Studying abroad may sound like a daunting option at first, or an option that would never be possible because of costs or because its too complicated. This blog is here to push all the assumptions people have about studying abroad aside or perhaps reveal if there's some truth to them.
Natasha is an Irish student in her first year of Psychology in Maastricht University in The Netherlands. In this blog, she gives an some insight into studying abroad, and why she made the choice. If you're considering this option for yourself, this blog should hopefully help you in making your choice of where to study, and might inspire you to dive into the deep-end and study elsewhere.
Why Study Abroad?
There are so many perks when you study in another country, you build on your independence, confidence for example. At first, it can seem almost scary moving to another country or even city where you don't know anyone, don't speak the language and although you have some expectations, a lot of surprises await:
Personal growth and a new cultural experience
Truth be told, you grow up quite fast, having to support yourself and small things you took for granted such as a warm, motherly dinners being ready every evening for you after study. In saying this, you really find yourself, and being in such an international environment, you build friendships where you feel like you’ve known each other for years. From speaking to people from Zimbabwe to Indonesia to Panama, your mind is set free and you become far more open-minded. A small international community forms where you all look out for each other as well, like a family away from home!
Often the cheaper option
Sometimes, the tuition fees abroad can be much lower than in Ireland, not more expensive. For Dutch universities, they begin at €1,003 for the first academic year and €2,006 for the following 2 years (of a 3-year bachelor’s degree). So, while creating memories of a lifetime, you’re also saving!
High quality education
Some might assume that these lower costs must mean the quality of education is lower but in fact, it's quite the opposite; various Dutch universities are ranked among the best in the world, with the University of Amsterdam at 62nd in comparison to Trinity College Dublin at 120th (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019). Moreover, some have fantastic faculties such as the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience ranking 84th for Psychology (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019 by subject).
Amazing travel opportunities
If you’ve got itchy feet, then studying in mainland Europe gives you ease of access to countries via interrail, and with cheap student fares, many students travel on the weekend. Masstricht, for example, is located approximately 10 minutes cycling from Belgium and less than 30 minutes by bus to Aachen, Germany. Amsterdam is just a 2.5 hours train ride and Brussels 2 hours, if you’re looking to tick off some of your bucket list goals. Not all universities are this centrally located though, so if travel is on your mind, check out the exact location of your college (although this is not to say you should choose a university just based on the opportunity of travel, it should be seen more as a bonus).
How to Apply? What are the Requirements?
Each university and course have their own deadlines and requirements. Therefore, it's important to check on the individual websites. Some courses require interviews, entrance exams, personal statements and particular grades or subjects:
These are typically done over Skype to understand your character and your motivation for doing the course.
These are based on some topics related to the course, for example in my application I was given 3 papers to read and a multiple-choice exam.
These are a way for you to further express your motivation for doing the course, why you’d like to attend their university, etc. It’s important that your statement is “personal” in that it makes it clear why you personally want to go. Being honest, it can be difficult to think of what to say at first, but examples to guide you would be liking particular aspects of their course. For example, I said I liked their emphasis on Neuroscience as well as Psychology. You could also say that you like their style of teaching if it’s something that makes them different to other universities, such as the focus on problem-based learning at Maastricht University.
The grades typically needed are lower than Irish universities, as they base your application not solely on academic ability (a nice bonus!), but also on passion and drive. In saying this, there are a minimum number of credits that need to be achieved in the first year in order to continue on to the second year but with the right mindset and determination, this can be accomplished with ease!
Where to go from there?
If you’re interested in exploring your options, the best starting point is Eunicas.ie. There, you can find countries and colleges that have a course you might be considering. From there, check out the university website for more details on the application process and requirements. Most Dutch university applications go through "Studielink”, somewhat of an equivalent to the Central Applications Office.
A Final Piece of Advice
Choosing to study abroad is like taking a leap of faith, especially if you have never lived abroad before. It’s a lot of “firsts”: first time living alone, first time living in a foreign country, first time away from family, and so on. It may be an amazing experience for some, but for home-birds, they would rather not fly the nest, and that's okay too. Listen to your gut, if it feels like it's for you, then it probably is the right thing for you. At least that’s what I did, and it was the best decision I ever made.
Good luck to you with the upcoming exams and to whichever path you land upon afterwards!