In this week’s episode, Jenn discusses with Adam, a US student currently studying in Rotterdam. Our guest talks about a number of his experiences beyond the States, including the fact that he plays competitive baseball in the Netherlands.
Learn more about Adam’s background, how it looks like to study as an international student in Europe, and the main differences between the US and EU school systems. Moreover, find out how American students get used to European life, especially during the COVID era. Tune in and hear out firsthand from our young, and yet so mature guest, Adam!
“You’re going to learn 10% in the classroom. Plant seed and water the relationships. That’s where you really learn from, the people you connect with.” Adam’s Dad
What you will hear in this episode:
How hard it’s for international students to adapt to Europe
The differences between US & EU school system
Why US university campuses are like a bubble, while EU student residences make you bonded with the city and academic community
Off the pressure: Leisure of EU collegian sports
Which “Greek System” is better?
Where do students go after their first years in the student residence?
Adam’s family background: Support, preparation, motivation
How you can play “pro” baseball in Europe
Minor & Major plans of a student and how does COVID affect them
The Beyond the States podcast is back! In this episode, recorded in August 2021, Jenn covers the basics of Beyond the States and overviews some of the biggest ideas around college in Europe. She talks about how and why she started BTS. She also talks about where she and her family are currently living and why they moved to Portugal. She highlights other key episodes to listen to, as well. We hope you enjoy it!
“It used to be that I could eavesdrop on a conversation and learn that the two men at the next table were doctors, or that one was a massage therapist and the other sold life insurance for cats. Now, though, I have no idea what anyone does, especially if the people I’m listening in on are under forty. I hear the words “integration” and “platform” a lot, but not in any recognizable context”
-David Sedaris, from Calypso
I can relate! There are just so many professions-and fields of study-now that weren’t really a thing when I was in college or entering the work force. Though the career possibilities have grown exponentially since then, many high school students I meet (and their parents) still aren’t aware of them.
As you may know, students in Europe apply to a specific field of study, which is like knowing their major ahead of time. This sometimes scares students, because they see it as choosing a career. This is a misconception though, since many programs are multidisciplinary and/or can lead to a number of different careers. I often advise students to start by looking into the areas of study related to their interests and exploring associated careers from there.
I thought it might be helpful to have a series of posts that explore the careers that are associated with certain fields, starting with Sustainability. Was this even a term used when I was growing up? Not one used in the environmental context (which is probably one of the reasons the Earth is in its current condition…). People may have studied earth science or environmental science related topics back in the day, but the multidisciplinary sustainability studies programs just weren’t a thing.
I meet a lot of students who are interested in studying sustainability, but not with the hard core science/engineering focus. There are a number of programs around this in Europe that appeal to then, but they (and their parents) often wonder what type of job this degree qualifies them for.
I did a bit of research and learned that many companies hire Sustainability Analysts and/or Sustainability Managers, But what does that mean? I find that LinkedIn job descriptions are great for this type of information, so I dug in. There were 96,307 jobs listed on LinkedIn under Sustainability in the EU and US combined, many of which fell under these types of positions. In a nutshell, these positions involve helping companies in ways that pertain to sustainability initiatives (the companies own goals or the goals for their clients). This can include the overall operational emissions, specific resources used by the company (such as water, waste, energy), and/or materials used for specific products or packaging. The positions generally involve analyzing the use of these resources and making recommendations and/or implementing strategies to meet the specified goals. These positions may also include educating various departments about their part achieving the goals and sometimes might include outreach to the public about related programs. Companies I saw listing these types of jobs include Ralph Lauren, Nespresso, American Express, Deloitte and-given the large number of job posts-many, many more!
Most of the websites for universities have a section about related careers for the particular programs. Many sustainability programs note that graduates go on to work at NGO’s and think tanks. The jobs at these types of organizations vary, but if you work for an NGO or think tank that focuses on environmental issues, then your work-in some way-will related to sustainability. The website for The World Wildlife Fund puts it in such a great way. They say “So whether you’re working at a desk in our D.C. office, attending a climate change meeting in Europe, or relocating rhinos in Nepal, you have the benefit of knowing that everything you do is part of WWF’s global effort to conserve life on Earth.”
The other possibility is to continue with more specialized master’s degree programs, which speak to sustainability in a particular sector or field. Our database has master degree programs that connect sustainability and areas like agriculture, urban planning, tourism, governance, fashion, product design, healthcare, development, law, economics, natural sciences, engineering, and more! Even if the estimates of this being a $12 trillion market by 2030 are a little off, continued growth in this area seems inevitable!
We recently received an email from a college senior who was about to graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a school in North America. His internship in Europe had ended abruptly due to Covid. After two previous internships, he was unsure about whether the engineering field was for him or if he should get a graduate degree. This email sparked curiosity on my part to explore the STEM fields in our database and I was astounded by what I found.
First, what is STEM? The STEM fields are science, technology, engineering, and math. The science refers to the physical sciences like chemistry and biology, as opposed to the social sciences.
Here are a few quick facts that caught my attention:
According to data from the IEE, of the US college students who study abroad, the largest cohort of students, a full 25%, study in a STEM field.
Of the 2,038 bachelor’s degree programs in the Beyond the States database, 33% or 665 are in STEM fields. In our master’s database, 38% of the programs are STEM.
Cost is another major benefit of this area of study because the average annual tuition is just 6,751 EUR for a bachelor’s degree and just 6,642 for master’s annual tuition.
Starting salaries for STEM jobs are among the highest for new grads, so taking advantage of the 3 year programs available in Europe coupled with the lower tuition costs mean that STEM grads can enter the workforce a year sooner and with much less college debt.
97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, while only 49% of overall college graduates found employment in the same period last year, according to IES.
For those of us who are parents of prospective students, the STEM field appears drastically different than when we were studying! Back in the 80’s, many of these technologies didn’t really exist, but have since exploded. Whether you’re a student yourself, with vast knowledge of the possibilities, or a parent who feels like all this STEM stuff is a foreign language, today’s post can help! We will look at some of the different types of STEM degrees in Europe, for both master’s and bachelor’s degree students.
Data Science/Data Engineering: Over the past few years, businesses of all sizes are in a mad rush to mine and refine all the data that they are generating, which is proliferating like never before. The massive data boom has dramatically transformed the way people do business, and companies are constantly trying to figure out innovative ways to use the Big Data explosion to their advantage. This is driving a huge demand for experts in how to use all that data, data scientists and data engineers. The Beyond the States database has 40 bachelors programs and 158 masters in this field.
Robotics/Mechatronics: Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of electronic, electrical, and mechanical systems. The Beyond the States database has specific area of study search field for Mechatronics and Robotics, so it’s easy to navigate. It contains 23 bachelors and 64 masters degrees.
An example of an interesting graduate program is the Master in Robotics, Systems, & Control at University of Zurich (ETH Zurich). This program joins the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science. ETH Zurich is one of the top tech schools in Europe and has a highly competitive admissions process, boasting 12 Nobel laureates including Albert Einstein. The school is highly international with 40% of the student body coming from outside Switzerland. Tuition: 1,350 EUR for 1.5 year program.
Cryptocurrency: Cryptocurrency and the associated technology of blockchain as well as fintech are domains of high level math. There are 4 masters programs in this area. If this is really your area of interest at the bachelor’s level, then getting a degree in mathematics would be a good start.
Network Architect: Are you familiar with the internet? The network architect’s job is to design the networks that have become an increasingly vital part of our lives. Since these networks are generally a legacy of the telecommunications infrastructure, learning about telecommunications would be useful. We have 11 bachelors programs and 23 masters programs in this area.
Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Deep Learning: This field has a number of names, but I see it as all about teaching computers to simulate thought. Our database contains 12 bachelors and 48 masters programs in this area.
Cyber Security: Jenn often highlights the Cyber Security program at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. The three year program at TUT costs just 6,000 EUR per year and cyber security talent is in very high demand. It is one of 3 bachelor’s programs in Cyber Security. There are 36 graduate programs as well.
Internet of Things (IoT): First, let’s define the term. According to wikipedia, the Internet of Things (IoT) “describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.” There is not really a degree specifically for IoT at this point. I looked at open engineering roles at one company in the IoT space, Real-Time Innovations (RTI). They’re looking for engineers with computer science degrees who have coursework in experience in programming, networks, distributed systems, and autonomous vehicles. Our database has 3 bachelors programs and 12 masters programs. Here’s a tip: search the Title field contains the term internet. If you search IoT, the search will pick up biotechnology, semiotics, and other programs you don’t want.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR): According to tech news site, the Information, Facebook now has 20% of it’s employees working on VR/AR projects currently, which says this tech area is poised for rapid growth. The database has 14 programs that cover VR/AR.
If you’re unsure of your exact area of tech interest, look for a survey program like the one at VIA University College in Denmark (14,800 EUR) called Software Technology Engineering. In 3.5 years, the student learns programming, computer networks, Internet-of-things (IoT), game design, web design, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), database technology, big data, and cloud computing. As part of this program, the student develops professional and personal skills in information technology as well as gain qualifications for further studies at Master’s level.
In the final analysis, technology continues to drive productivity forward in the global economy. If technology is your area of passion, getting a STEM degree in Europe will position you for long term success, while maximizing your travel opportunity.
Our Student Ambassador posts continue with Tatiana telling us about her life in Groningen. Tatiana is from Atlanta and is in her second year studying International Business at Hanze University of Applied Science. It’s almost tulip season in the Netherlands now, but this was recorded in the midst of the winter storm that hit much of Europe in early February.
Each month, I choose a program to highlight for our members. This is usually a program that has some sort of unique feature or offering but may not be on our member’s radars. More often than not, these are programs I have not yet visited (since I already have provided information about those through public blogs and member resources), but are on my-now lengthy-list to visit once that’s possible again. I recently started looking at the cost of college in Europe and found massive savings are possible.
Last month, I wrote about RIT Croatia and have been thinking a lot about the cost of college in Europe since then. There are different types of American schools in Europe, and I always proceed with caution around these. There are some that cater more to study abroad students, some that don’t allow students to complete their entire degree in Europe, and many that charge American size tuition without a real reason to justify it. There are a handful of American schools that I do think highly of and that don’t overcharge their students. AAU in Prague is a member favorite and I’m a fan of McDaniel College in Budapest as well.
Similar to how McDaniel has their main campus in Maryland and a global campus in Budapest, Rochester Institute of Technology has their main campus in New York and a number of global campuses around the world. Their European campus is in Croatia (RIT Croatia), with programs held both in Zagreb and Dubrovnik (also known as the Game of Thrones set…). Students graduate with a Croatian and American diploma-one from RIT Croatia and one from Rochester Institute of Technology in NY. This means that students are graduating from a school that is accredited in the US and has AACSB accreditation (great for business programs) for just 6400 euros per year (which is about $7,750)! The amazing thing is that students at the US campus pay $50,564 per year in tuition!
The program I wrote about last month was the Web and Mobile Computer program. As I went through the details, I was looking for a major difference between the offering in Croatia versus Rochester. Why else would someone pay $50k a year for something that they could get for less than $8k per year, the cost of college in Europe? I compared the courses for this program at both locations and they were pretty much the same. I looked at faculty background and it was also just about the same. Internship opportunities were also the same for students at both campuses. And students graduating from RIT Croatia get the same degree as those studying in New York (along with an additional degree from Croatia).
Now, the Rochester campus has 85 different bachelor’s degree options and more than 70 master’s degree options while the Croatia campus offers just three bachelor’s and two master’s. You wouldn’t have the options for majors in Biomedical Engineering, Criminal Justice or Film and Animation in Croatia. But for a student who knows that they want to study International Business, IT, or Hospitality/Tourism, it seems worth serious consideration!
The other difference pertains to non-academic life. You won’t have a Greek life in Croatia (though your aren’t far from Greece itself), there is not a Division 1 hockey team on campus, nor is there an Exploration and Geocaching club. That’s not to say that student life is lacking in Croatia (or elsewhere in Europe), it’s just different and tied more to the city than the school itself. Of course, RIT Croatia does have a number of clubs pertaining to academic interests, sports, socialization, and annual events-just nowhere near the level of a large American university.
More than anything, this school has me thinking about what you are and aren’t paying for when going to college in Europe (or in the US). I had this conversation with students at McDaniel when I visited Budapest a couple of years ago. Given that many of their students had studied in the US as well and pay much less for tuition in Budapest, it was an interesting conversation. These students, who were American, felt that the cost of their American higher education experiences did not correlate with value at all. Some of our student ambassadors note that there are some parts of American college life that they wish they had. They were all quick to note that they wouldn’t trade their current experience for that, though, and that their student life in Europe has unique benefits that wouldn’t be possible in the US. As a parent funding my kid’s education, I would have a hard time justifying paying $171,250 more in tuition over the four year just for the US specific social experience. The great thing is that RIT Croatia students can get a taste of both since they can spend up to a year at the New York campus paying their Croatian tuition rate (along with a study abroad fee which includes room and board).
Personally, I don’t think it’s important to go to an European school that has American accreditation. Given that all of the universities we have listed are fully accredited and the degrees are recognized internationally, there are very few circumstances in which American accreditation would matter. And, of course, there are many incredible options at European schools that have more program choices and lower tuition even than RIT Croatia. That said, people have different comfort levels with the degree of change and some may find the familiarity comforting. I really love that there really are options for all types of students in Europe!
This week we hear from another one of our student ambassadors! Andrea is from Andover Massachusetts and is in her first year of the liberal arts program at Utrecht University.
Read on to learn more about her experience.
My decision to attend college in Europe was made in my senior year of high school in Andover, Massachusetts, where I have lived almost all my life. Growing up in this suburbia, I was comfortable with the way things were and generally thought I would continue to live in the same area for my college years as well. However, after being exposed to BTS through a family friend, I began growing curious of what other opportunities could be out there for me.
I ended up applying to universities in the Netherlands and Czechia, and am currently in my second semester at University College Utrecht, one of the few liberal arts colleges in the Netherlands. This liberal arts curriculum allows me to explore my interests and combine them to create a unique degree. The courses are split up in three sections: Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. There are no GenEd requirements, except that you must try out at least one class in each of the disciplines in your first year. The program is three years instead of the four years I would be taking in the US, but don’t let that fool you, it is shorter but the course load and curriculum is equally difficult if not harder than that at US schools. At the end of my second year, I have to choose a discipline to major in, within which I have to finish “tracks” or a series of courses in a certain subject to graduate. I am leaning towards taking an Interdisciplinary Major by combining the Social Sciences and Humanities.
My classes have been enriching and interesting, as I have been able to learn about historical events and methods of thinking through a completely different perspective. I have been able to recognize some of the biases or misconceptions I may have as a result of growing up in one area for so long. The classes are also relatively small at UCU, so a close connection with the professor is possible in case I ever need help or have specific questions.
The application process for UCU was similar to that of schools in the US, except that I needed to turn in my AP scores. This added a bit of stress to the process, but I also applied to other universities and university colleges in the Netherlands. The universities here have a set of requirements that if you meet, your acceptance is almost guaranteed, which definitely gave me an added sense of security as I was applying.
The decision to move across the Atlantic to pursue a higher education proved to be worth it. Not only will I graduate without student loans, but I also will receive a degree unique from many other of my peers in the US. The friends I have made here have also helped me grow, and learning about their experiences across the globe has greatly enriched my day-to-day life.
We sometimes get emails from students who say that they want to find information about universities with free tuition, but that they can’t afford to pay for our services. The concern I have is that these students have a misconception about what it will actually cost to study and live in Europe.
The Beyond the States database contains over 75 English-taught bachelor’s degree programs and 857 English-taught master’s degree programs that charge zero tuition for international students. These programs are mainly in Norway, Iceland, and Germany. But “free tuition” does not actually mean cost free.
The first thing students need to consider is proof of means, which is more properly described as “proof of means of subsistence”. Essentially, this is the minimum amount of income a student will need to live as a student. This is an amount set by the individual country’s government as part of the immigration process. Students who aren’t EU citizens need to provide proof that they have the full amount for the year during the immigration process.
Norway is one of the countries that offers international students free tuition at their public universities. It truly is a remarkably beautiful place. During our visit there in 2016, we really enjoyed everything that was on offer. One thing that became immediately apparent was the high cost of living. According to Expatistan, Oslo, Norway’s capital, is slightly more expensive than Los Angeles (after New York and San Francisco, LA is the 3rd most expensive city in the US).
An international student in Norway will pay no tuition, but they will pay more than 10,000 euros a year on housing, food, transportation, and leisure expenses (and that is on a VERY tight budget). In fact, proof of means in Norway is 10800 euros which often allows for a very modest lifestyle. Estonia has many similarities to the Nordic countries, and students do pay an average of 3168 euros per year in tuition. However, the living costs are so much lower that EVEN WITH TUITION, they end up paying almost 2000 euros less per year. Of course, because cost of living is so much lower, the amount of money you need for proof of means is also easier to swallow at 4500 euros per year.
Families and students are frequently drawn to the “free college in Germany” idea. Of course, the admissions requirements often create obstacles for students. The cost of living in Germany can be quite reasonable. Berlin is on the more expensive side at just 28% less expensive than LA. However, it would still be a mistake to focus solely on Germany.
Let’s compare Germany to the Czech Republic. Proof of means in Germany is 10236 euros and is 3600 euros in the Czech Republic. Depending on the source, Berlin is anywhere from 32%–49% more expensive than Prague. Even using the lower cost difference, a student in the Czech Republic would have 41 bachelor’s and 98 master’s options in which they would pay the same for living AND tuition as they would pay for living expenses alone in Germany.
While these aren’t all necessarily dramatic differences, we are comparing your overall expenses including tuition. The fact that you can pay less overall while paying a few thousand euros a year in tuition is precisely the reason not to confine your search to only those with free tuition. For a student who has a tight budget, those savings can mean a lot and/or open up a lot of options that are comparable in cost.
Let’s go back to the student who has a very tight budget and doesn’t think they can afford to work with Beyond the States. We have a self paced course called Choosing A University in Europe. This course walks students through the process of choosing a European university (for bachelor’s)*that fits their criteria and includes 30 days of database access. Membership is not required for the course, which costs $75. Without taking this course, a budget minded student might confine their search to free tuition and not know that they need to come up with over 10000 euros for proof of means. They might apply in Norway, not knowing that you need a certain number of AP courses. They might not be aware of one of my favorite universities in the Czech Republic which has a Environmental Studies program for under 1000 euros per year.
The knowledge gained after making this one time payment will save you endless hours and minimize the risk of making costly mistakes. It also has the potential to save you thousands of dollars. Of course, if you are comparing to US prices, the savings potential is mind-blowing!
We have started a Student Ambassador program this year in which Beyond the States members, who are currently studying in Europe, will share their experiences with us through blogs, vlogs, roundtable discussions, the student facebook group, and more! This week we hear from Adam, a third year student at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
“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