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:
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.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, 99% Invisible, and when I realized we’ve never really 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.
I’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.
Masters in Architecture
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?
One of the biggest differences in applying to universities in Europe is that you are applying to a specific program, as opposed to applying to just the overall university. This is basically like declaring your major ahead of time and since there generally aren’t any university-wide core requirements, switching majors/programs often means starting over. Don’t stop reading this based on that fact! This doesn’t mean that you are stuck studying only one thing. This doesn’t mean that you must know exactly what you want to study. And this doesn’t mean you have to know what you want your career path to be!
Now, if a student does know exactly what they want to study, there are plenty of programs that focus on that area from day one. Many students appreciate that they can focus on their area of interest from day one, without having unrelated required courses. What appeals to even more students, though, are the multidisciplinary program options. The Dutch have been far ahead of other European countries about this type of English-taught educational offerings. Their universities have not only the largest number of English-taught programs, but also include liberal arts programs and many multidisciplinary options. I’m starting to see this in more and more other countries and today will focus on these types of program options in other European countries.
Vrije University, in Brussels, offers a Social Sciences program. It takes three years to complete and tuition is 3850 euros per year. The first two years provide the broad and diverse knowledge that so many students want. The first year of the program includes classes in sociology, political sciences, and communication studies. The second year seeks to interweave the three disciplines also teaches students to use critical thought in these areas. The thirds year allows for customization as students choose to specialize-like choosing a major in one of these three areas.
The Global Humanities program at the University of Sapienza, in Rome, allows for customization from the very first year! Students take 1-2 required courses each year, and the rest are courses they choose from different categories. The categories themselves are broad and include history, the arts, sociology, anthropology, economics, law, psychology, theology, and international studies. Course option goes beyond basic intro courses with options like Environmental Law, Gender Economics, Law and Literature, Sociology of Media and Culture, Indo-Tibetan Studies, Global Health, Japanese Narratives, and Human Rights, Classical Archaeology, Latin Literature Medieval Art, and Contemporary History. And there is just a small selection of the offerings! The program takes three years to complete. Tuition at public universities in Italy is like a sliding scale, based on family income, and 2821 euros per year is the maximum annual tuition charge for this program.
Global Studies and International Studies type programs are a popular multidisciplinary program type for students with diverse interests around social sciences and cultures. The the University of Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, offers a three year Global Studies program that costs 6800 euros per year. The premise is that in order to develop a comprehensive view or world issues, students must look at the problems through the lens of different fields. Students take required courses in data analysis, global history, global communication, research methods, finance, economics, international relations, law, sustainability, cultural studies, business, and politics. They are required to learn another language and take electives focused on global issues as well as those that pertain to a region of their choosing.
Students who love math and science can consider the Science program at the the University of Helsinki. All students take courses in math, computer/data science, physics, and chemistry during the first year, and then they choose one of the four areas to focus on. Students can choose to combine more than one track and/or can take electives from the different tracks as well. The program takes three years to complete and costs 13000 per year.
Though it’s structured differently than in the US, students in Europe are still able to explore varied academic interests. Even those students who choose a more specific area of study can pursue interests outside of their program through the semester that is set aside for electives during study abroad. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the system in the US, just different, and the same goals can be achieved.
The options on this list represent just a few of the great options. My visits to schools and research did for other best-fit lists and such have helped me identify many more-including several programs that aren’t obviously multidisciplinary from the title name. I would love to help you find great options that fit your interests too! Act now and receive one-month free membership with your purchase of a best-fit list. There is no long term commitment for membership, simply cancel within the membership portal 7 days before your next billing date and you will not be charged again!
I just finished reading Jeffrey Selingo’s new book “Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions”. I’m sure I’ll be doing a post in the future about what I’ve learned as it’s a fascinating read! Some of the most disturbing chapters are those that describe what he heard when he sat in on admissions sessions at different universities, when the admissions counselors decide whether a student would be admitted or denied. There was the student who applied to Emory with strong grades and a rigorous curriculum but the admissions counselors felt he was “lackluster”. They were also concerned that the candidate stated an interest in neuroscience, but they didn’t see any examples of this in his file. They voted to deny, but he was moved back to the admit pile later in the season because he is a legacy and child of an employee. This account disturbs me on so many levels! Not only are the reasons they voted to deny him crazy to me, but the reason he was admitted bothers me just as much…
The book also talks about the importance of “demonstrated interest” in US admissions and how some schools assign as much or more weight to this as they do recommendations, essays, class rank, and activities. Of course, this is an easy criteria to game, as demonstrated by the mom who opened all the emails Tulane sent her son when he was away for the summer. Guess what? He got accepted (but chose to go elsewhere).
Can I just tell you how glad I am that my kids haven’t had to participate in such a flawed process? As I’ve said before, the transparent admissions process in Europe has affected our families’ lives as much as the savings. I want my kids to work hard but to do so in ways that are meaningful to their lives, learnings, and goals-not the way dictated by a rigged system.
As I discussed a few weeks ago, my 16 year old daughter Ellie will be applying to schools in Europe. The straightforward process has given Ellie the freedom to choose the majority of her courses around her interest areas, without worrying about what colleges will think of her selections. She knows the specific courses that are required by different programs, and she is taking those, but our focus has been around exposing her to academic courses in her interest areas. Having an idea of how her interest areas translate into academic subjects will help her have a better idea of what she wants to study.
Our admissions strategy has been to keep as many options open as possible. In Europe, the admissions requirements are defined. The goal of is to meet their requirements, not to be better than all the other applicants in a number of different categories. Though there are exceptions (we’re talking about an entire continent after all) applicants’ achievements are usually compared to the set admissions requirements. If anything else is assessed, it is generally about the fit of student to the program and program to the student.
Non-selective admissions is difficult thing to wrap our brains around when we are used to the American process. It’s especially when we have bought into the belief that selectivity is correlated with quality. I’ve discussed this more in depth in different posts over the year, as well as this podcast interview with an administrator from the University of Groningen (which happens to be a top 100 globally ranked university that also uses this type of admissions). I really encourage you to listen as it will help you challenge any of your perspectives that don’t apply when applying to universities in Europe.
Ok, back to the strategy. We knew that, in order to keep the majority of her options open, Ellie would need an IB diploma or four AP scores of 3+ . Many of the schools with these requirements only require three scores, but we were shooting to keep them all open. I really want to stress that the majority of the programs in Europe DON’T have these “extra” requirements. In fact, only about 350 of 1900+ options do. That said, since we knew this was the route Ellie would take from the beginning, it was easy enough to plan accordingly. We did this knowing that she might not need the scores or IB diploma where she ends up applying and attending.
Ellie started at a new school this year, when we moved to Portugal, and it is one that offers the IB diploma program. Though I think very highly of this curriculum, we decided to stick with the AP route. Ellie took two AP courses and tests her sophomore year so she’s already halfway through the requirements. Her school doesn’t offer APs, so she is taking her final two online this year. Her school has given her independent study blocks during those times so she’s able to still do the work during school hours. The great thing is that she is still taking IB classes. As a non-IB student, the requirements and assessment will be a bit different but she is still getting the content. I feel like it’s the best of both worlds! Further, since she will have all four of her scores before senior year, any acceptances will not be conditional on a score she gets after graduating.
I want to note that students can still apply if they are taking their APs during their senior year, in fact our son Sam went this route. That said, if they don’t get the required AP score, they won’t be able to attend. I advise students to also accept an offer from a school that doesn’t require the APs when they will be waiting on a score after graduating so they aren’t stuck with no plan if something happens with the AP score they are hoping for.
I mentioned that Ellie has her eye on a few Dutch university colleges. These programs are selective, which means that not only does she have to meet extra criteria (usually a math requirement, sometimes an extra AP score), but admissions is not a sure thing even if she meets the criteria. One of the university college programs she is interested in accepts an AP Stats score for the math requirement. Another one requires AP Calc which is just not going to happen…However, this program does allow a SAT or ACT score to sub for the math requirement. Ellie will take the PSAT this fall through school, after which we will determine which of the two tests she will take in the spring. Again, since we know the score she needs to sub for the math requirement, it won’t be a matter of arbitrarily deciding whether or not she needs to take it multiple time.
After Ellie decides on whether or not she wants to study business, sustainability, or something else, she will then determine where she wants to apply. We will hopefully be able to visit some schools in the spring. If not, she will participate in the online recruitment events this year and we will visit in early fall. When she makes her list, it will include a “sure thing” program, which is like a safety school. Here’s the thing-a sure thing program can also be the first choice! If she were applying to almost any other program at University of Groningen or Erasmus University Rotterdam (these are where the university colleges she is interested area), it would be a sure thing since those are non-selective programs. Again-repeat after me-selectivity does not correlate with quality, reputation, or prestige!
Ellie has identified a few programs for business that would be sure things (which may also end up being her first choice), but she hasn’t found one yet for her other interests. Her main list right now is University College Fyslan (for sustainability and multidisciplinary programs), Erasmus University College (where she would decide her major the second year from a large number of topics that interest her), NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences (for Creative Business) and Toulouse Business School (also for business). We’re waiting until spring when she has a better idea of her direction to work on other non-business programs, since it might be moot.
*** Some of the schools mentioned were profiled in College Beyond the States: European Schools That Will Change Your Life Without Breaking the Bank. The book can be purchased on Amazon, or you can buy the ebook here for a discounted price. If you do purchase through amazon, be sure to check the blog about a few changes that have occurred since the book was published. This comes in an email when purchasing the ebook through out site.*******
Ellie isn’t doing any extracurriculars during the school year that are structured in a way that would impress US admissions officers. Most of the extracurriculars at her school aren’t running right now, due to covid, but I’m not sure if she would join even if they were. She’s talked about eventually doing something with the yearbook, if possible, but it will be up to her. She’s the type of kid who pursues her interests in less structured ways which doesn’t affect the admissions process at all! I really do hope you listen to the podcast I mentioned. We talk about things that do and don’t matter in the European admissions process. Extracurriculars just don’t matter.
Ellie is spending her junior year exploring her academic interests, taking AP and IB courses, adjusting to life in a new country (with covid factors as well…), learning a new language, taking care of her dog, making new friends, maintaining friendships from the US, watching “old” teen shows from the 2000’s with me, and relaxing when needed. I think all of these things have value, but a US admissions officer would not. The fact that we can live our lives according to our values AND Ellie can still access a top notch education that will prepare her for the future, expose her to more of the world, and provide life changing experiences is really a game-changer in my book!
Interested in learning more? Even if you are a senior (or already graduated), it’s not too late to explore your possibilities! If you are serious about pursuing these options for 2021, I suggest the Best Fit List, in which I personally hand pick 3-5 programs that meet the student’s interests, goals, qualifications, and budget. Act now and receive one month free membership with your purchase of a best fit list. There is no long term commitment to membership, simply cancel within the membership portal 7 days before your next billing date and you will not be charged again!
I’ve been getting a lot of emails from college students in the US these days. Whether it’s due to the political climate in the US, frustration with how their universities (or fellow students) handled the pandemic, or seeing ROI issues around US higher education first hand, these students are seeking alternatives. Some have a year or more of college credits and others are working on their associate’s degree. The question I’m getting from these students is “How do I transfer to a university in Europe?” I wish I had a concise answer, but it takes a bit of explaining and the complications are often due to the differences between the systems.
One of the main differences around bachelor’s degree programs in Europe is that you choose your field of study from the get go and apply to a specific program (like your major) at a university. There aren’t a set of gen-ed requirements for all of the bachelor’s students at a university. Your course requirements are specific to the program you are in. Because International Relations is a popular program choice, let’s look at the course requirements for the International Relations and International Organizations program at the University of Groningen.
The first year of study, students take History of International Relations, International Politics, International and European Law, Academic Skills, Statistics for International Relations, International Organizations, Economics, International Organization, and Political Science. You also start taking a language, with choices for Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, French, or German. You have a variety of course topics, but they are cohesive and in some way related to the program objectives.
You don’t see life or natural science classes on the list of first year courses. Nor do you see philosophy or english comp. These are the types of courses, though, that most students at US universities take during the first year. Since there aren’t these types of gen-ed requirements, the courses would not transfer. Maybe you did have an intro course to International Relations. The university will have to determine, after you get in, if it’s a 100 level course at a US university is comparable in content to their course (and it very well may not be, depending on the country).
You might be wondering whether your gen-ed courses could transfer as electives. The issue is that the courses are structured for each year of the program. Groningen, like many other universities, sets the first semester of the third year aside for a semester abroad, which is when students take electives. Since some programs require or encourage students to study abroad, particularly when the content is international in nature, you would still need to (and probably would want to) take part in that semester. Further, even if the credits are applied to that semester, you won’t graduate early since you have course requirements to complete in the second half of that final year.
Don’t let this discourage you! Let’s look at why this isn’t all horrible news!
First of all, your credits can be used to open up even more opportunities for you in Europe! There are about 350 of the 1900+ programs that require US applicants to have more than just a high school diploma to apply. These requirements can be met with an IB diploma, a certain number of AP scores (usually 3-4 scores of 3+), a year of college credit (not from a community college) or an associate’s degree. If you didn’t got the AP or IB route in high school, you are now apply to these 350 programs! Further, if you have two years of college credit or an Associate’s degree, you can apply to schools in Germany (which has free tuition for international students at most public universities).
Further, as mentioned earlier, most bachelor’s degree programs in Europe take only 3 years to complete. If you spent a year studying in the US, you will still be graduating in 4 years if you finish your degree in Europe. Further, you are likely to spend less than your would on tuition in the US, since the average tuition of bachelor’s degrees in our database is about $7300 per year, with hundreds of options under $4000 per year.
It’s still a good deal if you have two years of credits. Let’s look at the math around this. The average in-state tuition for flagship universities in the US is $11,849 per year. Using this number, after two years of credits in the US, you have $24968 left in your tuition budget. Even if you have to participate in the entire duration of the study program, there are 965 options in our database that fall within that tuition budget!
That said, your credits generally will transfer to the American universities in Europe. There are some really strong and affordable options in this category. McDaniel College in Budapest and Anglo American University in Prague are great options. There are other American schools in Europe that come with an American size price tag. Further, these schools often cater more to semester abroad students than full degree students. The academic and social needs of these groups are very different, so an emphasis on the semester abroad students can effect the experience of full degree students. This isn’t the case for all of the American schools, but something to assess if you choose to go that route.
I encourage students not to limit their choices to just those that will take their credits. You may miss out on some amazing opportunities that are within your budget if you limit yourself to just those that accept the credits. Come up with your overall tuition budget for the rest of your degree, like in the example above and work backwards from there. Yes, it may take you an additional year to finish, but that is one more year you get to spend living in Europe!
It’s hard to believe summer is ending, mostly because I don’t really remember it starting…From March until now seems like it’s been one long season called Covid.
It’s been a pretty good summer, all things considered. As I mentioned before, Sam hiked the Camino de Santiago with friends, spent some time with us here in Portugal, and then returned to the Netherlands to move from the Hague to Rotterdam. I was concerned that he would check out academically after deciding to change schools in the spring, but he ended the second semester with really strong grades in all his classes. I feel like he’s going into his year at Rotterdam with the confidence he needs for a great year. More on his program and experiences in coming weeks.
As I’ve mentioned before, Ellie spent the 2019-20 school year doing online school for 10th grade (intentionally…). We knew we would be moving midyear and this gave her the opportunity to do a lot of travel before settling down. She’ll be starting at in international school here in Portugal next week for her final two years of high school. She’s already getting a taste of the incredibly diverse set of friends and welcoming international community that many of our members have when they start at European universities. Several kids from Ellie’s new school reached out to her this summer. She’s made friends from Brazil, Denmark, India, Mexico, France, as well as an American who was raised in Singapore. Like our members studying in Europe, Ellie has connected with these kids based on their common interests as well as the shared experience of living outside their home country. She’s especially happy that she won’t have to worry about whether she will have anyone to sit with at lunch on her first day of school!
Because many of you are in a similar stay of the college hunt as we are with Ellie, I want to keep you updated on how we are approaching the process. One of our long term members has a daughter who is finishing up her thesis this semester at AAU in Prague and also has a son who is starting at Leiden this month. She talked about how very different the search process was for each of her kids and that’s something I’m experiencing now with Ellie! Sam’s areas of interest were all related-political science, international relations, area studies. It was easy to find many programs that combined these various interests. It’s not quite so easy with Ellie…
Ellie’s academic interests have developed over the past few years which, of course, is common. We have put less emphasis on exploring specific schools or programs over the last years, and more time thinking about areas of study that match her interests. I’ve sent her links of related programs to look at, not to decide if she’s interested in that particular program, but to get a better idea of what she does and doesn’t like about the areas of study. By doing this, she has been able to decide that, though she has related interests outside the classroom, she’s not interested in studying media studies or programs related to animal protection. The interests that have she has maintained relate to sustainability studies, tourism, possibly marketing, and possibly some areas of psychology. This exercise has helped her determine more specifically what she IS looking for in a program as well. For instance, by looking at various programs related to sustainability, she was able to explain to me that she’s more interested in those with a multidisciplinary approach and less science-based.
One issue that Sam had with his original program is that he realized that he was not a fan of economics. He had never taken an economics course, so didn’t know that in advance. Unfortunately, economics was a part represent in classes most semesters of the program, which is one reason he decided to change. We are trying to avoid that problem with Ellie. She took Environmental Science last year and this year will take Environmental Systems and Societies. This is a multi disciplinary class somewhat aligned with the type of sustainability programs she thinks are interesting. Since tourism is essentially a specialization of business, she is also taking Business Studies this year. This can help her learn now whether this is something she finds interesting and-if so-which aspects are and are not particularly interesting to her. She’s already taken psychology and at this point finds aspects interesting, but not enough for it to be the focus of an entire program.
Since she has a better idea of her interests, we have started looking at specific programs. Right now, there are a few Dutch university colleges that appeal to her. In case you aren’t familiar, let me take a minute to explain. Each Dutch research university has a self contained programs that is considered to be liberal arts. This is because students have a broad curriculum during the first year that often serves as an introduction to the different study choices and choose a major (or theme, depending on the structure) the second year.
Ellie is especially interested in Erasmus University College as they have majors in Sustainability Studies, Business, and Psychology (in addition to 15 others) which keeps her options open. She’s also interested in University College Fryslan, which is one of the university colleges with University of Groningen. The entire program and majors related to the UN Sustainability Goals with majors presented as themes like Responsible Planet (science focus), Responsible Governance (economics and political science focus) and Responsibility Humanity which is most aligned with her interests with global health and psychology focus areas. We’re also looking at other multidisciplinary programs that combine some of these interest areas, like the International Environmental and Development Studies program at Norwegian University of Life Sciences
We’ve discussed tourism and feel like, if she decides that she enjoys business, choosing a business program that potentially allows for classes in tourism will be a better fit for her than a specialized tourism program. NHL Stenden University of Applied Science was on her radar for their tourism program, so she is now looking at their Creative Business and International Business programs. She’s also looking at Toulouse Business School and will likely look at some schools in Finland if she decides on business as well.
Of course, we’ve postponed the school visits we were planning to take this Thanksgiving. Even if travel is doable in November, I don’t think she will get as good of a feel for the schools until covid has passed. We are (FINGERS CROSSED) planning on visiting this spring. By that point, she will be well into her environmental science and business classes and hopefully have some more insight into those areas of interest which will make the trips more meaningful. In the meantime, a lot schools are having many more online events for prospective students, given the circumstances affecting so many. Ellie will likely participate in some of these online events as well, particularly if her list of potential schools and programs grows.
So, that’s how we approached the initial aspects of our search. Having a strategy around admissions requirements, safety school, and related admissions issues is also key. More on that in an upcoming blog!
If I’m on Facebook and see an ad for shoes, for example, I might click and see if they offer blue shoes. If they don’t, I will scroll on. It would never occur to me to demand in the comments that this company carry blue shoes or make accusations about their motives in not carrying blue shoes. MAYBE, I would send them a private message saying “Hey-I really like blue shoes. Please let me know if you ever start carrying them.”, but it’s much more likely that I would just keep scrolling through my feed and carry on with my day.
This is not the case for many people! The things people will post on Facebook always amazes me and it really seems worse these days! We have a post on Facebook right now that uses the map image. Many of you have already seen this. It’s one of my favorite images as it really demonstrates the number of options and the incredible tuition for the universities/programs we have information on.
So, there is one person, I’ll call her Susan (not her real name), who saw the post and posted several comments on the fact that we don’t include the UK. This included an accusation of “Eu petulance”. She also declared that she “believes that US students should be given choice to make those decisions” around UK universities. She also stated that she finds it finds it “irritating that an organization such as this should actively omit the UK and not give US students the choice. Unless of course they are funded by the EU, which they should declare.” Funded by the EU? That made me laugh given that we don’t even take money from any of the universities in order to maintain our objectivity.
After I responded to her claims more than once explaining our stance she backpedalled a bit. She did maintain that she “ cannot accept that you found not a single university in the UK which you deemed suitable, and so (in my opinion) it calls into question the criteria by which you are selecting.” You guys….she posted nine comments like this!
We generally say that our focus is continental Europe, it’s less of a mouthful than “non-anglophone countries in Europe”, but it’s not really accurate since we include Iceland and Cyprus. With Brexit becoming official in January, I wondered if we should add Ireland, so we could just say that we include information about the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in EU/EEA countries. I know that there are wonderful schools in Ireland and decided to start by exploring tuition. We did this five years ago, but I thought it might be a good time to revisit this. If tuition was comparable to those in the other countries we list, I would consider adding the country to the database.
Right now, the countries with the highest averages in our database are Denmark, Sweden, France and Switzerland. The average for the English-taught programs in these countries range from $13075-13470 per year. I’m comfortable with this number, given that most of the programs in this countries are 3 years in duration which makes them comparable to 4 year programs that are $11,625. The average in-state tuition for flagship universities in the US is $11,849 per year so even universities in these countries with more expensive programs give options to students working with an in-state tuition.
Further, there are a few things to know about the programs in these more expensive countries. The averages in France and Switzerland are pulled up by very expensive American universities that are there. If you look at the programs in any of these four countries (excluding those at American schools), then you find a great percentage under 10,000 euros a year. Not only are there 16 programs under 10,000 a year in Switzerland, but 11 of those are under 2 k a year! As I said before, most of the programs in these 4 countries are just 3 years in duration, which further adds to the savings.
So these countries provided the financial criteria I was looking for in Ireland. I was looking for an average of no more than 14000 euros per year, though I was open to going up to 15,000 if the duration of most programs was three years. I wanted at least 25% of the programs to be under 10000 euros per year.
Let me preface my findings with a few things. First of all, there are wonderful options in Ireland-and in many other parts of the world too. My intention is not to discourage anyone from exploring those options, just to explain the process we go through when we are deciding to add countries to our resources. The other thing to note is that we did not look at the tuition for every university in Ireland. We started with the public universities, which are the most reputable, to gather enough numbers to make generalizations with.
We looked at 12 public universities and, while most schools had a huge range in tuition for each of their programs, the numbers I saw most frequently were in the 16-20,000 euros range. Remember this is $18,230-22,846 per year and the majority were four year programs. There was only one school on this list of 12 that offered tuition under 10000 euros per year. Now, this is still much less expensive when compared to tuition for out of state or private universities in the US but, as I suspected, it did not offer the level of affordability that those in continental Europe do. I mean, we just talked about the most expensive countries in continental Europe, but there are others countries offering programs at the other end of the tuition spectrum too. In fact, eleven of the countries we list have an average tuition of less than 6000 euros per year!
The more I thought about it, the more I felt confident in our decision to focus on non-anglophone Europe-no matter what the Susan’s of the world think about it! The core reason that we don’t include the UK and Ireland is because they are anglophone countries. I started Beyond the States to fill a gap I saw. There simply was not a single source of objective information about the options in non-anglophone countries and many people didn’t even know they existed. The options in anglophone countries are simply easier to navigate and there are abundant resources with information and services about universities in the UK and Ireland. The fact that they don’t offer the level of affordability as provided by universities in continental Europe is secondary.
Bottom line, there are incredible options throughout all of the world. These includes universities Canada, the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore. Though I’d love a reason to visit all of these places, I don’t think it’s aligned with our focus area. Students moving outside of the US and exploring the world during their studies is so exciting to me-no matter what part of the world they do this in. I really believe that it benefits them as individuals as well as the world as whole! If you are interested in doing so in the non-anglophone countries in the EEA/EU, we would love to help!
I know there are a lot of questions about the travel ban and, because I want to be super careful not to provide inaccurate information, I can’t speak to many of the specifics. There are a few things I DO know for sure. First off, the ban does not apply to students. Secondly, and related to the first point, is that the ban is based on country of residence as opposed to citizenship. International students have student residence permits from a European country which exempts them from the ban. We had a member fly back from the US to the Netherlands last week using her residence permit, after the travel ban was put into place. Sam flew here to meet us in Portugal this week, also using his student residence card. Students who have their residence card should not have a problem being able to board and getting through border control.
Then we have students who have been accepted for the fall. The issue they have is that residency permits are almost always issued after arriving in the country. Even though it’s in process, they don’t have the physical card in their hands yet. I’d like to go through a few suggestions for the students in this boat.
First and foremost, do not bank on the information you see on facebook. I’ve mentioned before about the well intentioned misinformation I’ve seen in many groups. I saw many things stated as fact even before the travel ban was officially announced! There is someone who even posted in the comments of one of our facebook ads that her “good friend’s son has just been advised that his university in the Netherlands is not accepting him due to Covid-19 reasons”. Though I found this hard to believe, you can be sure that I immediately reached out to my Dutch administrators group who all assured me that they are NOT rescinding acceptances due to nationality! It’s just that there A LOT of people saying things that aren’t true or are misleading.
The fact is, specifics will change depending on the country you are traveling to. The advice of someone who has a student going to France, for instance, may not apply to your student who will attend in Finland. Your first point of contact should be the school. Usually you will already have someone, or at least a department, who has been working on your residence permit. Find out from them what they can issue you to show at the airport and border control proofing that you are a student and that your residence permit is in process. Then ask for a contact at the immigration department (of the country) to see if they can issue documentation. Ask the immigration office for confirmation (preferably written so you can print it up and take it) that what your documentation will suffice.
You may also be able to find information on the country’s website. For instance, if you look here, you can see that students are listed separately from people who have a residence permit. This implies that already having the residence permit is not required. It also talks about documentation that can be presented at the border and information about who to contact if your documentation is not accepted. Now, it is very true that not every country hasp public information that is this thorough, so well organized, or is even translated so some digging might be required. Ideally, your university could point you to this information and the google translate extension can be a life saver when trying to work through non English documentation!
This brings you to the airport where you and your student arrive with all the necessary documentation. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to work for airports or airlines right now? You may get in the line of someone who has had an exceptionally bad day or maybe someone who hasn’t yet dealt with this issue. If you get push back after showing your documentation, ask for a supervisor. It could also help to research whether your particular airline has a department that handles these type of issues so that, if the supervisor pushes back, you have a next step. There IS someone who can help, if you are in the right and it will be less stressful to figure out who this person is before you arrive.
So, you get your student on the plane but perhaps you are worried about border control on the other side. One of our retained an immigration attorney in Prague when her daughter flew back, just in case there were any problems. If you are having trouble figuring out the documentation information you need to board, it’s possible that an immigration attorney (in the country your student is traveling to) could help you with that as well. Here in Portugal, we worked with an immigration specialist (not an attorney but someone who knows the system backwards and forwards) and it’s been worth every penny and more. You can join facebook expat groups for the particularly city or country your student will be moving to and ask for recommendations.
If the current travel ban is still in place in August, you won’t be able to travel with your student. Don’t worry! Parents dropping off their students isn’t the norm like it is here in the US. I followed the lead from one of our members last year. Her son (who started a year earlier than Sam) went to school on his own. She made sure he had all the information he needed about tasks that needed to be accomplished, resources to use, and she followed up to make sure he was on top of the particularly important ones. Universities often have resources in place to help with much of this anyhow. Doing this on his own gave Sam a level of confidence and independence which helped him through the year.
If your student is going to a country that requires a quarantine, the first thing I would do is to see if a negative test would change the requirement. Some airports, like Prague and Frankfurt are offering instant tests in the airport (for a fee). I understand that more will be opening in the coming weeks and months. The next step would be to contact the school and student residence around this to see if there are suggestions or resources for new students who have to quarantine. I would also check our member group to see if another student is going there who wants to coordinate travel and quarantine together. Finally, if you have to send your student early to deal with a quarantine, have a plan in place ahead of time. Of course, you will make plans for where they will stay (if the student residences aren’t a possibility). Find the grocery stores that offer delivery and set up an account ahead of time. See if you can set up an order be delivered shortly after arrival and pack non-perishable food to get them through until the delivery time. If they will be in the student residences, make plans to take a router or have it delivered on day one (if they aren’t provided). Set up an uber eats account with the quarantine address ahead of time and look at the options. Most universities, programs, and student residences have facebook and what’s app groups to join. This will allow students to start meeting people virtually. It won’t be fun, but at least they can get over the jet lag before their life really gets started in 14 days!
Some families are worried about the impact this will have on the first year experience. I totally understand that concern! However, given that Covid is everywhere, life is going to be affected no matter where you are! I’ve said before that making an international move in the midst of a worldwide pandemic was not ideal for us, but since we’ve never moved internationally before we really don’t have a frame of reference. I don’t know what was harder than it would have been without the pandemic. The same applies for students. They will have a first year experience and it will be different than students in the past, but they will still get the information that is needed and meet other people. Since they don’t have the frame of reference from previous years, they won’t necessarily feel like they are missing out.
Honestly, the overall climate around this is just so much different here and I think the students will feel that. I know I’m generalizing, but I’ve heard this from people in other European countries too. There’s less doom and gloom and much less hostility and divisiveness around it. Yes, we have teens who irresponsibly have large gatherings and cause an outbreak, but we don’t have people refusing to talk to contract tracers until issued until issued with subpoenas. And nobody is breaking arms over being told by a store employee to wear a mask. I’ve heard that there is more of a concern for the common good than an every man for himself mentality. Most (again, but not all) people are following recommendations and taking precautions but moving forward with their lives as much as possible.
I’m in a similar boat as many of you, in that I’m unable to leave the country until I have my residence permit. Due to covid, my original appointment was cancelled and I don’t have a new date yet. For now, its exciting exploring this new country we are living in, but I am dreaming about all the places I want to travel! For those of you with students in Europe, you will be able to visit them again. For those of you exploring the options, this will likely be resolved well before fall of 2021. Until then, our services and our BTS community can serve as your supports and resources!
“I read College Beyond the States and found the school I’m going to apply to!”
“I don’t need the help of BTS, the internet has everything I need for free!”
Watch the video to find out why I think all of these approaches are limiting when considering college in Europe.
I’ve had a lot of emails inquiring about the next On Your Mark Masterclass. This is a live course I offer twice a year. Students learn about the what they need to consider when looking for a university (many of these are specific to Europe) and are then guided through the process I personally use when creating best fit lists for students. At the end of the course, they have a short list of 3-5 programs that best fit their interests, preferences, budget, goals, and qualifications. This is a six week class that involves video lessons (at least students are used to these now!), assignments, 3 group calls (Sunday afternoons) with myself and the other students, and personal feedback from me on 3 different assignments.
I will be setting the date for fall soon, but given that many summer plans have been cancelled, I’m thinking of offering it in summer too (if there is enough interest). If you would consider signing up for a summer masterclass, please shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I strive to be totally transparent about college in Europe. Studying in Europe is a fantastic option but, like anything else in life, their are benefits as well as obstacles. That’s why I thought it was important for you all to know about Sam’s experience, so that you/your kids can be prepared in aspects of his situation applies to you. I realized, though, that sharing his experience had other effects as well. I received so many emails from parents. These emails talked about how they, themselves, also struggled their first year in college (in the US), or how their own kids in Europe had similar difficulties as Sam did, or that they had been worried that their kids would encounter the same in Europe. It’s almost as if there was a taboo in discussing this, and they expressed relief that they could talk about it!
I do want to clarify that I’m not at all disappointed about or embarrassed by Sam’s first year experience. Yes, he failed a class but he did not fail out of school. He realized that much of the course failure was due to the fact that his interests weren’t aligned with the content/teaching style (though, let’s be hones, there was a time management aspect to it as well). What he has learned about himself is a huge accomplishment! Actually, much of this is similar to what students seek in a gap year as it pertains to the outcomes of personal growth, self awareness, and exploring the world. In addition, he has gained insights into his academic needs, which isn’t usually a part of structure gap year programs.
As I mentioned in the last post, I want to explore what we might have done differently, had we known then what we know now. A shift of mindset as it related to the goals of the first year of study would have been a huge one. Standard academic goals for the first year of study are adjusting to a new system, doing well in classes, and the like. I think Sam (and other students in Europe) would have benefited from a very different set of goals. Let me explain.
Many 18 year olds, particularly those graduating from the US educational system, may not know exactly what they want to study or where their academic interests lie (if this is the case for you, check out our Choosing a Major self paced course or the What’s My Major service). Most of the European programs require that you know what you want to study when you apply. While there are broad options, multidisciplinary options, and those that start broad with specializations offered later in the program, the curriculum is structured and rarely has gen-ed requirements that aren’t related to the field of study. In Europe ,the required courses in a Chemistry program will be science related which would not be part of the requirements for a Political Science program. They can sometimes transfer as electives, but that doesn’t account for an entire year of credits. In the US, students are able to easily change their major or even change universities with less trouble (with credits transferred) due to the gen-ed requirements. Most bachelor’s degrees in Europe take just 3 years to complete, but don’t have the flexibility that comes with those gen-ed requirements.
I wonder what would happen if we approached Sam’s first year studying in Europe as sort of a bridge year or an academic gap year. Though I don’t know the best title for it, the goals would have been for him to learn more about what he wanted to study, determine the learning style that is best for him, and to strengthen the academic skills that would help him most throughout his studies (be it study skills, time management, etc). He would have gone into the year knowing that that deciding that he loved this program or finding a different program based on what he learned about himself would have been equally desirable. Had we had this mindset and formalized goals around it, we likely would have communicated more often and in more depth about what he was learning about himself, his interests, and learning style as the year went on and would have planned to make a decision in February, before application deadlines were looming..
This is not an unheard of approach. As you may know, there are a few countries that require American students to have either an IB diploma, a certain number of AP scores, or a year’s worth of college credits (don’t worry if you don’t have these, they only account for about 350 of the 1900+ options). We do have students who enter into their first year at a university in Europe to get the years worth of credits with the intention of applying to a school that requires APs for the second year. That year of credits would not transfer, as it would be used to meet admissions requirements. Some of these students end up changing after a year, and others learn that the program that they thought would be temporary meets their needs.
Of course, the price of education in Europe allows for this. We could pay a total of $220,000 for four years of tuition for Sam to have this flexibility at a liberal arts college like Carleton, Davidson, or Middlebury. We could even pay $36,000 for four years of tuition for Sam to attend a UNC Chapel Hill with in state tuition (though, even here, he may not gradate in 4 years if he changed his major). Instead, we will pay a total of $32,900 over 4 years, which includes the tuition for his year at Leiden and his remaining three at Erasmus University Rotterdam. We will pay less for his four years than we would for ONE year at one of the liberal arts colleges!
Let’s go back a bit further though and look at what we could have done differently during his high school years. First and foremost, I would have insisted that he take an economics class when he decided that the program at Leiden was on his shortlist. There are economics courses each year in the program and it’s the only area he didn’t have exposure to. Once you have your shortlist of programs, see if there are more than one or two courses in a particular discipline in which you haven’t taken any classes in. If you can take a class through school, great. If not, find an online course. This is one reason I think the summer before junior year is a great time to start looking at college in Europe. Not only does it allow you to course plan for APs, if desired, but it also allows you to course plan to determine your interests. This is something we are doing with Ellie. She’s interested in tourism, which includes a number of business related areas. She thinks that business as a whole doesn’t interest her, other than marketing. That said, I don’t think she really knows what business courses entail. She’ll take business as one of her electives this coming year so she can see what does and doesn’t appeal to her about it and evaluate the programs she is considering accordingly.
In retrospect, I think it would have helped Sam to have some sort of outside support (someone who isn’t his mother…). I’ve thought about who this could have been. He’s incredibly close to my father, for instance, but my dad doesn’t understand the European system. He comes from the “what happened to the other 5 points?” school of thought. He certainly doesn’t understand that the European version of A’s are incredibly rare, and not even a reasonable goal. That rules Poppy out for this role… Sam did go meet with the academic advisor at one point, which was helpful, but does not provide what I’m thinking would have hoped him most. I’m thinking of someone who serves as a mentor or coach, to support, motivate, provide suggestions, and provide a level of accountable. There is much less hand holding by European universities to I think this could particularly be helpful for for first year students coming from the American system. Given my background as a therapist and executive functioning skills coach for high school and college students, I may develop a service around this in the coming year, perhaps later evolving into a service that BTS students could provide, after graduating. Right now it’s just a thought, but if you have a student starting in the fall who may benefit from this, do let me know.
When you are pursuing college in Europe, it’s important to learn how to reframe certain social norms or expectations that are engrained in us by our own life experiences and culture. Tom had directed his mother to the last blog so that she could understand a bit more. Her takeaway? “You mean he’s not getting credit for the year!?!” My dad expressed hope that the change will help Sam buckle down. It took a mindset shift of my own to have a very different takeaway. I’m so glad that Sam discovered these aspects about his interests and learning style. I’m also so glad that he didn’t feel that this was a failure and he sought out solutions. He recognizes that the year at Leiden was valuable in so many ways. I’m also so glad that the affordable tuition allows him/us not to feel stuck in a situation that is not the best fit for him! Though he’s bummed to be leaving the Hague, we are all excited to see where this next phase takes him!