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Playing Sports as a College Student in Europe

We sometimes get the question, “Will I miss out on sports by going to school in Europe?” The answer is, “No”, but the form may be different than what one expects. The sports scene in Europe is different than in the US, but it is still quite vibrant. 

Sports in Europe are structurally different than in the US as sports here are associated with “sporting clubs”. The club system is a network of sporting organizations, ranging from small local recreational clubs to multi-billion dollar franchises akin to the professional sports organizations of the US. 

The club system is complex and books have been written on the topic. In Portugal for instance, 120 teams play in four level leagues. Teams in the top level league, the Premier Liga, play one of the other 18 teams in the same league. Each year, teams move up or down based on their record over the entire season. Leagues are organized at the national level. There is also post season play where top teams from different countries play each other in tournaments. 

There are similarities that an American like me finds familiar such as passion, tradition, and rivalry. When we recently visited Porto, we were kept awake for many hours by the constant honking of car horns outside our apartment after the Porto team beat the traditional powerhouse team from Lisbon, Benfica. 

Students who enjoy watching sports (live or televised) will have no trouble finding like-minded friends to watch with!  The football culture can be contagious, even for students who don’t engage as fans.  After just a few months of studying in Europe, Jenn’s brother (who was never very into sports) was all of a sudden a fanatic about the UK Premier league and his chosen team, Tottenham.  

If a student would like to continue to actively participate in a sport, many schools offer intramurals, which means “within the walls” of the school. At Groningen, for instance, intramural sports are addressed through their association system, which also offer social and cultural interests for students. Groningen has 50 different sporting activities students can choose from. Additionally, the ACLO Studentensport center in Groningen offers just about every sport and fitness activity you can think of, as well as a wide variety of sports clubs.

If the level of competition isn’t enough in intramurals, the student could approach a local club about trying out for their team. Outside of the US, and especially in Europe in the sport of soccer, the development of elite athletes has almost always fallen to a network of local and national professional clubs. Serious young people don’t play for their high school or college team. They play for a club. 

Truly gifted athletes may even be able to move up within the system from the local club level to play professionally in one of the larger clubs. Beyond big time soccer, these clubs also support other sports, as well. For example, Sporting Club of Portugal, one of the large sports clubs here, has a soccer team, of course, but also teams for volleyball, handball, indoor soccer, and rink hockey. FC Porto has those teams plus teams for cycling, swimming, billiards, and more.

In the end, if a student wants to participate in sports, he or she will be able to, it just may be in a different form than if they went to college in the US. Two things are for sure, sports aren’t viewed as a relevant factor for admissions and standing out in sports won’t mean a sports scholarship. Fortunately, college in Europe is so much more affordable that sports can be enjoyed on whatever level one desires to. 

 

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Great Options for Studying Abroad

This will be our first Thanksgiving with Jenn in several years. Perhaps it was one too many years of dry turkey and runny mashed potatoes at my family’s place in downstate Illinois that soured her on the holiday… I think the real reason she’s spent the last 5 Thanksgivings visiting schools is because it’s such a great week to travel internationally. The international terminals of the airports are empty, since most US travelers are travelling domestically. International air fares are generally reasonable at this time, as well. It’s a better time than summer, since you can get a feel for school and city with students around. You may also be able to audit a class. since they’re in session.

It’s looking likely that the ’21 – ‘22 school year will have some resemblance to normalcy, so that may be when Jenn and Ellie do most of Ellie’s school visits too. It will be after Ellie has applied but will help her firm up her top choices. One aspect Ellie has been evaluating are the options for studying abroad offered by the different schools.

We’ve met so many students who went to a US university intent on studying abroad but were unable to due to high costs and/or logistical challenges.  Since the European Commission has goals around internationalization, there are options and programs, such as Erasmus+, offered through the EU and the universities to make studying abroad more feasible and affordable for students attending college in Europe.

The first option we’ll explore is when time abroad is part of the program. In this example, courses are held at different campuses with the students moving to them on a schedule in groups.

ESCP Europe’s Bachelor of Management is a 3 year program spent in 3 different countries. All students start in London for the first year. The second year students choose between Paris, Madrid, or Turin (though Turin is the only campus that offers the program entirely in English). Students meet back in Berlin to finish the program for their third year.

For master’s programs, the Erasmus Mundus programs are a great place to start looking at “built in” study abroad. Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD), is an integrated, international study program, where students study at more than one university location. The Beyond the States database lists 153 programs across many different areas featuring multiple campuses (to find them search under the Erasmus Mundus General Area of Study field). Some Erasmus Mundus programs include internships as well.

For example, this Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology has a first year in Montpellier, France, then students study at a partner school in places like Lisbon, Milan, Madrid, or Turin, Italy, based on the student’s interest in winemaking or in the wine business.

Another approach for studying abroad is to become an exchange student. As an exchange student, you can study abroad for one semester (sometimes more) at one of your faculty’s partner universities. The first step to check your faculty or International Office to see what’s available.

The advantages of the exchange student route are that many practical matters have already been dealt with (e.g. exemption from local tuition fees, recognition of credits, and sometimes even accommodation). The disadvantage of an exchange is that your choices are limited to the current partner universities.

For example, if you were a bachelor’s student at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the area of School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, you‘d have 71 different options to choose from ranging from James Cook University on the north coast of Australia to Western Washington University in Washington state in the US. Master’s students in the same faculty, the Department of Public Policy, have 8 options ranging from KU Leuven in Belgium to University of Geneva in Switzerland.

. Erasmus+ provides bachelor’s and master’s degree students the opportunity to study abroad in Europe for three to 12 months. You can take part in study abroad at any time during your degree after your first year although it will depend on the structure of your degree and the arrangements your university has with its partners.

This all sounds expensive for US students. Is it? No, that’s the best part! In general, the student continues to pay tuition at their home school only and doesn’t pay additional tuition to the second school.  Further, when participating in an Erasmus + program, there are opportunities to apply for stipends and grants.

Internships are another great way to get international exposure, not to mention professional experience! Like studying abroad, these can often be done through your university or Erasmus +. Erasmus+ has a page of internships here. Many universities have mandatory internships with an opportunity to complete them abroad. Additionally, universities often have partnerships with multinational companies such as at Copenhagen Business School.

We often have students come to us and saying they must study in France, Italy, or even these days, Prague. The tremendous study abroad opportunities are one reason we encourage students not to have tunnel vision on one European destination for their main program. They will have the opportunity to design their own plan to spend time in their dream destination, even if not for their full degree because of these extensive studies abroad options.

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Studying in Europe: Still a Great Idea

When we post this blog, we don’t expect to know the winner of the US presidential election. It’s a time of uncertainty around so many issues in the world. Regardless of who is in the Oval Office in January, though, studying in Europe is still an idea worth exploring.

We truly hope to see changes around the cost of American higher education. However, even if we have a president who is proposing real reforms, the process does not move quickly.  Changes will take some time to be approved and then implemented, if it even gets that far. Until then college will remain incredibly expensive. Students and families will still be drowning in debt. And, of course, the rigged and convoluted rat race of the admissions process still must be solved.

The proposed changes as we have read about are adding free tuition at four year state universities for families with incomes under $125,000. This would potentially be an incredible opportunity for so many families and students!

There is another group of students, though, who do have enough saved for in-state tuition but seek a wider number of choices.  These students currently have access to an affordable higher education within their state, but they want more choices than they are allowed under the current system of in-state tuition. Perhaps they want a fresh start in a new place, don’t want to be in a dorm with their high school classmates, or want to experience living further from home.

These students may not be able to afford out of state tuition at $24k per year on average or private school tuition at $32k, but the options in Europe with an average tuition of just $7,390 with many just 3 years in duration provide them with an international experience for in-state prices!

We’ve had many new members join recently who are interested in leaving due to the divisive political climate in the US. No matter who wins the election, I’m afraid that the fractured atmosphere will prevail for quite some time. That said, the families and students we work with aren’t turning their back on the US, rather they are moving towards something far more aligned with their own values. We’ve worked with students who want to study sustainability in places that are already leaps and bounds ahead of the US. We have others who are interested in studying things like Political Science, International Relations, or Peace &Conflict Studies in a more international atmosphere. These students will hopefully become change makers in our future.

The benefits of studying in Europe are substantial, regardless of the political climate in the US.  Since we started Beyond the States in 2015, we’ve talked about the more affordable tuition, the shorter time to get a degree, and the transparent admissions processes, as those are the most obvious benefits.  Another benefit to note is the growth that occurs due to international experiences.

In the US, many of us live in areas where we are surrounded by people who are very much like us in background, values, and/or beliefs.  Particularly on social media, we see a lot of our own opinions reflected by others and we often “unfriend” or at least “mute” those who offer conflicting views.

When American students go to universities in Europe, they are exposed to people of all different backgrounds and viewpoints. The English taught programs exist to draw students from all around the world, so the diversity within the classroom is tremendous. Exposure to a more diverse world view allows students to come back to the US with fresh perspective and allows them to advocate for change where it is needed. Their experience as global citizens will help inform a new dialog going forward.

Exposure isn’t just about being in a different place, it’s also about trying and accepting new things. Living abroad forces a student to navigate unfamiliar circumstances and to adapt to new environment outside of his or her comfort zone. This is something we are experiencing firsthand ourselves with our recent move to Portugal.  It’s not always easy, but the growth that occurs as a result is well worth it!

Higher education in Europe is not for everyone, but we don’t believe the current US college system is for everyone, either. We truly believe that studying in Europe remains an option worth exploring for many, regardless of which political party is in charge.

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Internationalization: Who Benefits?

One of the ongoing tasks at Beyond the States is responding to comments on our various social channels and ads. It’s always interesting to interact with people who have been moved enough by our messages to share a comment. We received this message on an ad that shows a map of Europe the other day: “Yeah, funded by European taxpayers…” This comment represents a misconception that I’d like to explore. Are international students somehow taking advantage of European taxpayers by going to college in Europe?

Here are three primary reasons that international students are good for Europe and not taking advantage of the system:

1) International students pay a premium tuition compared to EU students in the same schools and classes, so the schools like them. For example, a non-EU student in the chemistry program at University of Groningen in the Netherlands pays 14,000 euros, while an EU student pays just 2,143 . EU students pay no tuition to attend Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, while a non-EU master’s degree student would pay 15,200 euros per year. I would say, rather than being subsidized by European taxpayers, international students are paying their fair share.

2) Unemployment is really low in parts of Europe, so the EU government wants more labor. As workers, we think that low unemployment is always a good thing, but from a macro economic perspective, which is how the leaders look at things, it’s only good to a point. In the Czech Republic, Germany, and Denmark,  unemployment is really low. This means there are too few workers chasing the open chasing jobs, which will drive up wages. When wages go up, a nation’s goods become more expensive to buy and fewer goods are sold, which is bad for the economy.  The European government expects that some of the international students who study in Europe will stay there post graduation to join the European labor pool. This is a win-win for the student and the economy.

3) International students also contribute to local economies when they purchase goods like groceries, housing, entertainment, books, and other things. In fact, the European Commission has made attracting international students an ongoing, key priority. They see that bringing students from outside Europe not only benefits the economy in the host country, but also contributes to the growth and competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole.

In the end, it’s about priorities. The EU sees internationalization as aligned with their long term policy agendas for growth, jobs, equality,  and social inclusion. I have to say, we do too!

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Architecture Masters: What Are the Options in Europe?

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, 99% Invisible, and when I realized we’ve never Architecture Mastersreally focused on one of my favorite subjects, architecture. If you’re interested in learning about the options for architecture masters in Europe you’re in the right place.

The podcast episode talked about kidney shaped swimming pools, the birth of skateboarding, and concluded with an interesting connection with education in Europe that I won’t spoil.

Architecture MastersI’ll also plug another favorite episode from  99% Invisible on La Sagrada Família in Barcelona.  The story of this building combines intrigue, adventure, the Spanish Civil War, and design ingenuity into a story that’s ongoing because the project to build Spain’s great cathedral is ongoing. Visiting this building was unlike any other experience I’ve had, because unlike every other building I’d been in, Gaudi’s cathedral actually mixed architectural styles and incorporated organic elements.

What is Architecture?

Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Architecture are closely connected to other disciplines like Arts and Design. Architecture is very important in human history and anthropology, considering we each inhabit the big structures built by our ancestors. Architecture degrees share ties to academic subjects like Construction Engineering, Graphic Design, User Experience Design, and Arts.

Architects need to have an eye for beauty, utility, and durability. During architecture school, you will learn about architectural styles, the science of designing, design structures, landscape architecture and 3D designs. You will also discover computer software such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), which helps you to plan, analyse and optimize design work.

Your degree in Architecture will teach you all about design rules, where you should follow them, and where you’ll have some room for exploration and creativity. Knowing how to work with texture, color, contrast, lighting and many other aspects will allow you to become an expert in designing buildings. Of course, you will also have to make sure your vision can also be built according to safety standards and available resources.

Some of the courses Architecture students will gain access to include: Analysis of Contemporary Architecture, City Design and Development, Urban Design Policy, Residential Design, and Green Construction.

After graduating with a degree in Architecture, you will have the opportunity to work as a: licensed architect, CAD technician, interior and spatial designer, and urban designer. Other jobs you can find are: building surveyor, construction manager, landscape architect, or structural engineer.

Are There Many Architecture Masters Programs in Europe?

In Europe, there are 71 English taught, Architecture Masters degree programs with an average tuition of 7,865 Euros per year (how much in $?). Seven programs offer free tuition for international students and a total of 32 offer tuition of less than 5,000 EUR. Of the 71 programs, only 4 are 1 year in duration and 5 are 1.5 years long, all the rest are two years in duration.

What About Entrance Requirements?

One program requires post college work experience, several require a minimum GPA in undergrad and a few more require an entrance exam.

Program Example

Masters in Architecturearchitecture masters

Duration: 2 years

Annual Cost: 15,000 EUR

Aalto University, Finland

Architecture is a field of technology and of art. Architecture teaching combines knowledge-based professional material and artistic understanding and expression skills. An architect must be able to see problems from many different directions, which is the reason for the broad-based nature of the degree in architecture. The current nature of the education develops the student’s scientific and artistic thinking relating to the construction of a socially responsible and sustainable future.The key content in master’s program education is to develop and deepen the skills obtained during the bachelor’s phase. The topics include the history and theory of architecture, building design and Finnish building art as well as urban planning and design. Course and design studio teaching is enhanced by means of multidisciplinary collaboration and new teaching methods. Learning by doing, the simulation of so-called ‘real’ design assignments is still an important part of the education of an architect.

Aalto University is a newly organized university named after the great Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto. Aalto University was born in 2010 as a result of the merger of Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Campus is located in the heart of Otaniemi, built in the 1950s, featuring an urban plan designed by Alvar Aalto and individual buildings designed by him and other well-known Finnish architects, such as Reima and Raili Pietilä and Heikki and Kaija Sirén.

Want to Learn More About Getting An Architecture Masters in Europe?

Click here to receive a free guide about ten great graduate school options in Europe.

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Pre Master Overview

We often hear from students who earned their bachelor’s in one area of study but are now interested in a master’s degree in a different field. We also hear from people who are interested in changing careers. Another group we hear from want to pursue a master’s degree in Europe but don’t meet all the requirements of the program. Is it a lost cause for these groups of students? No, it’s not. There are options, such as a Pre Master, which is a series of courses designed to fill in the missing pieces on the transcript.

It’s impossible to generalize admissions options across the thousands of programs and all of Europe, so let’s narrow the discussion to admissions in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a popular option because they have the most English-taught master’s programs in continental Europe (1,148 of the 6,200). 9 of the 13 research universities are globally ranked in the top 200 and English proficiency is the highest in Europe, which makes it an easy choice.

The higher education system in the Netherlands is quite different than the US. There are research universities, like Leiden University or Delft University of Technology, and there are also Universities of Applied Science like NHL Stenden that focus more on preparing students for professional work over research. Both provide full bachelor’s degree programs, but the universities of applied sciences don’t require the research focused classes.

When evaluating your academic background for a master’s program at a research university, your bachelor’s degree will first be assessed by the admissions department to determine whether it is equivalent to the Dutch research-oriented bachelor’s (WO) or professionally-oriented bachelor’s (HBO).

Let’s look at an example: We have a student with a BA degree in Speech Communications from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has would like to pursue a Master’s in Management or an MBA at Erasmus University Rotterdam or potentially at University of Twente.

In order to qualify for the master’s programs at Rotterdam, he would need the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a related major. While his degree from Illinois may meet the requirement as a WO degree under Nuffic, the BA in Speech Communications, which is in the faculty of liberal arts at Illinois, wouldn’t meet the requirement for entry into the program, since it’s not a business degree. To understand the equivalent Dutch level of your diploma, you can check the list of common diplomas from your country on the Nuffic website. Nuffic is the central Dutch organization for the evaluation of foreign diplomas awarded in higher education.
  • The “related major” aspect can sometimes be very broad. Some schools are good about listing them out in the admissions requirements.
  • Relevant Course Work: According to EUR’s website, the student must have 60 EC (equivalent to one year of US college credits) of relevant course work in business, which he doesn’t fully meet.
  • English Proficiency: Native speaker satisfies this requirement

For students with an international diploma, EUR recommends the student apply for entry, so the admissions team can evaluate the student’s qualifications.

One option they may come back with is a one year Pre Master course to gain the necessary courses, but even so, with little or no business administration in his bachelor degree, he may only have access to the following MSc program: Master in Management, which is aimed at non-business bachelor degree holders to acquire knowledge and skills in business management. Since this was already on the list for the student, this may be a good option.

Let’s look at another example: the MBA program at University of Twente in Enschede, which is in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Again, the student meets some of the requirements, but will be light on business courses.

At the University of Twente, you don’t apply for a pre-master directly. Rather, you apply to the master’s program directly. The Admission Office will then evaluate whether you are eligible for the master’s program, or if you still need to enroll in a pre-master program. The Admission Office would then create a customized, pre-master program for the student. In this case, since our example student is a native English speaker, there would be no need to take classes in English, but he would need missing courses in business administration.

What Courses Are in a Pre Master?

There isn’t a set standard of courses for the Pre Master across the Netherlands. It varies. At Groningen University, the business pre master follows a set series of courses.  At Twente, a Pre Master isn’t a set program with the same courses. International students are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. At Utrecht University, the pre master is not available to international students who haven’t been in the Dutch educational system previously at all. For students entering a master’s program with a bachelor’s degree from a Dutch university of applied science, there may be a set program, since this case is uniform and known. For an international student, it will depend on what classes are missing and what has been taken.

What Does a Pre Master Cost?

Each university sets its own Pre Master tuition. From a budgeting standpoint, a reasonable person could expect to pay equivalent tuition to the associated master’s program as an international student. Depending on the program, an international student will be between 12,000 to 16,000 EUR for a Pre Master program at Twente. The previous link has data on a number of different Pre Master tuitions.

Here’s Are Some Tips

  • Make Sure You Can Opt Out of English

One area of Pre Masters courses that likely won’t apply to you are the language requirements. In order to be admitted to an English-taught program, international students must prove English proficiency at a certain level. Since you are most likely a native English speaker, you should be sure you can opt out of any English language requirements, so you aren’t stuck in English proficiency classes. Ideally, the program has a track for students who are already proficient in English.

  • Find out the details

If you’re looking at a private foundation year program, confirm their placement agreements with universities. Some of these organizations guarantee placement for grad school. Be sure to get written communication as to which schools you’d be guaranteed to be accepted at, then look at the schools to be sure they’d be a good fit for you.

Final Analysis

It’s important to note that many Pre Master programs focus on providing students with only the research related classes that they didn’t have to take as an undergrad, and the master’s program will still require a major in a related area of study. While pursuing a Pre Master won’t open the door for every program, it does create a path to many more good options for students seeking to change the direction of their studies or career.

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Choices in Sustainability, Water, and Climate Change

Recently, disturbing images have been seared into the collective consciousness from the wildfires raging across the western United States. At the same time, there are wildfires burning in the Brazil, too. In January 2020, wildfires devastated large parts of the Australian countryside.

In the United States, there is some debate over issues of climate change and sustainability that I won’t go into here. These topics are viewed differently in many parts of continental Europe. They’re seen as opportunities for growth and learning. This goes beyond learning for the sake of learning, though, and is about affecting change at scale.

In continental Europe, there are quite few programs dedicated to sustainability. Using our Area of Study system, there are 17 English-taught, master’s degree programs in the specific area of study of climate studies. This are 37 programs with a sustainability bent, ranging from zero tuition to over 20,000 EUR. A search found 586 programs with the word, “sustainable” in the description that include sustainability as a topic in their curriculum. You will find this in areas like business, design, agriculture, and other examples. What follows are a few examples of interesting options in this area. If you find this interesting and want to dig deeper, please join our community and see for yourself whether getting a master’s degree in Europe is the right choice for you.

Climate Studies

University of Hamburg has Integrated Climate System Sciences master’s program which is focused on the scientific aspects of climate issues. The program has an internationally unique focus on physics and modelling and offers three areas of specialization. The program is 2 years in duration and the tuition is 0€. The same school has an international business program with a sustainability focus.

Stockholm University has an interesting master’s program entitled, The Polar Landscape and Quaternary Climate, which essentially covers climate over the last million years. It is also a 2 year program and the tuition is € 13,165 per year.

What About Water?

Quick question: which nation leads all others when it comes to dealing with rising tides? The answer is the Netherlands.  While there are a number of water-focused programs in the Netherlands and throughout Europe, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft is strictly focused on master’s and Ph D. education in the area of water. They also partner with a number of schools throughout Europe.

Water and Coastal Management Is a joint program between University of Groningen and University of Oldenburg. The double degree Master program merges the strongest expertise of the two universities. Because of the connection to Germany’s University of Oldenburg, you’ll save big on tuition at just 818 EUR per year, however, you’ll still have to pay Groningen’s 15000 EUR tuition.

Sustainability & Environment

Green Economy and Sustainability is a program at University of Ferrara in Italy that’s worth looking at. At just 1440 EUR per year, it’s a quite reasonable 2 year program. This master’s is focused on turning out consultants and managers who can work in the green economy.

Aalto University in Finland has a program that combines business, design, and sustainability. Quoting from the school’s description: “The Creative Sustainability programme (CS) provides a multidisciplinary learning platform in the fields of business, architecture, built environment and design. It allows students to study and develop solutions to global sustainability concerns such as climate change, resource scarcity, global poverty as well as social and economic inequality.” The program is 2 years in duration and 15,000 EUR per year.

This post does not even scratch the surface of the more than 6,200 English-taught, master’s programs in continental Europe.  Whether your passion is around the environment or something completely different, you may wonder what the educational possibilities are for you. We’d love for you to join our community and meet people like you who are already taking advantage of this opportunity. Click here to learn more.

 

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Podcast: What’s My Major?

college in europeShow Notes

Title: The What’s My Major List

Description

One difference between college in the US and Europe is that in Europe incoming students must apply to a specific program, so they must know what they want to study. For students who don’t know what they want to study, this aspect can lead to worry. In this podcast, Jenn announces the availability of our “What’s My Major?” offering that helps students determine their field of study.

Notes

Recommended Podcast: The Europeans

Best Fit List Offering

Database Tour Webinar

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Podcast: Why Not to Go to College in Europe

Beyond the States Podcast Show Notes

college in europe

Title

Why Not to Go to College in Europe

Episode Summary

After reading a blog post from a college counselor that declared that the US post secondary education system was globally superior, Jenn felt compelled to respond. Here are her answers to the naysayers.

Resources

Beyond the States Blog Link

What’s Your Threshold blog

Malcolm Gladwell Podcast

Employers Hire Interns

Harvard Business Review Study

Employability Blog

Best Fit List

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Podcast: Study Abroad and Erasmus

Beyond the States Podcast Show Notes

college in europe

Title Study Abroad & Erasmus Student Network 

Episode Summary

In this episode, Jenn talks about the prospect of studying abroad when you’re already an international student. She interviews João Pinto from the Erasmus Student Network. Interesting fact: students who study abroad are three times more likely to vote when they return home.

Guest

João Pinto, President of the International Board of Erasmus Student Network

 

Resources

Study Abroad blogs from Beyond the States

Erasmus Student Network

Erasmus Impact Study

Fun Quiz: What is Your Perfect Erasmus Destination?