Its that time of the year when a lot of students are filling applications to study abroad. It’s a big decision in any student’s life and a very expensive one. So should you do it? Is studying abroad really worth the investment? In order to answer whether studying abroad is really worth the time and money the first question to answer is why do you want to study abroad.
Studying for the experience
I know a lot of friends who studied abroad and who are currently planning to study abroad for the whole experience of studying in a foreign country. If you fall in this category and don’t have many financial constraints then read no further because studying abroad is a thoroughly enriching experience. Studying in a foreign country will give you new perspectives, and invaluable experiences, ones you will cherish throughout our life. You will be exposed to a new lifestyle and after the initial transition phase you will become a more independent and responsible individual. Career wise, you will be exposed to a lot of practical training both during coursework and while exploring research opportunities. In summary studying abroad will make you a responsible adult and more importantly a responsible global citizen.
Studying to live the foreign dream
While there are a lot of students who want to study in a foreign country for the experience, a lot of students want to experience foreign education but also work and eventually settle in a foreign country. For students who fall in this category especially the ones who have financial constraints, the situation is completely different and a lot more complicated. Even if you are in a work-study program the average cost for four years of studying abroad is approximately $163,000 (INR ~1.09 crore). Now even if you belong to an upper middle class family that is a lot of money and for most a lot more than their life savings.
Approximately a decade ago a lot of students were making this huge leap and understandably so because after the huge initial investment they were rewarded with not only a good and heartening education but also with well paying jobs and overall a better quality of life. Now the west has a big problem. Its economy is in turmoil, not enough jobs are being created, the job market is incredibly competitive, and companies aren’t hiring too many international students. To make things more convoluted most foreign governments are raising visa barriers for foreigners to work in the country. The result, most of the international students have a hard time finding a job and a lot of them return home or search for other job opportunities in Asia. Keeping this in mind its not surprising that the number of students taking the plunge to study abroad although still high but is nonetheless decreasing every year. So lets come back to the original question i.e. should you take the plunge, invest your life savings and study abroad? If it doesn’t take a huge financial crisis to sponsor your education I will still say yes but read the following tips below not only to make your educational experience enriching but also to land your first job.
1. A Good GPA will NOT land you a job
In order to land a job, GPA is important but often a good GPA doesn’t translate to a job however it does significantly increase the chances of getting first-round interviews. These days, recruiters often use GPA as a screener to short list candidates for interviews but beyond that it doesn’t really count for a lot. If you have a good standing in your class and have a GPA above the minimum requirement for a job, you will be considered for interviews. Think of GPA as the first thing the recruiters look at. It gives them a first impression but beyond that it will not count for much unless your GPA is exceptional (>3.8) which distinguishes you from other candidates.
2. Diversify Yourself
So a good GPA will not land you a job so what will? Job market is exceptionally competitive so you have to ensure that you stand out amongst the herd. Recruiters often hire students with diversified skill sets than students who are just good in academics. So as soon as college begins, look for opportunities to diversify your skill set. Connect with professors and ask them if they have any research openings in their respective groups. Contact student run college organization for leadership/volunteer opportunities. Remember every experience counts and there is no better time to diversify and learn from experiences than in college. Not only will this help you sell yourself better to recruiters but will also help you learn a lot about your own interests. Recall all of these experiences become a part of your resume; the first thing a recruiter looks at.
The caveat is that diversification of skills requires time and a lot of international students have a hard time balancing coursework, social commitments and other things during the semester. If you fall in this category make full use of your summer breaks. Some international students tend to go back home for summer and frankly I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have an exciting opportunity to work back home. There is no better time to explore internships and research opportunities than summer. To incentivize this prospect further, most opportunities during the summer are paid and can help significantly lower the overall cost of studying abroad.
Networking is an art and a very important one to land you your first job. The sooner you get hang of it the better it is. I will recommend every student to become active on LinkedIn, a social networking site that helps you to connect with any professional irrespective of the field. One easy way to network is to attend career events organized by colleges. A lot of companies come for on-campus recruiting and there is no better way to network and land your first job than through a career fair. Another way to network and get a leg into the company is to informational interview with professionals from different companies through LinkedIn. Understandably a lot of contacts on LinkedIn aren’t going to schedule an informational interview but some will and these professionals will help you land an interview. Even if you are not actively looking for jobs I will highly recommend building your network as soon as you can.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves” So Keep Calm and Study Abroad.
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