Gone are the days when Bollywood could use a blanket education for a successful movie hero – studied “computer” in America.
The modern, internationally savvy, education conscious population is able to distinguish the difference between a degree with substance, and hot air.
However, for those who are still catching up with the opportunities of an education abroad, it is crucial to be able to judge the value of good education and cut through the glam scam.
Is studying abroad really worth it? Is it as beneficial as it is hyped up to be?
The answer to this question has more shades than black or white. There are circumstances and certain factors that determine the effectiveness of a foreign degree.
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons presented for both sides of the debate.
Studying abroad is no longer a privilege only to be afforded by the super-rich or the super intellectual.
The ability to secure funding assistance has placed our population into a decision process our previous generation was barely acquainted with.
This has, in turn, brought a sort of intellectual dilemma about whether to pursue one’s higher studies in their domestic home country, with its abundant familiarity, or seek out an international destination for a foreign degree, with its complimentary benefits.
Here are some very good reasons to propel you in one or the other direction about your academic future.
Very few other means allow for such an easy concession to foreigners to stay in another country.
If you are looking to experience life outside in a different country and its culture, getting to study in a university belonging to that country is by far the most straightforward way to achieve it.
You could try to get a direct job abroad or perhaps find some personal measure of obtaining residentship.
However, the number of such immigration successes are rarer as compared to the large number of students crossing borders into an international schooling destination.
It is a temporary arrangement and at the same time in the best interests of both the students and their host countries.
Studying for a relatively extended period of time helps to forge lasting relationships between students. This is even more pronounced when you live outside your domicile city.
And if, as in our present discussion, you live outside your country, you will be able to build relationships with individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
Such a circumstance is fertile with learning possibilities beyond the university curriculum. You will not only learn to appreciate the differences, but also expand on your skills – communication, social, interpersonal.
Situations that can take you outside your comfort zone and test your instincts in the unknown can make you far more adaptive than if you were to choose to live out your young adulthood in your parent’s basement.
USA, Canada, UK, Australia are some of the more popular international study destinations and house nearly 60% of the world’s top universities.
A degree stamped at any one of those universities, or the closely competing ones can boost your career forward. Most western countries have excellent funding for STEM research.
America is only one of them with over 2.5% of its GDP invested in scientific research. Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Israel, and our friends in the east – South Korea and Japan – are among other countries with a spectacular amount set aside for STEM research.
USA has the advantage of companies that also spend a lot on science funding that comprise nearly 70% of its research capital.
As a regular full-time international student, you will be in constant communication with fellow classmates from various backgrounds.
The nature of international programs tends to be far more interactive than, say, the purely instructional mode of the traditional Indian classes.
For instance, the American education system encourages class discussions, debates, and active student participation. This improves not just communication skills but confidence in expressing yourself to others, including authority figures.
And not in the least, it provides the opportunity to earn your living in a foreign land with far more potential growth in your career and salary.
Studying abroad brings with it the associated perks of graduating with some form of working permit.
A work permit, such as an OPT in USA, exclusively deals with international students graduating in an American university. The one year, upon completion of a degree, is available to transfer your F1 student visa to an H1B work visa.
Even better if you are studying a STEM field as in that case your OPT period can be further extended by 2 years. Thus, there is ample cushion for international students to find and establish their employment in the host country.
Compare this to an outsider looking in to find a job and legal immigration status from her home country. Enter, long embassy queues, visa headaches and many many broken hearts.
Barring the fortunate few who are able to secure some form of funding assistance – scholarship, fellowship, graduate assistantship – the rest have to shoulder the cost associated with their decision to study abroad (Read articles on MBA Scholarships.
Tuition itself can touch $50k-$70k, depending on the degree and institute. Professional courses come with a higher price tag (read MBA) while undergraduate degree seekers have to count the duration (usually 3-4 years) they would be bearing the cost.
Apart from the tuition, the living costs are an extra financial headache. Rent, food, travel, and other ancillary expenses can be a pretty penny. Top these with the immigration restrictions on where and when students can work under a student visa.
Compare that to studying in your home country. Indian universities are almost free (in comparison) and living costs can be easily combated if you stay at home.
The unfamiliarity of a different society can be a rude shock. Especially if you are unable to adjust to it. Many students struggle to get into terms with customs that maybe considered uncivil in their own culture.
Addressing professors with their first names, for instance, is perfectly regular in USA but understandably alien in India.
There is a reason why you may find birds of the same flag flocking together. Especially if language too adds another layer of disparity.
Universities are considerate of such emotions and often arrange for seminars to familiarize their new international recruits of cultural behaviours that are common there.
However, the lack of suitable adaptability can create a bad case of homesickness and make life quite lonely in a foreign land.
The time spent overseas, building a global network of friends and colleagues, is time spent in losing out on a professional, and personal, network back home.
So, if you were to decide to go back to your home country, you will be at a disadvantage as compared to your friends who stayed back. This is especially apparent if you choose to look for a career move back home.
Getting an international degree is a great way to find a job in said international country. The employers are familiar with the institute, the value of the degree, and probably its alumni.
However, it is quite a different ball game if you intend to seek employment back in your home country. There are more than a couple of reasons asserting such a claim, as we have listed below.
– Most domestic employers are either not invited or have no means to attend placement events held at foreign universities. This keeps perfectly worthy graduating students outside the reach of a whole selection of employers who, unfortunately, are not aware of this talent pool.
– Secondly, the perception of what value a foreign degree holds varies for different employers. Larger or small-sized firms tend to have a healthy set of employees who are well-versed with global degrees. Some of them even house their alumni. These firms value foreign degree holders because of their learning potential, analytical skills, and their superiority in other soft skills – team work and communication – held dear to the functioning of an organization.
However, most other firms hesitate hiring foreign graduates on grounds of lack of awareness of their capabilities as measured against their home-grown peers. Recruiters are also wary of the higher attrition rates of these graduates. Many, among them, continue to search for greener pastures overseas with better compensation and growth opportunities (Read Average salaries after MS in USA, Canada and Australia).
– Finally, there is the issue of validity of foreign degrees under an existing domestic education system. For instance, the Indian university system, under the University Grants Commission (UGC) prescribes the particulars of a Master’s degree – stipulated duration of at least two years from an accredited university – to get Indian equivalence.
All these strict requirements can make traveling abroad for an international degree quite a hard sell.
Unless of course you manage to secure an admit to one of those impressively popular schools whose degrees are considered not just valuable but almost sacred (read Ivy Leagues).
So what’s the final verdict? Should you study abroad?
Yes, of course you should consider the opportunity seriously if it so arises. However, the decision should be backed by foresight of your future plans.
An international degree can be excellent if you research your options after the degree and the university you seek it from.
If you don’t evaluate your options, studying abroad can become a giant waste of money.
A blank approach can be counterproductive, getting a foreign degree just for the sake of experiencing life overseas, without the benefits of having invested the time and money in becoming an international graduate.
– Lessons from an MS student’s bad experiences in graduate school in USA
– H1B visa process after lottery makes it tough for Indian MBA students
– Differences between good vs bad colleges