dining options for its students. One potentially significant difference is that maid service is common in the residence halls in the UK, although students pay a nominal fee for this service.

Conclusion

While both countries provide a great education, each system approaches education slightly differently, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. If you are considering getting your education in either the US or the UK, you should take into consideration the various differences mentioned in this article, especially the amount of time it takes to finish the degree, the tuition fees and whether you prefer more depth or more breadth in your degree program.

America Britain
Length of Time BA: 4 years
MA: 2 years
PhD: 5-7 years or longer
BA: 3 years
MA: 1 year
PhD: 3 years
Academic Term Most schools use the semester system, but some use a trimester or quarter system. Most schools start in mid to late August and end in May. Most also use a semester system, but some use trimester or quarter systems. The start and end of an academic year varies by university.
University Organization Universities are often divided into schools by subject, but these schools do not typically have a lot of autonomy from the university. University acts an umbrella organization for the different colleges. Colleges are fairly independent of one another.
Style of Education More varied, liberal arts, study outside your major. Take only classes in your college.
Depth vs Breadth Breadth Depth
Homework Constant reading and writing assignments General assignments or no assignments throughout the semester
Cost High Moderate
Grades Based on overall performance on all assignments Based mostly on the final exam
Athletics Important social activity; athletic scholarships available. Intramural sports; generally no athletic scholarships available.
Living Situation Dormitories with roommate. Off-campus housing occasionally available. Dormitories without roommate generally. Off-campus housing generally available.
Types of Degrees Associates, Bachelors, Masters, PhD, variety of vocational and professional degrees. Higher National Diploma, Certificate of Higher Education, Diploma of Higher Education, Foundation Degree, Bachelors, Masters, PhD, variety of professional and vocational degrees. Postgraduate degrees divided into taught and research degrees.

How to Prepare for Studying Abroad

Studying abroad can be a fun and safe experience but it is important to realize that you are subject to the laws and customs of another country. Here are some tips prepared by the Office of Overseas Services to help keep you prepared and safe.

Although most trips abroad are trouble free, being prepared will go a long way to avoiding the possibility of serious trouble. Become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit before you travel.

 Remember: Reckless behavior while in another country can do more than ruin your vacation; it can land you in a foreign jail or worse! To have a safe trip, avoid risky behavior and plan ahead.

Preparing for Your Trip Abroad

Apply early for your passport and, if necessary, any visas. Passports are required to enter and/or depart most countries around the world. Apply for a passport as soon as possible. Some countries also require US citizens to obtain visas before entering. Most countries require visitors who are planning to study or work abroad to obtain visas before entering. Check with the embassy of the foreign country that you are planning to visit for up-to-date visa and other entry requirements. (Passport and visa information is available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov )

Learn about the countries that you plan to visit.

Before departing, take the time to do some research about the people and their culture, and any problems that the country is experiencing that may affect your travel plans. The Department of State publishes Background Notes on about 170 countries. These brief, factual pamphlets contain information on each country’s culture, history, geography, economy, government, and current political situation. Background Notes are available at www.state.gov.

Read the Consular Information Sheet.

Consular Information Sheets provide up-to-date travel information on any country in the world that you plan to visit. They cover topics such as entry regulations, the crime and security situation, drug penalties, road conditions, and the location of the US embassy, consulates, and consular agencies.

Check for Travel Warnings and Public Announcements.

Travel Warnings recommend US citizens defer travel to a country because of dangerous conditions. Public Announcements provide fast-breaking information about relatively short-term conditions that may pose risks to the security of travelers.

Register with the nearest US embassy or consulate.

Register with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts may not be released without your express authorization. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States. (U.S. embassy and consulate locations can be found in the country’s Consular Information Sheet.) If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency, they can pass a message to you through the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 202-647-5225. This office will contact the embassy or consulate in the country where you are traveling and pass a message from your family to you. Remember consular officers cannot cash checks, lend money or serve as your attorney. They can, however, if the need arises, assist you in obtaining emergency funds from your family, help you find an attorney, help you find medical assistance, and replace your lost or stolen passport.

Find out what information your school offers.

Find out whether your school offers additional information for students who are planning to study, travel, or work abroad. Many student advisors can provide you with information about studying or working abroad. They may also be able to provide you with information on any travel benefits for students (e.g. how to save money on transportation and accommodations, and other resources.)

Before committing yourself or your finances, find out about the organization and what it offers. The majority of private programs for vacation, study or work abroad are reputable and financially sound. However, some charge exorbitant fees, use deliberately false “educational” claims, and provide working conditions far different from those advertised. Even programs of legitimate organizations can be poorly administered.

Top 10 Study Abroad Tips

Studying abroad can be a fun and safe experience but it is important to realize that you are subject to the laws and customs of another country.

  1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport!

 

  1. Read the Consular Information Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the countries you plan to visit.

 

  1. Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends at home, so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency. Keep your host program informed of your whereabouts.

 

  1. Make sure you have insurance that will cover your emergency medical needs (including medical evacuation) while you are overseas.

 

  1. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws!

 

  1. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas and never accept packages from strangers.

 

  1. While abroad, avoid using illicit drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages, and associating with people who do.

 

  1. Do not become a target for thieves by wearing conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of cash or unnecessary credit cards.

 

  1. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money to avoid violating local laws.

 

  1. When overseas, avoid demonstrations and other situations that may become unruly or where anti-American sentiments may be expressed.

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