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Want to study abroad? Here's what you need to know

A woman and a man are looking at the notebook together at school; image used for HSBC Vietnam How to plan for study abroad article page.
Choosing to study abroad can offer excitement, experiences and great career opportunities. But it's not as easy as signing up and buying an air ticket. Here's everything you need to know about studying abroad.

Why study abroad?

Whether to study abroad or in your home country will depend on a lot of things, including your personality, your life and career goals, and your financial situation. But there are a lot of benefits for students willing and able to make the most of overseas education.

First off, a degree from an internationally recognized school carries a certain value and assumed quality. It will open up opportunities to work globally, as it is something that recruiters in multinational companies look for. Even if you choose to return to Vietnam for work, having a degree from an international university will be an excellent mark on your CV.

Beyond a career, international students have the chance to directly experience different cultures and lifestyles as they'll meet (and learn from) international students from other countries. They will make memories that last a lifetime, and create a worldwide network of fellow "global citizens".

All of these things sound great, but they also mean the competition is stiff. Every year, thousands of international students from all over the world come to study in countries with advanced education systems such as Australia, the USA or Canada. Schools should be selected very carefully, and then there are entrance exams, life abroad, and the financial aspects to think about.

Let's take a look at all of the factors that you should consider when deciding on a study abroad programme.

What type of study abroad is right for your child?

Students looking to continue their education overseas have a few different ways of doing it:

Domestic international school

Students can take an overseas education programme in their home country. They'll get a degree equivalent to the the degree issued from that school's foreign location.

Exchange program

Students will study in their home country for1 to 3 years (depending on the programme) and finish the remainder of the programme at the overseas school. This helps save costs and preparation time, and you'll earn a degree directly from the overseas university.

Study abroad

Students can also do their entire post-secondary education at an overseas university. To take part, international students need to prepare all of their documents to meet the entry requirements of the school, such as English certificates (IELTS, TOEFL iBT), SAT, GMAT, GRE, high school transcripts, letters of recommendation and more. They will probably also need to go through at least one round of interviews with their preferred university.

5 people are sitting together and working on a group discussion

Things to consider when choosing where to study?

Academic ability

Each school will have its own academic and English requirements. This can also change depending on the major you choose. However, to apply to prestigious universities, you need to ensure that your academic results are at least "good" (7.0/10) or equivalent (2.8/4).

Generally, the English requirements at undergraduate level are usually 6.0 or higher for IELTS or 68 or higher for TOEFL. In addition, majors in economics or business administration often have higher English requirements than other majors, and some schools have special grading requirements for each skill of listening, speaking, reading and writing of the IELTS/TOEFL test.

The reason for your study abroad

Knowing what you want out of your study abroad will help you make a lot of decisions. If you're doing it to expand your knowledge and get better career opportunities when you return home, then you will mostly want to focus on studying and getting good results. The culture and lifestyle element of studying abroad in this case, will not be as essential.

But if you want to study abroad to build a foundation for settling or developing a career in that country (or another country), then you need to improve and challenge yourself much more. This goes beyond the language, and includes working to adapt in terms of lifestyle, culture and the local way of thinking.

Many Vietnamese students choose accommodation near the Vietnamese student association to simplify communication. But that means it won't be as easy to exchange and absorb culture with international students. To overcome this, you can ask if your university has an international dormitory. This would provide good support services and facilities so you can integrate more quickly.

Financial capability

Studying abroad isn't cheap. You'll have to pay for student visa application fees, tuition fees, living expenses and more.

In some countries, you'll have to prove your finances to qualify for a student visa. This also helps the school assess that you will be financially secure enough to focus on your studies in the best way.

The usual financial proofs are savings books, documents showing monthly income or documents proving property ownership. The fee for a student visa usually includes a fee for preparing documents for the issuance of a student visa and proof of finances (if any). 

Many schools have campuses at a variety of locations in different countries, so tuition fees and living costs will be different. You need to figure out the tuition fee at the exact institution you want to attend, as well as the cost of living there, including other essentials such as health, transportation, entertainment, and so on.

What country should you study in?

The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed many students plans to study abroad. Infection rates and vaccination rates are different in each country, and constantly changing. Rules about travel and quarantine requirements are also continuously being revised. These are important factors to consider before deciding on your study abroad plan.

Three of the most popular places for study abroad are Canada, the US and Australia. These countries have some of the top ranked universities in the world and are on the cutting edge of modern educational technology. In addition, they have a multi-ethnic cultural environment and there is the possibility of finding work after graduation.

Study in Canada

Studying in Canada is always a top choice for international students, because immigration quotas include a large number of skilled workers. There are also plenty of scholarship programmes, with opportunities from the federal, provincial, and municipal levels popping up more and more often. For many international students, studying in Canada is viewed as an opportunity for applying for permanent residence in the country.

Study in the US

Studying in the US can be a challenge for many international students, due to the nation's strict requirements for applications, proof of income and government interviews for the US student visa. Despite these challenges, the US is the most popular choice for study abroad, with more than 1 million international students at all levels of study.

With some of the world's most prestigious universities, including Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the rest of the Ivy League schools, the US is always a dream destination for international students.

Study in Australia

If studying in Canada or the US is not for you, then Australia might be worth considering. With some of the world's leading education statistic, the country has earned Nobel Prizes in various fields and several universities are ranked in the world's top universities.

It can also be an easier process. Some Australian universities do not require proof of finances or International English Language Certificate (IELTS) with your student visa application.

One advantage of studying in Australia is that students older than 18 are able to work up to 40 hours every 2 weeks – and full time during vacation. This is automatically included with your Australian student visa, no matter your choice of school, field of study, or location.

In addition, international students doing their undergraduate or postgraduate can extend their student visa from 1 to 4 years to match the length of their study programme.

All these things create many opportunities for you to experience local culture, expand your network, find jobs or immigration opportunities. Therefore, more challenges become easier and more open to international students.

How to prepare for study abroad?

Become fluent in foreign languages

Foreign languages play a significant role in the study abroad plan. It is usually an entry requirement, and will also be essential for integrating into the community and absorbing culture. International students often make the mistake of just "studying for the exam" for their international English certificates, without having a firm grasp of the language. This can lead to difficulty communicating with native speakers in normal life, and can make it difficult to keep up with lectures in class.

Because of the importance of English, before deciding to study abroad, you should find a reputable language learning center. This will help ensure you are well-prepared for your upcoming study abroad journey.

Don't forget soft skills such as critical thinking, or teamwork

Many foreign countries put a big focus on encouraging students to think independently. From kindergarten onwards, they are taught to be proactive, improve their debating ability, their critical thinking and their creative problem solving.

University environments in advanced countries provide many forums for students to express their views. These can include debates to practice critical thinking and public speaking. This is a difficult skill that requires both logical thinking and confidence. So it's important to prepare and practice early to be able to keep up with the "free speech" learning method.

In addition, teamwork is also an important skill, because this can be required in almost every class. Good teamwork skills bring you a lot of benefits, not just in terms of grades, but also for building relationships in life. That's why you should practice effective teamwork skills as soon as possible.

Prepare for homesickness abroad and cultural differences

Feeling homesick at the beginning of your study abroad is inevitable. While it's good to be able to keep in touch with family back home, you'll want to avoid contacting them too often. Instead, try to adjust by having a certain schedule for calls with family or other relationships. This will train you to become independent, to solve situations by yourself, to cope with difficulties and build a foundation for integrating into a new place.

Studying abroad is a valuable opportunity for you to develop a new perspective, absorb and accumulate culture as well as visit famous tourist destinations. You should work hard at your studies , but also take advantage of the time to explore, experience, take part in extracurricular activities and make friends. Enjoy your study abroad life to the fullest!

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