Studying abroad can be an invaluable experience that offers many benefits, both academically and personally. Whether for a semester, a year or a full course, there are many benefits of studying abroad. It’s hard to avoid the clichés when describing a year abroad, but most students who have embarked on one would tell you about the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience it provides.
Do I need to know the language?
If you choose to study in a foreign country where English isn’t the first language, then you’ll be given the opportunity to expand your horizons and either learn a new language or improve your knowledge of it. The best way to learn a language is through immersion, and whether you’re there for a year or for longer, you’ll be able to improve your skills drastically as you’re surrounded by this language on a daily basis.
Whilst studying abroad is a great way to acquire language skills, you don’t have to let it stop you if you’re yet to learn. Universities in Germany and the Netherlands offer many courses in English. China is slowly gaining traction as a popular location to study and the Chinese government provides some sponsorship or support for foreign students.
Save money on tuition fees by studying abroad
Since the trebling of the cap on UK tuition fees trebling in 2012, it can work out much cheaper to study abroad for your degree.
Germany and the Netherlands are both popular options for British students, having excellent transport links and many courses available in English. Germany is considered the best place in Europe to study, but there are few undergraduate courses available in English. For those already fluent in German, or seeking one of over 1,000 post-graduate courses taught in English, the fees of just a few hundred euros a year are hard to resist. Although not as cheap as Germany, the Netherlands is another low cost option, with a wide range of courses available for fees of just €1540 per year. However, the Dutch government has warned that these costs may increase significantly post-Brexit.
Can I still take out a student loan if I study abroad?
If you choose to study abroad for a year as part of your UK university degree, in most cases you will simply need to pay for the tuition at the foreign University, rather than pay for another year at your UK university. This can be done through Student Finance, if you have already taken a student loan, as they will loan you the money to pay your foreign tuition fees.
The majority of the UK student population relies on their student loan to finance their study and living expenses. While those planning to study a year overseas can continue to receive student loans for studying abroad, those that plan on studying a full degree abroad are not able to. This is because they would not be an official student at a UK university and therefore not eligible with Student Finance.
What is the impact of Brexit on studying abroad?
While the laws are set to change, that shouldn't discourage you from studying abroad. The impact of Brexit is still to be determine and Britain's future involvement in the Erasmus programme is uncertain.
When the UK leaves the EU, the EU funding programme which helps students attend universities in Europe, Erasmus+, will no longer be available to students in the UK. As it stands, the draft EU Withdrawal Agreement means that students in UK-based organisations will be able to continue to participate in Erasmus+ exchanges and placements post-exit until the end of the current Erasmus+ programme in December 2020. For those looking further ahead, there are a range of considerations when deciding whether to study in Europe.
Studying abroad without Erasmus+
The experience of studying abroad can improve language skills, while the added benefit of increased confidence of living overseas can often aid a student’s future career, whatever path they follow. That’s often the reason why many UK-based courses, not just in modern languages, offer a year abroad as part of the course. With the Erasmus+ scheme soon to be unavailable to UK students, other methods of funding may need to be considered. The UK body Student Finance does not provide funding for UK students studying abroad, but there are various scholarships and endowments available as an alternative. In addition, many European universities charge lower tuition fees, including on a number of courses taught in the English language, which may make the prospect of studying in Europe more affordable.
Looking beyond Europe for study opportunities
The Erasmus+ scheme, together with the availability of cheap flights to many destinations, has encouraged a lot of students to travel to Europe for a year out. However, Europe isn’t the only destination option to UK students. The US has many prestigious universities, for example. There are some differences – fees can be high but there are many scholarships available. The experience may not provide language skills but can still prove to be an invaluable experience. Universities across Asia are seeking to attract overseas students with English-speaking courses in a range of subjects including engineering and digital technology, low tuition fees and scholarship schemes.
How to study abroad
To have studied abroad is a valuable feature to have on your CV, both for the life skills you learn as you adapt to life in a foreign country and because the foreign language skills gained are hugely beneficial in the current job market.
If you’re heading out shortly or are interested in studying overseas, we can help you with managing the payments and costs for living and studying overseas.
Read our guide on managing your money when studying abroad and how working with a foreign exchange provider such as moneycorp can help you finance your experience.