How to study abroadGoing to college is about discovery. It is one of the biggest adventures of your life—or at least, it can be. But it’s also one of the most expensive purchases we’ll ever make. All too often students are stuck with crippling debt that makes many other financial goals impossible. Indeed, in 2016 the average American graduate had nearly $40,000 in student debt.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Studying at a foreign university can allow you to get a great education at a lower price while seeing the world. Don’t believe me? I’m living proof it’s possible.

I studied International Business at the University of Hong Kong, one of the world’s top 50 universities. All classes were in English, I graduated in only three years, and I even received an international student scholarship. Since I was already in Asia, traveling to Taiwan or Thailand was cheap, and I learned so many things you can’t be taught in classrooms. Ready to learn more about how to go to college abroad? Let’s dive in!  

The Appeal of Studying Abroad

Studying at the right foreign university can offer lower cost and higher quality compared to a school back home. They also allow you the opportunity to travel and experience a foreign culture while you are studying. If you are going to college anyway, you might as well go to college abroad and use the experience as a chance to see the world.

That’s the appeal, at least. And it’s more accessible than you might think.

Studying Abroad Can Be Affordable

The cost of an American university education has risen by more than 500% since 1985 even though real wage growth has been stagnant. That means today’s families are paying a lot more for college even though they’re making essentially the same amount of money as 30 years ago. But studying in a foreign country is often significantly more affordable—sometimes it is even free. Germany’s Rhine-Waal University and Finland’s Aalto University both have tuition free programs. At Oxford University—widely regarded as one of the best in the world—many majors are finished in three years, saving an entire year of tuition.

Studying Abroad When You Only Speak English

Even though you’re taking classes in another country, you often don’t have to know the local language. Because English is the global language, schools from Japan’s Waseda University to Germany’s University of Freiburg offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in English. And it goes without saying that countries with English as an official language like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK, Ireland and Canada also offer an easy way to live abroad without foreign language skills.

Where should you go?

Where you should go depends on what type of experience you want. I wanted to study business and live in a cosmopolitan, international city. For me, Hong Kong was an obvious choice. If you’re interested in art or literature, going to Europe will get you closer to many of the classics. If you want to learn Spanish, you have a wealth of choices from Spain to Argentina. If you just want to explore Europe, any school on the continent will open up a world of cheap Ryanair flights and overnight train tickets to different countries. If you’re trying to apply to top schools, consider checking worldwide university rankings to see which prestigious universities might be right for you.

Easier Admissions

It’s an open secret that many foreign universities are desperate to appear cosmopolitan and international. If you are from a country that is underrepresented in their student body, you just might get preferential admissions treatment. An American applying to an American school is just a statistic. An American applying to a Korean school is a rare commodity.

Dealing With Culture Shock

Studying in another country will test your cultural awareness and make you see things from new perspectives. While this is a good thing, you can expect to experience culture shock at the beginning. If you’re worried about this, consider going to a school in a similar culture. I spent six months studying in Japan, and while it was a rewarding experience, it took some getting used to. Many also worry about homesickness. It is real, but I found that Skype and frequent phone calls to my family and friends back home really eased the transition.

Learning a language

One of the best reasons to go to college abroad is to master the local language. It goes without saying that if you want to learn Japanese, Japan is the best place to do it. While you can study the language in the States, you’ll never match the total immersion of living in a foreign country. Even if your University teaches classes in English, you’ll learn so much just by going to the supermarket or ordering food at restaurants.

Living Abroad

Studying abroad is also a backdoor way to live and work in a foreign country. For example, if you graduate from an Australian university, you can apply for a 485 Temporary Graduate Visa that allows you to work in the country for 18 months. Hong Kong, the UK, France, the USA, and many other countries have similar programs. In most cases, if you follow the law and continue your employment, it is possible to apply for permanent residence or citizenship.

Next Steps

There are plenty of resources that can help you learn more about studying in a foreign country. Countries from New Zealand to Japan have official government websites that can help you determine how to study abroad. If you want to learn more about my experience in Hong Kong or about the benefits of studying overseas, check out this long post I wrote on the subject. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments!

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Alex Webb is a freelance writer and founder of Take Risks Be Happy, an online magazine for creatives and entrepreneurs.