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Viemont Family Plans

Ellie and I have been in Malaysia for the last four weeks and are finishing up our time in Bali.  It’s actually been a scouting trip since we (along with Tom) will be moving to Malaysia in the spring.  I’m often asked why we are moving and why Malaysia. The short answer is that Tom and I have always dreamed of living abroad. Ellie is 100% on board with this plan, but Sam wanted to finished high school in the US, so  we waited for him to get off to college and then sold our house this past spring and started the process!

Malaysia has an incredible 10 year visa, low cost of living, great health care, no taxes on global income, and Kuala Lumpur is an exciting, modern, food filled city. It’s also a great jumping off place to explore other parts of Asia with short and cheap flights to amazing places. The long answer goes back to Tom’s brain hemorrhage in 2017, our experiences around that (both with healthcare and the insights that come from a near death experience), job insecurity he has experienced when he returned to work (despite his full recovery), my learning about various ways to experience location independence after being interviewed for the EPOP podcast, and a deep desire to experience more of the world on a longer term basis.

Batu cavesThe reaction from friends, some family, and even strangers has been really interesting. Some people are genuinely curious and I’m always happy to answer their questions.  Many people aren’t familiar with Malaysia (I wasn’t until fairly recently), but know of Singapore, due to  the movie, “Crazy Rich Asians”. To them, I’m able to explain that Kuala Lumpur is like Singapore, but more affordable! Other people make assumptions and seem to want us to defend our decision. My mother questioned what we would do about healthcare-though Malaysia is medical tourism hot spot with affordable and high quality care.  Some question why we wouldn’t choose another better known place, without consideration to the fact that you can’t live long term on a tourist visa. They (including my mom) questioned safety, though  Malaysia is ranked the 15th safest country in the world-far ahead of the US ranking of 128th place. Others (ok, my mom again-but others too…) questioned the educational impact this will have on Ellie, without realizing the learning opportunities that living abroad naturally provides and that there are options for international high schools.

This all relates to the myth of American exceptionalism. We’ve addressed this concept previously, but it bears repeating. Why do we assume our health care is the best? Why do we assume our universities are the only good ones in the world? Why do we assume that our way of life is only one worth emulating?  Why do we even have to think in terms of “best”? A good university, doctor, way of life for one person may not be for another. Things can be different without one having to be defined as better than the other.

Ellie is doing 10th grade through a virtual school, since we are moving before the end of the school year.  This also gives her the opportunity to travel with me this year.  We are in Bali to attend a conference about World Schooling. I first read about this a few years ago and found it fascinating.  Basically, these are families who take less conventional approaches to education in order to allow their children to learn from the world.  Though Ellie’s education is more traditional (accredited online school and likely international school for the rest of high school), I thought this would be a great way for her to meet other teens and for us both to learn from families who make a conscious point to learn from the world.

Already I’ve seen the natural learning and curiosity that occurs through these experiences.  You can imagine our surprise when we saw a swastika on a building on our way in from the airport! I had no idea that the swastika is actually a Sanskrit symbol used for over 5000 years by many ancient cultures around the world. It is still used on some Hindu and Buddhist temples and organizations in Asia-not as a symbol of hate but as it’s original pre-Hitler meaning of peace, luck, well being, and prosperity.  We learned about world religions and can’t even count how many Ganesh statues we have seen! We learned thought provoking information about cultural identity; how many people are just learning that they are Japanese because their families took on a Chinese identity for fear of  retaliation after WWII; how Tamil is the common language among Indians in Malaysia; how the British colonization still has effects though independence was granted in 1957; and how ethnic Malays/Malaysian Malays (not sure if one term is more PC than the other) are all held to sharia law, while all others in the country have a secular justice system. We had first hand experience with haze in Malaysia, caused by the intentionally set forest fires in Indonesia. Ellie was able to use this information for a paper she had to write in Earth Science about deforestation. I can tell you that NONE of these things would have been of interest to Ellie  (and -full disclose- some would not have interested me either…) if we weren’t here having these first hand experiences.

So why am I telling you all this?

I recently read a sentence that really stuck with me from Sam’s Introduction to International Studies syllabus. It noted that one of the course objectives was to “foster global positioning sensitivity based on an awareness that there is no single objective position from which to observe the world.” This really gives me goosebumps!  Wouldn’t it be great if we all had this? The very same day, I read an article that quoted a woman who was at a political rally in North Carolina. She said, “This is like college — it’s like a pep rally of like-minded people and we feel safe here,”

I don’t want my kids to solely be around like-minded people. I want them to learn from the experiences of others.  I want them to feel a little uncomfortable as their views and perspectives are challenged by their experiences and the views of others.  This type of education occurs when studying in Europe. Their classmates and friends are from all around the world so they will meet and learn-in the classroom and socially- from students who have had vastly different life experiences than them. They will also learn about the history and culture of the country they are studying in, just through day to day life and the natural learning experiences that take place.

I recognize that our choice to move abroad isn’t possible or desirable for many people.  There may be jobs, family responsibilities, and many other reasons to stay in the states. You may prefer to experience the world through travel and enjoy a supportive community in the US.  I totally get that!  This is an example of differences that aren’t better or worse than the other. That said, almost every person I have met through Beyond the States has wished that they had these opportunities to get a degree abroad when they were in college. Our kids don’t have a mortgage yet. They aren’t responsible for taking care of us.  They don’t have a career to leave behind.  This is the prime time for them to take advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow in tremendous life changing ways, by getting their degree in Europe.

Beyond the States helps families access and navigate the information about the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in Europe. This free webinar is a great starting point and provides answers to many of the questions you may have.

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Top Three Reasons Students Are Going to Europe for Graduate School

Did you know that there are thousands of graduate school programs in Europe that cost a lot less than US grad Europe for Graduate School school tuition? In 2015, I stumbled on the existence of English-taught full degree programs held at European universities. My kids were teenagers and I had a number of concerns about higher education in the US-from ever increasing cost to opaque admissions process to varying quality- so I decided to explore whether to keep this possibility on our radar. Prior to this, I assumed that an international student would have to know a foreign language to study in Europe. I certainly had no idea that, in non-Anglophone countries in Europe, there are over 700 accredited universities offering almost 8,000 full bachelor’s and master’s degree programs conducted entirely in English—no foreign language skills needed. Everything from the courses to the readings to the assignments are in English, plus English is widely spoken as a second language in many countries.

Budapest, Hungary parliament at night

The cost savings alone made me realize that many other families would also be interested in learning more.  I spent a year researching, visiting schools in Europe, meeting with administrators and talking to American students who were already studying in Europe in order to start Beyond the States.  Until now, we focused on helping families learn about and navigate the European bachelor’s degree options. As I’ve visited schools, I’ve learned about the incredible master’s degree programs and, by popular demand, we have begun to offer resources around these options as well.

Interested in learning why so many Americans are excited about getting their master’s degree in Europe?

1) Lower Cost

According to FinAid.org, the average cost for master’s degree programs in the US ranges from $30,000 – $120,000 which depends on whether a student is paying in-statue tuition, out of state or private tuition. Given that the average student completes their bachelor’s degree with $33,310 of debt, taking on the expense of graduate school can be financially devastating, especially if, as most do, master’s students also carry debt from their bachelor’s degree.

English-taught master’s degree programs in Europe are much more affordable.  Their average tuition for the more than 5,000 English-taught programs is at $9,000 per year.  That average includes the higher priced programs, like MBAs, so it is significant to note that there are over 1,800 options under $3,500 per year and more than 700 that are tuition free-even for international students.

There’s a false perception that the cost of living in Europe is much greater than in the US, and that cost of living, along with increased travel expenses, erase the savings provided by lower tuition. Let’s look at a couple of comparisons around this.  My son, Sam, is in the International Studies bachelor’s program at Leiden University.  Students in this program choose a region and related language and then study politics, economics, international relations, culture and such as it pertains to that area. For the sake of this example, we will look at related master’s degrees in Europe and compare them to the costs of attendance in our state of North Carolina.

UNC Chapel Hill offers a master’s degree in Global Studies.  In state tuition is $10,552 per year while out of state Europe for Graduate School students pay $28,278 in tuition a year. Duke University offers a Political Science master’s degree program for $60,727 per year.  Both of these programs take two years to complete. The cost of living in Durham and Chapel Hill is similar, estimated by the schools to cost about $2,000 per month, so $18,000 for an academic year thus, the total cost of attendance for in state at UNC Chapel Hill is $59,104, out of state is 94,556, and private is $242,908.

Five years ago, those numbers would have seemed normal to me….Now though, they do not. I know that there are other options. Groningen University, in the Netherlands, is one of many universities that offers one year master’s degree programs, and has a Middle Eastern Studies master’s program.  The tuition is $14,241 and cost of living estimates are $14,437. The total cost of attendance is $28,679. Even budgeting for two flights home during the year, it’s still half of what we would pay overall for in state, a third of what we would pay for out of state, and just over a tenth of what we would pay for private US universities.

There are also countries with a much lower cost of living to explore.  Charles University, in Prague, Czech Republic, offers a two year International Relations program for $6,835 per year.  The estimated cost of living for the year is even lower than tuition at $5,481. The entire two year degree, then, is $24,633. Note that both of these schools are highly reputable, globally ranked universities.

Even factoring in the cost of living and 2 flights home per year, we would save anywhere between $28,000-$214,275 using these examples!

2) Employability After Master’s Degree Programs in Europe

I’m often asked if the degree will be “good” here in the US.  First of all, all the programs we list are fully accredited and the degrees are internationally recognized.  Usually, this question pertains to employment though.  Good news on that front!  A recent study by the Institute of International Education found that studying abroad for longer periods of time has a high impact on job offers, as well as job advancement.

The experience of living outside of one’s home country help students gain the soft skills that employers are looking for-and find lacking in US graduates. Students who have studied outside of their home country are immersed in a different culture and cultivate awareness of and appreciation for cultural differences. The emphasis on group work in European schools gives students the opportunity to work with people from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. These graduates are often flexible, adaptable, and experienced in navigating unfamiliar circumstances, all of which are the soft skills that lead to success in the workplace.

Multinational companies recognize the skills what these students bring and partner with many of the European universities to recruit students and/or offer opportunities for hands on experience during studies. These companies include Google, BP, JP Morgan, Accenture, Deloitte, Cisco and many more. There are a number of countries that offer English-taught programs as a way to address their labor shortage. Denmark, for instance, focuses their English taught programs on the employment needs of their country so international students have many opportunities for employment after graduating.

3) Life Changing International Experiences

International experiences are in no way confined to living in the country of your university. The English-taught programs in Europe are developed to attract students from around the world. Thus, friendships are made with others from around the world. Cultural differences are recognized, openly discussed, and valued. Though there are differences in background, there are meaningful common experiences and values among international students. They are all experiencing living outside of their home country, which is a significant and life-changing experience. Further, most of these students do have the values associated with global citizenship, which connects them on a very deep level.

In addition to experiencing the world by studying in a different country, students studying in Europe have many other opportunities for international exposure. The EU’s Erasmus+ program, for instance, is an umbrella organization for the many programs that encourage mobility among young people. The student mobility program is one that all degree-seeking students attending European universities can participate in—even international students! In addition to offering opportunities for study and internships in different countries, Erasmus + also funds Erasmus Mundus programs. These really interesting and often integrated programs are developed and implemented by a consortium of higher education institutions in at least two different countries. Students study in at least two countries and receive a joint degree from the universities of the consortium.  There are more than 100 of these programs that are conducted entirely in English. There are options for just about every field of study that you can think of: Agriculture, Arts, Design, Humanities, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Computer Science and Technology, Business, and more. These programs are relevant to today’s issues and often involve professionals from related companies which helps students understand how to apply the knowledge – not to mention network! Though the tuition for these programs is generally 9,000 Euros per year, students can apply for scholarships which fund everything from tuition to food and housing to travel costs.

Of course, there are abundant travel opportunities that are more exotic than Cancun or Florida. Europe is compact, making it easy to spend the weekends exploring by train or through inexpensive flights. This may include visiting the hometowns of your new friends, or trips organized by the university or international organizations.  I recently met with a group of students who were spending a weekend in Montenegro, organized by their schools international student organization.  The cost for travel, lodging, food, etc. was just 200 Euros!

These options aren’t for everyone.  They are for students who don’t confine themselves to the status quo, who are interested in other cultures, who love to travel, and want to explore the world, who are open-minded, and eager to have new and different academic and life experiences.  For these students, these options would be worth exploring – even if the potential savings were not so dramatic.

Interested in learning about specific schools in Europe?   Click here to receive a free guide I put together about ten great graduate school options in Europe.

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Proost (cheers) to student life in Europe!

Most of us are familiar with what goes on the first few weeks at American universities, but who has any idea what happens at European universities? Sam has been in The Hague for almost two weeks now and though I knew-on paper-what his schedule would be, I didn’t fully understand what this would look like.

As I had mentioned previously, Sam flew to Amsterdam by himself and was met at the airport by the welcome team. This is an optional free service in which current students greet new international students at the airport, guide them to the train, help them buy train tickets, and find the correct train. After finding his way to the housing office, the next welcome team took Sam to his room and showed him around the city.

The first week of orientation is called HOP Week (Hague Orientation Program), and is for Leiden students who are studying in programs held in The Hague (as opposed to the main campus in Leiden). Sam will have orientation that is specific to his program next week which will cover academic information as well as an introduction to the student associations within the program, resources, and the like. HOP week included information fairs and assistance with things like ID cards and such but this was primarily a social introduction, with tours of the city, a beach party, pub crawls, and cook outs.

The drinking age in Europe is 18, so the presence of alcohol was even addressed in the HOP week online information. The parent FAQ section stated “Besides soft drinks and water, we serve beer and wine during the week. However, we do not serve any alcohol to participants under the age of 18.” The drinking age is sometimes a cause for concern for American parents, but it is actually a relief to me. Students in college, be it in the US or Europe, will have the opportunity to drink no matter what the drinking age. Since students in Europe aren’t breaking any rules/laws by drinking, there can be initiatives in place to teach responsible drinking instead of abstinence. When I spoke to the ESN president for a podcast episode, he talked about things they do at parties like passing out water bottles at parties that have information labels about how much alcohol people of different sizes can handle and encouraging students to alternate drinks that contain alcohol with water.

Drinking also isn’t taken to the same extreme it is on US campuses. Yes, there has been more partying by Sam than I would like, but there have been nights that he goes out and has a couple of beers without drinking excessively, and nights he goes out and doesn’t drink at all. When excess has occurred, it hasn’t been at the level that results in passing out, getting sick, or blacking out. Sure, we are only a couple of weeks in, but these weeks before class start are traditionally the heaviest party times. His experience confirms what I have been told by other American students in Europe-that the drinking culture among college students in Europe is drastically different than in the US.

Housing is quite different as well. Sam’s room is much bigger than I expected. It comes with a bed, bedding, side table, a lounge chair, desk, wardrobe, lamps, kitchen table, and kitchenette (cabinets, stove top, small fridge). He shares an entry way and bathroom with a student from Prague who is entering his first year in the International Studies program as well. We pay 590 euros a month for his housing. The is right near a train stop and is only about a 15 minutes walk from the city center (where his classes will be held). Sam was showing me the room on Face Time and I noted that it was so big that I could stay with him when I visit in October, instead of renting an Airbnb. Sam didn’t think that was very funny….

I was a little worried about what Sam would do the first few days, since he arrived on a Thursday and orientation didn’t begin until Monday. However the RA’s set up a WhatsApp group for everyone in the building to join, so Sam had already communicated with people before he got there-and even had plans made for the first night. By the end of the weekend-even before orientation began-he had a large group of friends. These are students from Ireland, England, the US, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Portugal, Serbia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Albania, Morocco, Tunisia, Finland, Norway, India, Thailand, and China. And these were just the nationalities he could name off the top of his head!

This reminded me of a neighbor I had. Her son started at UNC Chapel Hill last year and requested a roommate change because his assigned roommate was from a different country. He felt uncomfortable living with someone whose first language was not English and had cultural differences. This is a kid who grew up in a fairly progressive community, but didn’t have experiences that would lead him to appreciate and value cultural differences. I tried to talk to my neighbor about what positive experience her son could have, if she encouraged him not to switch rooms, but it fell on deaf ears…

I love that Sam has the opportunity to connect with such a diverse group of kids and I love that fitting in doesn’t mean that everyone has to be same. They can learn from their different backgrounds while also sharing some very significant life experiences. They all chose to live outside of their home country, which speaks to their openness and curiosity abut the world. They are navigating similar unfamiliar ground together, associated with the nuances of acclimating to a new culture and systems. This is one of those benefits that starts out as secondary, but becomes just as high impact-to Sam and us-as the benefits related to tuition and admissions!

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Sam’s Journey Truly Begins

I don’t know about you, but when I went to college, we tied all sorts of stuff to the roof of our car and my parents helped me move in to the dorms. My Facebook feed has been filled with friends doing the same over the past week or so. This is not really the custom in Europe though. As most readers know, our son, Sam, is attending Leiden University in The Hague, The Netherlands, studying International Relations. Here’s a link to a podcast where Sam talks about his visit to Leiden for Experience Day.

I dropped Sam off at the airport on Wednesday. As we checked his bags, I felt compelled to tell the ticketing agent that he had an additional bag to check and that TSA Pre was missing from his boarding pass.  Sam was standing right there and perfectly capable of handling this himself, but I just couldn’t help myself.  I knew he could take care of it, but I just wanted to help, while I still had the opportunity. That said, I do know that these little things send a certain message and can hinder independence.

There are some really crucial tasks that need to be completed during the first couple of weeks. Sam needs to open a bank account (something that is more complicated than it sounds), register at city hall, find out how rent is paid in the coming months, and a host of other logistics.  Knowing myself, it would be really difficult for me not to take over the organization of these tasks if I were there. This is one reason I decided to not head to the Netherlands with him now, and am instead waiting until October to visit.

I’m often guilty of managing things myself just because it’s easier, or because I want to help or protect my kids.  I’ve had to fight these instincts the past few years in an effort to prepare Sam for attending college abroad.  Though he has only been gone a few days, this has already paid off.  When Sam returned from Morocco last summer, one of his bags didn’t make it.  With oversight, he handled that on his own from filling out the forms, to following up with the airline, to arranging the delivery of the bags.  Guess what? When one of his bags didn’t make it last week he knew exactly what to do which eliminated a lot of stress (other than the fact that he was dying for a shower and the missing bag had his towels…).  When we traveled to the Hague his junior year, I had him navigate his way to meet me after one of my meetings with a university. Since he had a way to contact me if needed, it was a lesson in guided independence.  Guess what? When he unexpectedly had to find his way from the train station to the housing office on his own, he was able to do so without worry.

Correspondence from the universities goes straight to the students, parents are not included on these exchanges.  So Sam has been in charge of gathering, scanning, and submitting necessary documents, arranging for the welcome service, calling about student residence permit issues, and keeping track of all the various orientation dates.  I’ve kept a list of the tasks that need to be completed, so that I could follow up as needed (aka-nag).  Sam has surprisingly stayed on top of it. I think he appreciates that the school treats him as the adult in the situation and he responds accordingly.  I will admit that I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from grabbing the phone a few times.  Though he didn’t communicate information the exactly as I would have, it was taken care of.

All of these experiences make him (and me!) confident that he will be able to handle the tasks at hand in the coming weeks-and years. I have a list going again with the crucial things that I will follow up about and have had to consciously make myself not ask (nag) about things that don’t matter in the long run.  If he wants to procrastinate buying the items for his kitchen, it really shouldn’t matter to me (yes, I’ve had to repeat that to myself many times). I think all this is just to say that, as parents, we sometimes take charge of things for our own needs- whether it’s the need to nurture or help, the need to get things done correctly the first time, or the need to protect.  We forget that we have raised these great kids who are capable, who can learn from mistakes, and who can utilize many resources for assistance. I’m often asked what parents can do to help prepare their kids for college in Europe.  Without a doubt, providing opportunities for guided independence is my number one suggestion!

Side note-only a few days in and Sam has had some incredible experiences. It’s prevented me from being sad that he’s gone and more focused on how excited I am for him. I’ll share more about his experiences and pictures of his dorm room (hopefully this will compel him to clean up…) next week.

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GI Bill: Can It Be Used for College in Europe?

Josh is a former US Marine from Florida who now studies International Relations at the University of Warsaw in Poland.  His first international exposure came during his years of overseas duty. His posting to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group  really increased his interest in higher education and stoked a desire for continued international experiences.  He also met his now-wife while serving at the US Embassy in Warsaw.  Josh’s studies are financed through the GI Bill which, until recently, I didn’t realize could be used to fund college in Europe (more info here)!

Why Are Veterans So Well Suited for College or Grad School in Europe?

  • They have gained international exposure through their service.
  • They tend to be older and more mature than typical students in the US.
  • Their benefits really are confined to state schools in which they live or have residency, since $23,672 won’t go very far for towards out of state or private school tuition.
  • Their experience in the military has taught the skills needed to deal with bureaucratic processes that are often involved in studying abroad.

What Are the Benefits Under the GI Bill?

Benefits under the Post 9/11 GI bill vary based on the amount of time served after 9/11/01. Those who had active duty for 3 months get 40% of benefits up to those who served for 3 years who get 100% of benefits.

100% of benefits include:

  • Full tuition for in state and up to $23,672 for out of state or private or international (veterans can get in state tuition where they live or have official residence).
  • $1,000 per year for books.
  • $1,650 monthly living allowance

What are the Options in Europe?

GI bill
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There are 735 universities in continental Europe that offer English-taught bachelor’s and/or master’s degree programs.  More than 220 of these schools accept the GI Bill. The only countries that don’t have any schools that accept the GI Bill are Monaco and Slovenia.  All the others countries have options! In fact, more than half of the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in our database accept the GI Bill!

Of these 4,300+ English taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that accept the GI Bill, only 177 have tuition that is greater than the max benefts.  Most of these more expensive programs are either MBA programs, Fine/Performing Arts programs in Sweden, or programs held at American schools with a European campus (surprise…).

Here are just a few examples of universities that offer programs of interests and are fully covered by the GI Bill (assuming the student has 100% benefits) :

 

Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia

What better place to study cyber security than Estonia?

On my first visit there, I was surprised to learn about all their technological advances, their focus on internet connectivity (including free WiFi throughout Tallinn), e-society (CNBC Story), electronic voting, and unique cyber-security programs. This from a country that was under Soviet rule until just 1991! Tal Tech offers both a bachelor’s and master’s degree program in Cyber Security.

The curriculum is designed to provide higher education in the extremely hot field of Cyber Security, integrating software development and IT systems administration. Graduates of this curriculum will be able to independently design, operate and manage secure IT systems. Cyber security personnel are in high demand right now. The unemployment rate in the field is 0% and there are estimates that there will be 3.5 million unfilled positions in 2021.

The university offers a total of 20 English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, primarily in the fields of business, engineering, technology and computer science. Tuition ranges from 2,300-6,000 euros per year.

 

University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands

The city of Groningen has a tremendous amount to offer students. It is the youngest city in the Netherlands, with half of the population under the age of 35. Further 25% of the residents are students. The decentralized campus means that the various university buildings are located throughout the city, which makes the city and university feel very connected-like the town is serving as one big campus. Though it’s a city with a population of more than 200,000, it retains a community feel. Groningen is also a world cycling city and residents say that the city center is busy but quiet, since there are so few cars. Truly an incredible student city!

The University of Groningen is one of the oldest in Europe, founded in 1614. They have a strong international student body, at 20%, representing 120 different countries. I don’t think I could even name 120 countries!

The university offer 34 bachelor’s and 116 master’s program, all 100% English taught. Not only are there programs representing most study disciplines, but most of them are multidisciplinary in nature. For instance, the Internal Law program includes courses in politics science, economics and international relations.  The Life Science and Technology program covers biology, pharmacy, physics, chemistry, and engineering. There is really something for almost everyone here! Tuition ranging from 8,900 to 15,500 EUR per year, all well under the GI Bill spending limit.

 

University of Bocconi, Milan, Italy

gi billBocconi just about has it all-triple crown accreditation,  a centralized campus in the incredible city of Milan, a truly international approach to education-and, of course, Italian food! They ensure that class size is conducive to interactions and the classroom layout is intentionally designed to create an interactive environment.

Many schools SAY say that emphasize internationalism, but Bocconi really backs it up. Every professor that has been hired over the last 15 years has had international experiences themselves-they are either non-Italian or an Italian who received their Ph.D in another country.  Bocconi sees the value of providing international exposure throughout the study period. Bachelor’s students are required to learn two additional languages during their studies and students are strongly encouraged to study abroad (in some cases it is mandatory).

Given that this is a business school, almost all of the programs are related to economics and management.  That said, in addition to pure business programs like Finance and International Management, there are also programs that integrate business with other areas of study.  Examples include:

  • Economics and Management for Arts, Culture, and Communication
  • Green Management, Energy and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Economics and Data Science
  • Data Science and Business Analysis
  • Economics and Management of Government and International Organizations

Bocconi offers 27 English-taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. All except for 8 of the programs are less than the tuition covered by the GI Bill.

How Can Beyond the States Help?

Beyond the States provides information, resources, and a community of like-minded people to help students explore, apply to, and prepare for higher education in Europe.

Interested in Learning More??

If you’re looking for a bachelor’s degree, click here to get our Five Programs Guide.

If you’re more interested in a Master’s degree, click here to get the Ultimate Guide to Grad School.

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College Beyond the States Book Updates

One of the reasons why we use a database as our main source of information about the Englishcollege beyond the states-taught degree programs in Europe is because the information is constantly changing.  Not only are new programs updated in the different countries at different points in the year, but tuition and admissions information often changes as well.

I finished writing College Beyond the States: European Schools that Will Change Your Life Without Breaking the Bank in April 2018.  Since then, there have been some changes regarding schools in the book that I want to point out. Some are major admissions changes, while others are just things to keep on your radar if you are considering that particular school.

At this point last year, our database had 1,700+ programs at 350 or so universities. There are now \more than 2,000 bachelor’s programs listed! The average tuition is right around $8,000 per year, with almost 600 under $4,000 per year and 65 that are tuition free-even for international students. Contrast that to the averages in the US where students pay on average $9,970 for in-state, $25,620 for out of state, and $34,740 for private tuition. Factor in the variable that most bachelor’s in Europe take only three years to compete, and you will find that, even with travel costs, overall tuition is comparable to or less than in-state expenses.(add map image)

While there are no admissions scandals in Europe to report, there have been some changes that affect students graduating with a US high school diploma (Note: if you have an IB diploma, these changes don’t apply to you – it’s still the golden ticket for admissions). Germany used to allow students with a US high school diploma to apply if they had a certain minimum SAT or ACT score. They did away with that in the fall of 2019, so applicants with a US high school diploma must now have two years of college credit or an associate’s degree.  There is also the possibility of admissions with a foundation year program in Germany, but I have my concerns about that which I detailed in a recent blog about the changes.

Leiden University announced an admissions change this fall that affected my household quite a bit! Until fall of 2018, Leiden required that students with a US high school diploma have three AP scores of 3+, along with a 3.5 GPA.  As you may know, this is where my son, Sam plans to attend.  At the end of junior year, he had three AP scores, two were 4’s and one was a 3. We had planned his high school courses this way so that his acceptance would only be conditional on graduation, not AP scores.  Well, wouldn’t you know…in early October, Leiden announced that they now require 3 AP scores of 4+ and that the new requirements begin immediately. Thankfully, Sam was already registered for two AP courses his senior year, or it would have been much more stressful. He has been conditionally accepted based on him getting a 4 on one of his two AP tests.  Though I’m pretty confident he will get a 4 on at least one of them, we won’t know the scores until July, which is quite nerve-racking!  To reduce the anxiety, we came up with a plan B. Sam has also applied to the Hague University of Applied Science, which does not have the AP requirement. If he doesn’t get a 4 on one of the two AP tests as needed, he will study at The Hague University of Applied Science in the fall and the year of classes will allow him to apply to Leiden for the fall of 2020.  Both of these programs are located in The Hague, so the social transition would be fairly easy.

Speaking of The Hague University of Applied Science, I’ve had a few experiences with them over the last year that may or may not be something you want to consider. There have been interactions (or should I say lack there of) that may speak to whether getting in front of prospective international students is a priority.  Sam’s experience with the admissions process there has also left much to be desired.  Though we know that he will be accepted, since he meets the admissions requirements, there has been need for constant follow up and a lack of clear answers to very simple questions…

The last change I want to mention is about Vesalius College, in Belgium. As of fall 2019, they were in the midst of merging with another school (different from their affiliation with Vrije University).  It doesn’t seem that this has occurred yet and I don’t know if it is still in the works or not. If it is a school of interest, it could be worth asking whether or not the merger is still planned and, if so, what impact it will have on their offerings.

Even with the changes, I am still comfortable with the quality and experience international students will have at the universities listed in my book. That said, there are many other options that are just as good as these.  I continue to be blown away with what I learn when I visit new places! Interested in exploring the multitudes of options?  A Beyond the States membership provides access to our searchable database of all the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in Europe-with master’s launching this July. In addition, members receive a number of resources to help navigate the process from courses explaining different aspects of choosing and applying to universities, to community with other members and the chance to get answers from me on a monthly basis.  Join here!

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The Myth of “You Get What You Pay For”

“You get what you pay for” is a response I sometimes see posted on Facebook about the college costs in Europe. Why people feel compelled to respond to something that they know nothing about-and state it as fact-is beyond me. It’s also simply not true-even about higher education in the US!  Does a student paying out of state tuition receive a substantially superior education than the student paying in state tuition? No! It’s similar in Europe, one of the reasons tuition is so reasonable is because it is subsidized by the country.

One of the schools I visited a few months ago, Wiener Neustadt University of Applied Science, provides an excellent example of how “you get what you pay for” is false.  Students pay just 726 euros (about $818) per year for their English-taught Business Consultancy bachelor’s program.  That’s just incredible to me.  They will pay less for their entire three years of tuition than many overnight summer camps costs here in the US!

Let’s look at whether or not their experience is sub par due to their tuition. The first three semesters of the program focus on the fundamentals of business, including courses in accounting, m

anagement, finance, economics, marketing, and law. Students can also chose to do a semester abroad during their third semester.  Remember, students continue to pay the Wiener Neudstat tuition during that semester, even though the tuition at the study abroad school is almost guaranteed to be much, much higher!

Consultancy-specific courses begin in the fourth semester, along with those related to the students chosen specialty. The specialization options are; International Accounting and Finance, Marketing and Sales or Management and Leadership. The programs ends with a mandatory internship in the sixth semester.  The practical knowledge is not confined to the internship. Almost half of the classes are taught by industry experts and case studies are incorporated throughout the curriculum.

I met with three American students who are studying in this program; Darshaun from San Diego, Jack from Boise, and Vanessa from Dallas.  They all stated how much they appreciate the international student body in the program.  In fact, 70% of the

students are international students from all around the world.  In addition to appreciating the multicultural perspective they gain, they also noted that this large percentage means that the program addresses the needs of international students (academic and non-academic). The students noted that the professors are very accessible to students and get to know them.  Most of the classes are in groups of 20 and include discussion, group work and such.  There is only one lecture course each semester that has all 80 students.

Jack and Vanessa both live in the school’s student residences. These cost 330 euros per month for a single bedroom and a bathroom and kitchen that is shared with one other student.  They both enjoy the international feel in the student residences and community it provides.  Vanessa’s dorm arranges an international Sunday dinner each week in which students from different countries host and serve a meal. Dashaun lives with friends in Vienna and commutes to school.  Her commute is just 30 minutes each way by train and her student train pass is just 150 euros per semester!  Though there are a few places in town that students hang out it, they often head to Vienna social opportunities as well.

The only drawback I saw to this program was the location. The town is small and the campus is a good 10 minute drive from the city center.  However, there is a new campus opening this October in the heart of the city center.  The design blends old and new, with an old church functioning as the library and modern buildings serving as classrooms and IT labs.  The facility is walking distance to the train station and there is a free bus that connects the old campus to the new. Further, by living in Wiener Neustadt, students are able to access nearby Vienna easily, while paying much lower  living costs.

Because they are funded by the state, the school has to prove that they are a good investment.  How do they prove this?  With educational outcomes pertaining to employment.  How do they achieve those outcomes?  With a strong curriculum, practical experience, and an impressive and international student body. It’s not surprising that the school has the highest employment rate of all the Austrian universities of applied sciences! In fact, they find that companies seek the out to recruit students for internships. So I guess the statement “you get what you pay for” does apply here.  The state gets what they pay for so the students don’t have to foot the bill.

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McDaniel College in Budapest, Hungary

McDaniel College Hungary
Budapest, Hungary parliament at night

I didn’t visit McDaniel College in Hungary the first time I was in Budapest. There are a handful of American universities in Europe that I have a number of concerns about.  Some of them focus on and cater more to American exchange students, which certainly affects the experience for full degree students. Others charge “American sized” tuition, which I don’t think is justified. Though McDaniel College Hungary has a very reasonable tuition, it wasn’t on my high priority list a few years ago.

After visiting Anglo-American University in Prague, one of my favorites and a Beyond the States member favorite as well, I realized that I needed to check into McDaniel College Hungary. I added a day to my recent trip and took a short two and a half hour train ride from Vienna to Budapest.  McDaniel College in based in Maryland and is listed as one of the Colleges that Change Lives.  They note the personalized, interdisciplinary curriculum, experiential leaning opportunities, and student-faculty collaboration as stand out qualities.

The Budapest campus is now a full branch campus of McDaniel College Hungary and the qualities noted by Colleges that Change lives absolutely extend to this campus.  Class size does not exceed 15 students, there are not straight lectures courses and students and professors have direct relationships. I was struck by the innovative and interdisciplinary classes they developed for this campus. For instance, there is a journalism class called From Garden to Table  (you should really check this one out-it’s fascinating), a relevant Migration on the Move course, and a new course called Psychology on the Big Screen.

Students can major in Business Administration, Political Science & International Studies, Communication, Psychology, or Art History & Studio Art.  This does not need to be decided at enrollment. Students are encouraged to sample courses from different departments and can easily change majors. Like US universities, McDaniel College Hungary provides resources for non-academic needs as well. There is a staff member who helps with housing, a mental health counselor, and support available 24/7.

All of this sounded great, but I had one remaining concern-the school size. There are only 150 total students at the Budapest campus, and this includes 20-30 exchange students they have each semester. When a school is this small, my concerns include class selection, student resources, and student life.  Many of these concerns were quickly alleviated. They have strong student resources in place. Though somewhat limited in number (just over 50 each semester), they have sufficient diverse and interesting classes offered every semester. But what about student life?  I went to a small high school and the entire student body at McDaniel College Hungary is just a bit larger than my small graduating class in high school!

McDaniel let the students speak to these concerns themselves and arranged for me to meet with a group McDaniel College Hungaryof international students. One thing to note is that the student body represents 36 different countries. This diversity was represented with this group of students I met with. The group I met with included; Moburak, a Nigerian student who is the head of the Student Advisor Council; Dana and Stephanie who transferred from a community college in California; Rush, a student from DC who transferred from Trinity College in Connecticut; Claudia, a local student; Malisa, a student from Iran, and Dan who is a degree seeking student at the Maryland campus doing a semester in Budapest for a second year.

Dan’s perspective was particularly interesting since he could compare the experiences provided by both campuses.  He takes a lot of literature courses and noted that theses courses in Budapest are stronger, with better and deeper class discussion. He loves the Budapest campus so much that he plans to transfer and begin studying full time next year. All of the students spoke very highly of the educational quality and course selection.

They also had wonderful things to say about the student life. In Europe, student life is not confined to campus and all the students spoke of the abundant social opportunities provided by Budapest.  Most of the students said that their friend group consists mostly of McDaniel students, but Moburuk stated that that usually changes during the second year when the social group expands to students from other universities that you meet when you are out and at parties. The Student Advisory Council arranges a number of event throughout the year that include orientation events, pub crawls and movie nights.  This year they have organized a trip to Montenegro (which has been on my short list for travel).  Students pay just 200 euros for flights, food and accommodation!

McDaniel College Hungary
Langos, traditional Hungarian pancake with cheese, bacon, and garlic

That brings me to price.  Budapest is an incredibly affordable city!  The students I met with pay between $250-300 per month when they share an apartment, and some live alone for around $550 per month. Monthly transportation passes cost under $35 and you can get a langos, one of my favorite Hungarian dishes, for about $1.50.  But here’s the incredible part-tuition.  If you attend McDaniel in Maryland, you will pay $43,260 for tuition.  In Budapest, you will pay just about $8,000 per year! Further, students who chose to spend a semester studying at the Maryland campus continue to pay the Budapest tuition price! Further, they accept FAFSA and the GI Bill.

I asked the students what they say to people who say, regarding European tuition, “You get what you pay for”. Stephanie hit the nail on the head when she responded “It’s not about this being inexpensive, but about American education being way too expensive”. So true!  If you are ready to learn more about life-changing and AFFORDABLE options, I invite you to join Beyond the States.

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Why You Need To Know About Brno

I would not have been able to name a city, other than Prague, in the Czech Republic before starting Beyond the States. I certainly would not have thought that the city of Brno is consistently rated one of the top ten student cities in the world! There are 70,000 students in this city of 400,000, making it a lively place with lots of opportunities for student life. Brno itself has been called “Little Vienna”, since many of the same builders and architects developed the city when the city walls were taken down in the 1850’s.

A university administrator told me that the sense of community throughout Brno makes it feel like a village, though it is actually the Czech Republic’s second largest city.  To me, Brno felt like a large campus, due to the abundance of universities and students throughout the city.  Having been in Vienna before I arrived in Brno, I was also struck by the lack of tourists in the city.

It’s not just students that are attracted to Brno.  IBM, Honeywell, and Red Hat are just a few of the multinational companies with large offices in the city.  These companies often look to the university students when hiring English-speaking, part-time employees.

Another benefit to living outside of capital cities is the affordability factor.  Most universities in the Czech Republic have their own housing. Single rooms in Brno generally cost around $150 per month.  Meals in student canteens can be found for under $3, and a monthly transportation pass for students is just $12 per month.  This leaves plenty of budget left to explore nearby capital cities during the weekends! Students can get to Prague, Budapest, and Krakow in just around two hours and Vienna and Bratislava in just one.

I often visit cities that have a beautiful city center, but areas outside this section are more run down.  I did not have that experience in Brno.  I walked in many different parts of the city and noted how well-maintained  it was.  Further,  I was also struck by the excellent condition of all the buildings were at both schools I visited.  This is not the case with public universities in many countries.  Even public universities in Prague were not as well restored.  This may be due to the fact that the Brno area and universities had a very different experience under the communist regime than the universities in Prague.

My first stop was Masaryk University.  This University was founded in 1919 and is the second largest university in the country.   22% of their 35,000 students are international, but this number is misleading.  My recent blog discussed how large numbers of Slovak students come to the Czech Republic for their studies.  In fact, about 16% of Masaryk students are Slovak, meaning that non-Slovak international students account for only about 6%.  Certainly the needs of international students who are less than an hour from home and are familiar with the language and culture are different from international students from further away.  Despite the lower number of non-Slovak international students, the school has very strong resources for international students.  They guarantee first year housing for international students, and start the year with an international student orientation and a buddy program. Each faculty (department) has their own international student office as well as an advice dean for international students and another advice dean to work with all students around academic planning.   Masaryk offers twenty-one English taught master’s and bachelor’s degree programs.  All except for Medicine and Dentistry cost under 4,000 euros per year.

After visiting Masaryk and grabbing some Vietnamese food for lunch, I walked about 30 minutes from the city center to Mendel University. Like Masaryk University, Mendel was founded 100 years ago, but is a much smaller school.  There are 10,000 students at Mendel University. International students account for 20% if you include Slovak students but the number is still high-at 10%-without them.

There are so many things about this university that impressed me, that I don’t even know where to start!  Let’s start with educational approach.  Though many countries in eastern Europe still primarily use frontal instruction, Mendel University takes a more progressive approach.  Most courses include a seminar component and incorporate hands on and practical work in addition to theoretical knowledge. The school has large agriculture and horticulture faculties, with focus on sustainability. They have their own vineyard, brewery, and forest that students in the different master’s degree programs use as labs of sorts. There is talk of adding an English-taught  agrobiology bachelor’s program in the future, but nothing official yet.

Each faculty (department) has it’s own culture of sorts.  The Faculty of Development and International Studies, which provides two of the three English-taught bachelor’s,  is known for being especially dynamic, and progressive. Professors are accessible to students outside of class and even known to socialize with groups of students from time to time, like their counterparts in Northern Europe. The other benefit to studying in this faculty is that the building has it’s own dorm (with guaranteed housing) and canteen, along with classrooms.  This building is less than a ten minute walk from the other parts of campus. Students take this walk through the university’s  botanical garden, that is only accessible to those connected with the school.  I saw these gardens in February, when nothing was in bloom outside of the greenhouses, but they were very peaceful and I imagine that they are breathtaking in the spring.

Equally impressive are the resources Mendel University offers international students The provide fairly standard offerings, but take them up a notch. For instance, like many schools they offer a buddy program for international students.  They make this more successful by matching students to the buddy intentionally as opposed to randomly.  Of course, they offer a separate orientation for international students as well. In addition to the centralized international relations office, each faculty has at least one international student advisor. Further, the international relations office staffs a 24/7 help line for international students. This is something I have not heard about from any of the other schools I visited in Europe, and really speaks to the level of care given to international students. Excursions and events are organized by by the international relations office, different faculties and the very active ESN chapter.  Mendel currently offers a total of ten English taught bachelor’s and master’s degree programs,  ranging from 1470-2940 euros per year.

Brno is one of those outside of the box locations that I would encourage you to consider if you are looking for a great student city, high quality educational options, and strong international student resources-all at an incredibly affordable price.

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Learning about Denmark in Slovakia

BratislavaThere is only one type of tour you will find me on, and that is a food tour. I wasn’t able to schedule a visit to learn about one of the very few English-taught programs in Slovakia, but we decided to take a day trip (less than one hour by train from Vienna). Since we just had one day, I scheduled a food tour to learn about the food and culture, while also seeing the city.  Ellie and I were the only people signed up for the tour that day.  Our guide, Simona, was in her mid twenties and received her bachelor’s degree in Slovakia and her master’s at an English-taught program in Denmark.  Needless to say, I learned so much from her (including the fact that Slovakian food is incredible!).

 

Simona explained to me that higher education in Slovakia is more formal and resistant to change (which explains the low number of English-taught programs).  She desired a mix between practice and theory which is why she decided to pursue her master’s degree in Denmark.  Interestingly, many Slovakians go to the Czech Republic for higher education.  Tuition at Czech public universities is free for anyone studying in Czech-taught programs-regardless of their nationality! Czech and Slovak are very similar languages. That, along with the fact that many Slovaks have grown up with exposure to both languages, provides the Czech proficiency needed to study for free.

 

Simona also shared her theory about why Denmark recently placed limits on the number of international students they admit.  She believes that this limit is at least partially due to the cost of educating students from other EU countries. Denmark has a number of ways it supports it’s citizens, including students.  One is the SU monthly stipend paid to Danish students while they are enrolled in higher education.  In 2006, the EU ruled that Denmark had to provide a similar benefit to all EU students who are studying in Denmark (though there are a few more conditions around it than for Danish students).  This is right around $900 per month and tuition is also free for EU students.

 

One thing to remember here is that the reason higher education is so affordable in Europe is that it is subsidized by the government. Even though non EU students pay much more in tuition than EU students, the government still subsidizes a large amount of it.  One reason some countries, including Denmark, provide English-taught programs is to benefit their own economy and labor market.  Denmark, in particular, has a significant labor shortage. The Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science conduced a study to explore the costs and contribution of international students. They found that the subsidies paid for international students (for EU and non-EU students) is “paid back” by their contribution to the economy after nine years in the country (which includes their years of study).  The problem is that only one of three international students stay in the country for long enough to positively contribute to the economy.  The ministry explored this to determine the types of programs that had the largest number of students returning home after graduating and are cutting the number of international student spots in those types of programs.  This does not apply to  all universities in Denmark or all programs. It is primarily affecting master’s degree programs as well as bachelor’s programs related to engineering.  The good news is that the Ministry is working with universities to improve educational outcomes pertaining to employability of international graduates in Denmark.

 

I have to tell you, this day spent with Simona, walking around Bratislava, eating incredible food, learning about Slovakian culture, was one of the best days of our trip. Simona has a full time job in Vienna, and helps her friend out with food tours when she can. I feel so lucky that she led our tour that day. In addition to introducing me to the surprisingly delicious sauerkraut soup, I greatly benefited from her insights into higher education!