A Passport To The World? - Business Media MAGS

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A Passport To The World?

An international degree carries a certain cachet – but does this justify the expense? Lisa Witepski weighs up the pros and cons of an overseas education.  

Ariane Frydman loved her time studying overseas, first as an undergraduate in Brussels and then as a master’s student at St Andrews in Scotland. “It can be a culture shock because other populations aren’t necessarily as friendly as South Africans. It can also be difficult to access information about your options. But once you make it abroad, there’s a wonderful sense of freedom. You are exposed to so much you may not get to see in South Africa.”

Heidi Sulcas, an international travel adviser at IE Abroad, agrees that if your child is ready (and if you can afford it), there is little to rival an overseas study experience. But, she reiterates, it’s not for everyone: “You must bear in mind that this is tantamount to immigrating when you are just 18, without the help of your parents. You are going to have to take control of every aspect of your life.”

For many, that’s the drawcard. Your student years are a journey to find your authentic self, and when you’re overseas, with few hometown friends who know you to be a certain way, you can redefine yourself entirely.

Nico Eleftheriades, managing director of Global Education, agrees that, as far as campus life goes, little can beat an international experience. Being exposed to peers from different countries and learning the way they do things is nothing short of thrilling. Plus, he adds, developing such far-reaching networks is certainly beneficial when it comes to job-hunting.

International universities help here, too, Eleftheriades continues, as many incorporate a work placement year in their degree programmes. Others provide opportunities for students to participate in research with a practical component that adds a significant dimension to their learning, adds Sulcas.

Then there’s the element of choice. Sulcas says that Arizona State University offers no fewer than 356 different majors – and that’s not even counting minor subjects. In Australia, you can even study for an undergraduate degree in zombie management, says Eleftheriades.

These factors make the prospect of international study highly attractive. But, says Rebecca Pretorius of Crimson Education, it’s not all silver linings. “Students must be aware of the heavy workload, and they need to understand what it means to be so far from home, especially during a pandemic when lockdowns are a norm.”

Something else to consider, says Sulcas, is that every country has its own system. In the United Kingdom, for instance, it’s commonplace for students to start studying towards a particular vocation from the outset, whereas American universities tend to offer a more general education at the outset. “You have to consider which will be best for you.”

 Where to go?

The United States and United Kingdom (including Ireland) are perhaps the most obvious destinations, but Pretorius urges people to think more broadly. Australia, for example, is a less expensive option, while the Netherlands and Canada are steadily growing in popularity.

Eleftheriades warns that it’s important to research all options thoroughly, consulting a reputable education agency if possible. You don’t want to study a discipline in a country because it appears to be affordable and offers classes in English, only to find that the information provided in class is specific to a certain region.

 What about online?

Online learning is increasingly considered an option for those wishing to obtain an international qualification. While this is certainly a viable option, it depends largely on the degree itself, as well as the individual, says Eleftheriades. Sulcas concurs: “Around
70 per cent of your university experience is about campus life, so if you are someone who wants to enjoy the social side of being a student, you may well feel that you are missing out.”

However, studying online does make it possible to save on accommodation costs while still accessing international content. Many people are choosing to study for at least one year online before heading to their university to enjoy the campus experience – getting what many would consider the best of both worlds.

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