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Viemont Family Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why am I telling you all this?

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

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

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

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

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Proost (cheers) to student life in Europe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why You Need To Know About Brno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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University Visits in Austria

I really love train travel.  It’s just so easy and comes without all the stressors of air travel.  Little things make it easy-like not having to worry about where my liquids are and arriving at the station just shortly before the train departs. More than any other city in Europe, I was struck by how many places one can easily get by train from Vienna. In under 2.5 hours, you can get almost anywhere in Austria, or to many cities outside of the country, like Bratislava (under 1 hour), Budapest (just over two hours), Brno (just over one hour).  The trains were on time, clean, comfortable, and affordable. The most I paid for a train ticket was to Budapest, which cost 39 euros.

Vienna is a strikingly beautiful city.  While the most impressive buildings are in the city center, even the residential buildings are stunning, painted light pastel colors.  I was able to walk almost every place I needed to go in under 30 minutes and only needed to use public transportation once. The city is easy to navigate, clean and safe (ranked fifth in the world for physical safety). Student residences can be found for 350 euros per month, though there are new higher end options with more amenities that cost 600 euros per month (shown here).

Given my background working in mental health, I was super excited by the Psychotherapy Science program offered at Sigmund Freud University. This program first introduces students to the different therapeutic modalities, and the students choose one to specialize in for their final year. There is also a focus on practice, with students starting clinical placements in their first year of study. I will provide more in depth information abut this program and school in the March Program of the Month, accessible to members.

Another school that impressed me was IMC Krems.  Krems is a small city on the Danube river, and is just one hour by train from Vienna. The small population of 40,000 does not impact student life, since 15,000 of those inhabitants are students!  The campus is shared by the three universities and also holds one of the student residences, where single rooms cost 350 euros a month.  The city center is just a 15 minute walk from campus and holds ample opportunities for an active student life.  There is also an ESN office on the campus which arranges trips, parties, laser tag, pub quizzes, holiday dinners and more.  A small city like this can be a great option for international students.  Since it’s a student city, there are many establishments that cater to students (cafes, pubs, etc), but the size of the city is less overwhelming than a large city might be. That said, Vienna is just one hour away so students still have access to city offerings as well.

I planned this trip to Austria after reading about the Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology program at IMC Krems.  I was very impressed by the program and featured it as a program of the month for our members.  I had high hopes for their offerings, and was not disappointed!  There are supports in place for international student from the time they enroll up until the time they graduate The International Welcome Center helps students with the logistics around housing, banking, visas and such when they arrive. The International Relations Office continues the support throughout the program. The school has strong relationships with industry leaders, which enriches the classroom experience and also leads to internship placements, which are require in all of the programs.  IMC Krems offers seven English-taught bachelors degree programs.  All are three years in duration and cost between 7800 and 9800 euros per year. It’s often hard to visualize what a university in a foreign country looks like, and what their students are like. This videogives a glimpse into the campus and students at IMC Krems.

My trip also took me to Brno, in the Czech Republic and Budapest, in Hungary.  Look for the newsletter in the coming weeks to find out more about the schools I visited in these cities.

Take Care!

Jenn

Interested In Learning More About College in Europe?
A Beyond the States membership costs just $39 per month and includes access to our searchable database of the 1700+ accredited and English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in continental Europe. Members also benefit from monthly member Q&A calls with me, monthly office hour recordings, a private member Facebook group, webinars and courses, and a highlighted program of the month.  Click here to join!

 

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What I Learned About College in the Baltic Countries

College in the Baltic CountriesI arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania to investigate college in the Baltic countries, after spending 10 days in Jordan with my son, Sam. I loved Jordan, which provided so many different sensory experiences. There were the sounds of the calls to prayer five times a day which I found soothing (except the one that happen before 5 am…). There were the smells of spices and grilled meat. There were amazing sights I could not have even imagined in Wadi Rum (the desert) and Petra (you may recognize it from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). There was the Frogger-like experience of crossing the street each time (even at crosswalks) and then there were the ups and downs of traveling with a teenager, which included good bonding conversations, as well as seemingly constant “advice” (not criticism I was told…).

Though the experience was absolutely incredible, I didn’t realize how much energy it took until I got to Vilnius. I was a bit grumpy when I arrived. I flew Ryan Air-which I always say I will never do again but then get sucked in by the low price. The boarding process reminds me of the old days with Southwest Airlines-sort of a mob mentality and then the flight attendants spend the entire flight peddling their goods. The person who came up with the idea to allow passengers to sample perfume in an enclosed space is not on my good list…We got to Vilnius late, and the cold fresh air when I walked out of the airport helped improve my mood almost immediately.

College in the Baltic Countries

I had the weekend to explore the town before my meetings with a college in the Baltic countries began on Monday. I like visiting places in winter, as if you like a place as it’s worst weather wise, then you can imagine how great it would be at other times of the year. There are some places that felt depressing to me in the winter, like Sofia, Bulgaria and Warsaw, Poland. Though the skies are just as grey in Vilnius winters, I didn’t have that same feeling. “Hygge” is a Danish word, that has been entirely worn out internationally now, but really applies to Vilnius. The simplest way of describing it is a really cozy feeling. There are a ton of coffee shops with comfortable seating and lit in a certain way that make you want to go in with a book. There are wine bars-again with the warm lighting-with signs for mulled wine. The streets are clean, the architecture is beautiful, the people are friendly. I felt like I wanted to listen to classical music as I walked around the city (which is not something on any of my playlists). It just felt nice, and calm, and cozy.

Now, what I appreciate as a woman in my forties is very different than I would have liked as a college-aged student! This made me especially curious about student life in the city. I noticed that I didn’t see a lot of college-aged students out and about. Of course, it’s quite possible that the hours that I am out are not the hours in which college students are out (or awake). Certainly there are cafes, bars, nightclubs, theaters and more. It did get me thinking about the international student experience though.

One thing to note is that when a school reports their international student number or percentage, it includes all levels of study (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) AND almost always includes exchange students. This makes a huge difference! The international student percentage at Vilnius University, for instance is right around 9%. While that’s not a huge number, it’s not alarming. When you look at the percentage of degree seeking international students, however, it’s less than 3% and, again, that includes all levels of study!

College in the Baltic Countries

So, why does this matter? For one thing, it can impact whether or not there are sufficient resources for international students. Vilnius University does not have an international student association or an international student office. They do offer an orientation week for international students (which includes exchange students) and they have an ESN office, but these are more directed at the exchange student experience. Further, one of the great benefits around studying in Europe is that students form friendships with people from all around the world. If half of your peer group leaves after just one semester, those meaningful bonds are harder to form and maintain.

Academically, Vilnius University has some strong programs and may be a good fit for some students. A student who is a little older may have the independence required to get their academic and social needs met. A student with a Lithuanian background may know enough of the language and culture to socially integrate with local students. These are just important considerations when looking at a school.

The international student population at Vilnius Technical University is similar to Vilnius University when you include exchange students, however it’s right around 5% when you look only at degree seeking students. It’s still small percentage, but they do have resources in place for their students. There is an office staffed with four people who work specifically with international degree students reading problems, questions, where to find resources, and more. Since they are a smaller university, they do this as the university level so all international students get the same information. There is an international coordinator in each academic department who helps students with the academic piece of things. They also have a mentor program for new degree seeking international students. Additionally, they reserve the newly renovated student residences for international students, which cost under 150 euros per month!

After recharging in Vilnius, I enjoyed the energy in Riga! It’s more urban, with people of all ages out and about at all times of day. It’s also remarkable beautiful with striking Art Nouveau architecture and abundant green space. Though the population is under 650,000 (similar to Portland, Oregon) it is the largest city in the Baltic region and, thus, provides an active night life. It’s an incredibly affordable city, even more so for students. For instance, students pay just 16 euros a month for an unlimited public transportation pass (the regular price is 50 euros). I really fell in love with Riga and it’s now on my list of favorite cities in Europe.

College in the Baltic Countries

Of all the schools I visited on this trip, I was most excited by what I learned about Riga Technical University. Their total international student population is 15% which is at 10% when you subtract exchange students. The international student body is diverse, representing 87 countries. Not only does the university have an office that assists international students, but they also have an International Student Council which represents international student interests and arranges social events.

Unlike most universities in Europe, the university has a true campus, just a 25 minute walk (or 15 minutes by bus) from the city center. The campus houses the different academic departments, dorms (which cost 65-180 euros per month), and an Olympic size pool (there is a large recreation center off campus). There is a large shopping center directly next to the campus which includes a grocery store. The buildings were very well maintained, inside and out, which is not always the case with public universities.

Each program is split into groups of no more than 50 students for lectures with much smaller groups for labs and computer classes. Students are always taught by professors (not assistants) who are accessible for help outside of the classroom as well. All of the four year programs are very hands on, with lots of labs and internships in order to prepare students for the workforce. They evidently do a good job at this, given their strong reputation with employers. When I visit schools I look for strong academic programs and educational outcomes and an environment that supports international student life-academic and otherwise. Riga Tech checked all of these boxes.

My visits to the other schools in Riga helped me realize other questions students should ask when exploring a particular school or program. The majority of the international students in the other schools I visited are in just two programs (the integrated Medicine and Dentistry programs). There are only a handful of international students in each of the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs, and these students represent just a few countries. At one of these universities, classes for international students in the English-taught programs are separate from Latvians in the English-taught programs so it’s almost like private classes taught by the professors. While there is something to be said for the personalized attention in the classroom, I’m concerned about how isolating this would feel.

Though I absolutely love the Baltic area, I don’t think that Lithuania and Latvia are as far along with internationalization as Estonia is. That shouldn’t rule out the two countries for students. I would absolutely recommend Riga Tech, and there are certain types of students who the other schools may be a good fit for. More than anything, this trip helped me realize that there are some important questions students should look into when exploring a particular school or program. These are:

What is the number of degree seeking international students?
How many countries are represented by the degree seeking international students?
What is the percent of degree seeking international students in the program of interest?
Is there an international student council?
What types of international student associations are at the school?
Is there an international student office at the university level? Do they work with degree seeking student exclusively or also exchange?
Is there an international student coordinator at the program level?
Is there a mentor/buddy program for international students?

After gathering that information, you can consider the impact each area would have on your own personal experience. 

Take care,

Jenn

Interested in Learning More About College in Europe?

A Beyond the States membership costs just $39 per month and includes access to our searchable database of the 1,700+ accredited and English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in continental Europe. Members also benefit from monthly member Q&A calls with me, monthly office hour recordings, a private member Facebook group, webinars, and courses, and a highlighted program of the month.  Click here to join!

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University College Groningen: a Deep Dive

I was really excited to visit Groningen again.  When I visited last year, it was just for a few hours.  This time I was there for 3 days exploring the town and meeting with administrators and students from Groningen University College (UCG). Since so many of you have expressed interest in Dutch universities, particularly the university colleges, we are bringing you what we are calling a “deep dive” into UCG.

Let’s start with the city. Groningen is located in the northernmost part of the country, about a two-hour train ride from Amsterdam. It is the youngest city in the Netherlands, with half of the population under 35. Further, 25% of the residents are students. Because Groningen is the urban center of the northern Netherlands and has such a large student population, its cultural scene is remarkably big and diverse with an strong underground music scene, a comics museum, a tobacco museum, and a science museum. It has a vibrant nightlife, dominated by students.

As is the case for many European schools, there is no true campus, and buildings are located throughout the city. They’re easy to identify with the red triangle visible in the picture on the left.  In some cities, this seems disjointed but in Groningen, it feels as though the city and university are very connected and the town serves as one big campus. There is a really community feel throughout the town. Almost everywhere I went, I observed people running into people they know.  Like most places in the Netherlands, English is widely spoken. People are also really accommodating and friendly about the use of English. I was in one cafe that did not have an English menu and the waitress offered to translate the menu for me verbally!  Thanks to Google Translate I did not have to take her up on that.

The majority of my time in Groningen was spent learning about UCG in depth.  University colleges in the Netherlands are the liberal arts program within a research university, and they are self-contained. UCG is a department of the University of Groningen, which is a top 100 school in the various global rankings.  Though the overall university is one of the oldest schools in the country (founded in 1614), UCG is still a fairly young program, having started in 2015. They stayed intentionally small with around 30 students admitted each year for the first two years in order to straighten out any kinks that arise with any new program. By the third year, they admitted 86 students and anticipate a larger number next year as well.

UCG requires that each student lives in a student residence for one year.  UCG students are generally placed together in the residences, which consist of a very large single room with bathrooms, kitchen and living area shared with seven other students. Here’s a video tour of the residence. These cost 480 Euros a month. After the first year, students can stay or take advantage of the many other student housing options in Groningen including the new Student Hotel, apartment rentals, or even a houseboat rental!

What’s Your Major?

Each University College in the Netherlands has a different distinguishing quality.  At UCG, their focus is maximizing the integrative aspects of their program, combining more than one area of study.  They take an interdisciplinary approach and use project-based education.  During the first year, student take core credits in Global Challenges, Research and Methodology, and Integrative Projects and Academic Skills.  The other half of the year is made up of credits from Sciences, Social Sciences, or Humanities.

Like American schools, students choose their major in the second year, after being exposed to the various fields of study. UCG has 5 majors students can choose from: Physics of Energy (which includes Applied Physics, Astronomy, Math and Industrial Engineering), Health and Life Sciences (Global Health, Immunology, Human Anatomy, Genetics, Cell Biology and Biochemistry), Cognition and Behavior (Sociology, Environmental Psychology, Biopsychology, Cognition and Decision Making), Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (International Law, Ethics, Global Economics, Political Science, Cognitive Neuroscience) and Reflecting on Culture, History and Criticism (Culture and Media, History, Religion and Diversity, Cultural Geography, International Relations, Philosophy). Students have a lot of freedom within their major.  A student with a Reflecting on Culture, History and Criticism major, for instance, can have (but isn’t required to have) a lot more variety in their courses than a student who is in a pure culture and media program. Students also have the opportunity to create their own major by combining areas of study. UCG students are also able to take courses offered by the overall university (which has 29 English conducted bachelor’s programs) which add to the possibilities and flexibility.

Integrative Projects is a required course of each of the three years, culminating in a 15 credit Capstone Project. Since this is such a key feature in the UCG approach to education, I had a lot of questions about it. The goals of integrative projects is to teach students to communicate across the disciplines, acquire scholarly knowledge, and learn useful ways to apply that knowledge.  The first year, students are given topics such as immigration or global warming and their projects include building communication and presentation skills and developing research approaches. The second year projects focus more on acquiring the scholarly knowledge through a chosen project and the third year students have to set up a project with defined goals for their Capstone Project. Some examples of the projects can be found here

There is a lot of value to having these projects continuously through the years. We already know that the classroom diversity related to the students’ country of origin adds to the educational experience. Now we are adding to that working with students with different academic focuses. Integrative projects also have students working with people who have different academic focuses. In the corporate world, multidisciplinary teams are the norm, so the students are learning skills seen as valuable by future employers. Further, many research universities have a singular research focus at the expense of applied knowledge. The integrative programs provide that applied knowledge component that is often missing.

Support for Students

Students at UCG have a lot of support. Students are assigned a faculty advisor who works with them for the entire 3 years.  The advisors and professors and even the dean serves as an advisor. The advisor helps with course planning, academic struggles, internships, and preparing for future plans.  The dean explained to me that they believe that there is an implied contract between the students and professors to complete the program in three years and faculty is committed to helping students achieve this. The close relationship between students and faculty serves as a personal support as well.  I was told about a regular Dungeons and Dragons night that a group of students and professors participate in!

One of the benefits of attending a university college is that you have the benefits of a small school experience, but also the resources of a large university.  Students at UCG can join any of the clubs of the University of Groningen and also have their own student association just for UCG students, called Caerus. This group arranges social and academic activities including parties (lots of parties), dinners,  and workshops. You can get an idea for some of the things they do on their Facebook page

Any Drawbacks?

If you are a Beyond the States member, you probably know that I look to find and report the challenges or drawbacks of the schools I visit as well.  I had trouble finding many weaknesses here. The ones I did find were pretty small in significance.  For instance, some of the other university colleges have more architecturally impressive buildings. The building at UCG is well maintained and has some wonderful features, but not to the level of some of the other schools.  That said, a new building is being built near the square and is anticipated to be complete by 2020.

The main problem is that the overall admissions department for the university is quite rigid in their interpretation of the admissions requirements set by Nuffic (the Dutch government).  American students who don’t have an IB diploma are required to have 4 AP scores of 3+ to be admitted to a Dutch research university. Nuffic allows schools to determine whether they allow substitutes for the AP tests with things like college courses.  Some schools also have a math requirement that can be met through an AP test, an ACT or SAT math score, or a math entrance exam.  Groningen University College does not allow for any of these substitutions and the math requirement must be met through an AP score. This is something that I hope they will have more flexibility around in the future, but for now, it is what it is. Please note that the University of Groningen does not have the same math requirement as the university college. The positive side of this is that the admissions requirements are totally transparent so if you don’t have the qualifications, I don’t advise applying.  I met with the Admissions Director of the UCG program and you can find more about the admissions process in this video interview.

 

Would You Like to Learn More?

UCG has some great ways to explore the program from afar. First off, their website has some really good videos that speak to students about their majors.  There’s a Day in the Life video here. They also have a virtual student for a day program where you can choose from options like webinars, talking to a current student, a Q&A about an academic program, and attending a lecture – all from the comfort of your own home!

UCG charges 12,000 Euros per year (convert to $) and is a three-year program.  Check out our cost comparison of another student we worked with who is studying at a comparably priced university college program in the Netherlands. Non-EU first-year students can apply for the 5,000 Euro Holland scholarship for their first year of study.

 

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Vesalius College: Small School Benefits in Brussels with Large School Facilities

Let me just start by saying that, though there are many parts of Belgium that I think are incredible, Brussels has never been my favorite city in Europe. That said, I have learned that the city has a tremendous amount to offer students.

The first has to do with the price. The government subsidizes public universities and I visited two schools during this visit with tuition under $3,000 per year.  Remember that these are three-year programs so you are getting your full degree for under $10,000!  The school that impressed me the most on this trip, however, is a private school.  At $12,500 per year, it is not the bargain of the Belgian public universities but still offers great savings compared to US schools, tuition at Vesalius College is less than in-state tuition at many public universities such as Michigan, Illinois, and UMass. This becomes even more apparent when you factor in the benefit of the three-year program. Not only is this a year of tuition and fees avoided – it’s also a year sooner in the workforce generating income and experience. The school also offers merit-based scholarships which provide a 50% tuition reduction.

This school is Vesalius College. It was founded in 1987 by Vrije University Brussels (VUB) and Boston University to provide English conducted bachelor’s programs that merged the best parts of the European and American approaches to education. Though Vesalius Collge is right across the street from the VUB campus and is technically part of the school, it has its own private school status and functions independently from VUB.  That means that students are able to enjoy the amenities and facilities of VUB (clubs, sports facilities, libraries, etc) without the struggles that often accompany a larger school.

Vesalius College offers bachelor’s programs in Communication Studies, Business Studies, International Affairs and International and European Law. Though they tout a liberal arts education, they are referring more to the interactive teaching style and not the broad education that involves students choosing a specialty/major after introduction to various fields. Though all of the programs have strengths, I want to focus on the International Affairs program.

The first strength that Vesalius College offers International Affairs students is the fact that their students come from 60 different countries.  Combined with the interactive teaching style, small classes (large lectures are even limited to 30 students) and group work, students are exposed firsthand to perspectives from around the world which I believe is a key component to International Affairs.

The school uses “Theory-guided, Practice Embedded and Experiential Learning”. Though it’s a mouthful, you can certainly see that it is implemented in their curriculum.  Of course, students get the theory component in the classroom.   There are some interesting and timely classes like Legal Aspects of Migration, NATO and Transatlantic Approaches to Security, and Global Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, and De-Radicalization. Students are also able to choose from a broad array of electives at partner schools which include VUB, Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, Institute of European Studies, and the Royal Music Conservatory Brussels. Unlike many other Belgian schools which base grades almost solely on final exams, courses at Vesalius College are continually assessed through projects, papers, and exams. Further, the fall semester ends in before winter break, so students don’t have to spend their holiday studying for final exams.

For the practice and experiential components, International Affairs students really benefit from the school’s location in Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union. The school has guest lecturers that include speakers from NATO, the UN, various relevant EU committee chairs and directors, ambassadors, and foreign ministers. Students must participate in a capstone project, which involves working with high-ranking diplomats on foreign policy issues and also have the option of doing internships (for academic credit) with the UN, NATO, and various embassies.

Vesalius CollegeVesalius College’s modern building is located across the street from the VUB campus and is about 20 minutes from the city center.  The school has its own cafeteria which sources many of its ingredients from organic farms and won the SMC Sustainable Seafood Certificate in 2013. Of course, as previously stated, students can also cross the street and use the large array of VUB facilities.

Coming as an international student to a foreign city can be overwhelming, so Vesalius has a number of support systems in place to smooth the transition. Though they don’t have their own student housing, the school does assist students in finding space in the student residences throughout the city.  Each student is assigned a study advisor (a professor) and a separate career advisor which speaks to the priority of educating students and also making them employable. Though student life is enjoyed with students from schools all over the city, the school has a real community feel. The small size allows the students to really get to know each other and their professors. This community feel was something I noticed when I was observing students while waiting for my meeting to start.

Students are sometimes concerned about going to a small university.  Often their concerns center on student life.  I had dinner with Jared from North Carolina and his friends Lisa (from Atlanta) and Sebastian (from Luxembourg) while I was in Brussels and this was one of our topics.  Though Jared knows Lisa from class, most of his other friends are from his student residence and attend various schools through the city. Jared and Sebastian both told me that their social life is more from their student residence and less from their academic program. Further, even when one attends a large university (like Jared at KU Leuven), the majority of their classes are held within one department so larger schools have a small school feel as well. Given that students at Vesalius College have access to all the clubs, facilities, and even classes of the larger VUB, the school size does not present limits but does provide advantages.

Preview: Next week, I will be writing more about what I learned from Jared and his friends about student life in Brussels…

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Study in Hungary: Options for International College Students in Budapest and Pecs

I arrived in Budapest to write about the options to study in Hungary for my third week of travel.  I had a long train ride without WiFi from Prague, my taxi driver overcharged me, and I had trouble checking into my Airbnb – which was a bit of a study in hungary, study in budapestdump. These factors, along with the fact that I hadn’t seen the sun for almost a week and that I was tired of Eastern European food, had made me quite grouchy for my first few days.  By the end of the week, though, the sun was out, I’d learned about some amazing programs for international students to study in Hungary, discovered langos, and finally understood the appeal of Budapest!

Budapest is split in two by the Danube River. Buda is on one side and Pest is on the other.  Most schools are on the Pest side where it is more residential with an abundance of cafes, bars, and such. In some parts of Pest, I had trouble determining whether an area was trendy or sketchy.  Turns out, most were trendy.  There are these popular things called ruin bars that are set up in abandoned buildings.  I planned to grab a pre-dinner drink in one near my apartment at the Red Ruin bar but walked in and right out, when I realized I was much too old for this crowd.

study in hungary, study in budapestThe Buda side of the River is absolutely beautiful. Of course, the benefit to staying on the Pest side is that you get to see that view every day.  I walked across the bridge to explore the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias church.  It was an incredible experience, though crowded with tourists. I’m glad I stayed on the Pest side.

Cost of living is incredibly affordable here for students wanting to study in Hungary. A train ticket without a student discount is right around $1. Most of my meals cost under $5, rooms in student residences generally cost under 200€ (convert to $) per month, and you can live large in a large nice shared apartment for under 400€ a month. The city and public transportation are easy to navigate – after just a few days I rarely had to glance at Google Maps.

The American students I spoke with in Budapest are incredibly happy with their decision to study in Hungary and their experience.  Interestingly, this is the first time in Europe for both of them and the affordability was one of the decision making factors they used. Matthew is a nontraditional student (age 39) from Washington state who decided to study in Budapest with his wife and two small children to pursue a master’s degree. Chris is a from a small town in Louisiana and attended LSU for two years before making the move to study in Budapest. Even with airfare factored in, he is paying less to study in Hungary than he was as an in-state student at LSU (Who knew LSU was $32k per year all in??).  The impetus for both Matthew and Chris was a strong desire to see the world and experience diversity.  They both appreciate the various international backgrounds of their friends and the students in their classes as well as the opportunity this diversity provides to learn different perspectives on world events and even day to day living. Chris also said that he appreciates the much smaller class sizes.  He noted that at LSU he had many classes with 800 students and no personal contact with the professor, while during his study in Hungary, most of his classes here have less than 20 students and professors are accessible in and out of class time.

Matthew and Chris attend Budapest Metropolitan University, a private university of applied science that was founded in 2001.  The school emphasizes hands-on, practical learning that leads to employment.  In fact, 86% of their graduates have employment within 5 months or graduation and 33% of those are hired where they completed their internships – a major benefit of studying in Hungary.  The school has relationships with 400 Hungarian companies and 300 international companies for internships and job placements.  The Career Center holds programs throughout the year to prepare students for employment. For instance, at the beginning of each semester students take a Career Management class. This practical training is run by various companies and helps students learn skills around project proposal, professional communication, and overall presentation.

Budapest is an interesting place to be for students in Metropolitan’s media related programs. Many American films shoot here. Students have done internships with the production companies working on films like Angels and Demons, Inferno, and a yet to be released Jennifer Lawrence movie.

The facilities at Budapest Metropolitan University are fairly typical for a university of applied science.  Though they aren’t held in architecturally impressive places like many of the older public universities, the buildings are well maintained and have modern equipment. The school has 12 English conducted bachelor’s program that are 3-4 years in duration and range from 4,200-6,000 Euros per year.

The school I am most excited to tell you about is not in Budapest, but in Pecs (pronounced “paytch”).  When I planned my visit to review options to study in Hungary, I knew I had to visit this school. Pecs is a student town, with almost 15% of the 150,000 residents attending the University of Pecs. Students and administrators note that the smaller size of the city helps students feel less overwhelmed than they would in a larger city. University buildings are not far from the city center, which holds cafes, pubs, cinemas (that show English movies with Hungarian subtitles) and other popular student destinations.  There is a brewery in town which was founded in 1848 and produces eight kinds of beer. Students can also take advantage of nearby hiking or trips to nearby Croatia.

Though Pecs is a good three-hour train ride from Budapest, it has culture on its own.  In 2010 it was named a European Cultural study in hungary, study in budapestCapital for the year and it also holds a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I had grown accustomed to seeing the Soviet influence on architecture in this part of Europe, but Pecs holds architectural influence from the Ottoman occupation in the middle ages, mostly in the form of churches which were turned into mosques and then back into churches.

The University of Pecs is the oldest university in Hungary, celebrating 650 years,  and is globally ranked. I was impressed by the number and variety of programs they offered in English for such reasonable tuition.  I was even more impressed after my visit. Pecs is a large university, with 20,000 students, but each department is self-contained with its own International Student’s Office, Student Union and more.  The buildings are spread out throughout town, but students who stay in the dorms are generally placed in the dorm close to their department.  There are easy public transportation options for students who choose to rent an apartment in town.

The university facilities are impressive and diverse. Though some are in old historic buildings and others are in modern buildings built for the university, all are well maintained with up to date classrooms and labs.  The school offers 18 English conducted bachelor’s programs and 3 integrated bachelors/masters programs in medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. The bachelor’s programs include various offerings in the fields of health sciences, business, social sciences, humanities, computer science, engineering, math, and science. Most of these programs are three years in duration and range from 3,200-6,900 Euros per year.

During my visit to Pecs, I met staff in the student residences, administrators from two different faculties, students from the medical program, and others.  What struck me in every single one of these meetings was how highly international students are valued and taken care of at the university. There is an office to help international students who study in Hungary in each of the departments, and even in the dorms. The departments offer all sorts of assistance to international students, including a group outing to get student residence permits, a course called “Providing a Soft Landing at the University and Pecs”, and a magazine for international students that is published a few times a year.  They continue to add English conducted programs that are of interest to international students and hold student focus groups to see where they can improve. The students I met with were very happy with their experience at Pecs (Members can see more about their thoughts on the General Medicine program page in the database).  When there are so many universities with good and affordable programs in Europe, a school’s approach to international students is an important factor to look at. Pecs certainly stands out in this area.

Was I this impressed with all the schools I visited?  Nope. As a matter of a fact, I visited a globally ranked school that I would not advise Americans apply to due to their attitude towards international bachelor’s students. Beyond the States members (Join now) have access to our database of all the accredited English conducted bachelor’s degree programs in non-anglophone Europe.  Many listings have a “Jenn Says” section that contains all the information – positive and negative – that I learn when visiting schools.

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Prague: Universities & Colleges for International Students

prague universities, prague study, study in prague, study in english in prague, czech universities, czech colleges, prague colleges, prague universities in english, prague universities, studying in czech republic in english, study in czech republic for international studentsBefore visiting Prague universities for Beyond the States, our international travel destinations were determined by an interesting food scene or visiting family overseas.  Those criteria prevented me from getting to Prague in the Czech Republic earlier, a fact I truly regret. Prague is seriously one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to study abroad – even in the dead of winter. One thing that I liked about it is that you could see and appreciate the architecture throughout the city without going into the touristy areas.

Prague Castle is worth checking out, but what I really enjoyed was the Museum of Miniatures that I learned about in the Atlas Obscura. This is actually a small room that has micro miniatures which you view through mprague universities, prague study, study in prague, study in english in prague, czech universities, czech colleges, prague colleges, prague universities in english, prague universities, studying in czech republic in english, study in czech republic for international studentsicroscopes.  I’m already a sucker for miniatures so I was all about this! Micro-miniaturist Anatolij Konenko created the collection which includes a caravan inside the eye of a needle, a flea with tiny horseshoes and a replica of Swan Lake on a poppy seed-a poppy seed!! There is also a sailboat on a mosquito wing, golden horseshoes on a flea, and the Lord’s Prayer written on a hair.  If only they had a small gift shop…

Prague felt very livable to me. One factor I look at when assessing livability is the accessibility of modern day conveniences. I’ve stayed in some cities where I have walked endlessly just to find a place to buy bandaids.  Supermarkets, convenience stores, and drug stores were easily found in all the neighborhoods I visited in Prague. Other services, like places to exercise or nail salons, were also easy to get to. The city is fairly compact and walkable,  but also with good public transportation. I felt safe everywhere I visited throughout the city and learned that the Czech Republic is actually the 6th safest country in the world just ahead of Switzerland and far ahead of the US which ranks 103rd out of 162.

As I noted in our last blog, I do wish I had paid more attention to current events in high school, particularly those that related to the Cold War (1947-1991). The owners of my Airbnb were a hip young couple in their 30s.  Matej picked me up from the airport and during the drive back told me about his own memories of the time.  His dad was in a band and had to flee the country in the 80s, as he was going to be imprisoned for playing Led Zeppelin songs.  Matej remembers waiting in long lines for simple things like toilet paper to be rationed. He also recalled the excitement through the country after the largely peaceful Velvet Revolution, the period of upheaval and transition, that took place from November 17 to December 29, 1989.

Anglo-American University: Affordable with Small Class Size

prague universities, prague study, study in prague, study in english in prague, czech universities, czech colleges, prague colleges, prague universities in english, prague universities, studying in czech republic in english, study in czech republic for international studentsOne of the Prague universities I want to tell you about is Anglo-American University. As in Poland, private schools only came into existence after the end of the Cold War. Though AAU is a fairly young school, in terms of Prague universities, founded in 1990, it is the oldest private institution of higher education in the Czech Republic. There are a number of schools throughout Europe that are accredited by US agencies and they use that as a way to charge American-sized tuition.  One of the many benefits of college in Europe is the affordability, so I tend not to give those schools much attention.  Anglo-American University interested me as all of their programs are English conducted, they tout an American style of teaching, and they have WASC accreditation, an agency that also accredits schools like Stanford University. Despite all of that, their tuition is incredibly reasonable at under 4,500 euros (currency conversion) per year – making AAU a Prague university value!

The facilities at AAU are incredible.  They recently moved to a location in a great part of the city near the Prague Castle. It’s a historic building that they renovated for school use.  I can’t even begin to tell you how beautiful it is, so it’s worth checking out here. Be sure to look at the computer lab!

AAU has seven bachelor’s degree programs (all of their programs are conducted in English). Like most schools in Europe, students apply to an actual program but since there are a lot of electives students can generally do an internal transfer to switch programs after the first year.  AAU prides itself on small class size (max of 25 students), interactive group work and class discussions. The small student body does not mean that students have a limited choice of classes.  Over 200 courses are generally offered each semester. Some of the classes sound really cool as well.  Isn’t it a great time in our world to take a Psychology of Aggression course?  There is also a class about NATO in which different NATO representatives give virtual lectures throughout the semester.

The small student body allows students and professors to get to know each other and professors are accessible to students inside and outside of class.  The small school size presents less potential social issues than in the US.  While there are a number of ways to get involved socially at AAU, staying in a student residence opens up your opportunity to experience student life in Prague as a whole.

Charles: A Prague University with Liberal Arts

On the other end of the school size spectrum in Prague universities is Charles University.  Charles University is enormous with locations all around Prague. Charles University was founded in 1348, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. There are 52,000 students at the school and the school is globally ranked. Liberal Arts programs appeal to a lot of US students partly because it’s what we are familiar with and partly because many students don’t know what they want to study when applying to college.  Most of the liberal arts options are in the Netherlands, which have a 4 AP requirement, so I was interested in learning about the option offered at Charles University.

The Liberal Arts program at Charles University is fairly new. It started in 2012 and has about 45 students per class.  Though it is called Liberal Arts, after learning about it, I think it’s more similar to the integrated programs like the Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) or Philosophy, Politics, Law & Economics (PPLE) programs offered at many schools.  Of course, integrated programs are also a great option for students who aren’t sure what they want to study or can’t decide on just a single area of study. During the first year, students take introductory courses in European History, Anthropology, Economics, Psychology, and Sociology.  They also have four different small seminars and choices for electives. Electives account for more than a third of the required credits, so it is here that students can focus on their areas of interest within the disciplines.

Comprehensive exams account for 40 of the 180 total credits.  These are not formal classes, but independent work that is done through the semester (during the 2nd and 3rd year) preparing for the exam.  Students are required to take comprehensive exams in four different subjects.  For each of these, they choose a set number of books to read off of a list (usually they choose 12).  They then give a presentation and have an oral exam about the reading they did.  Needless to say, this requires that the student is independent with good time management and study skills.  The programs end with a bachelor’s thesis, another opportunity for the student to focus on their specific area of interest.

This department is about 20 minutes on the metro from the city center, in a less picturesque area of Prague. Large universities sometimes concern me as getting through bureaucratic levels in one’s own language can be a headache enough without throwing language barriers in the mix.  However, students take the majority of their classes within the department and the International Students Office and Student Administration Office within the department can meet most of the students’ needs.

Summary of Prague Universities

If you’re interested in studying in the Czech Republic in English, there are 45 English conducted bachelor’s programs in the country, 32 of which are at Prague universities.  The average tuition in the Czech Republic is just €4,260 (convert to $). Prague universities provide great options for students who want to take advantage of the affordable tuition of Eastern Europe while living in a livable and beautiful city.  I have to tell you, I’m actually glad that I’m not a big fan of the heavy meat-based Czech foods otherwise I would have had trouble leaving!

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Study in Poland for Affordable, Outstanding College and University Options

Before we get to the options to study in Poland, I need to set the scene of my visit there. This trip to Eastern Europe is really making me regret not paying more attention in high school history classes.  The end of the Cold War was even a current event when I was in high school, that I was largely oblivious too. I do remember being afraid of Russia in elementary school, but I think that was because they were often portrayed as villains on Wonder Woman.  In many European cities, you can feel the history through the beautiful architecture.  Not so much the case in Warsaw.  I didn’t realize that over 85% of the city center was destroyed in WWII. The Soviet Union liberated Poland from the occupation by German forces in 1944 and then took over and installed a Communist government which ruled until 1990. One neighborhood in the city center, Old Town, was meticulously rebuilt after the war to look like it did in the 1800’s. Walkistudy in poland, Poland universities, study medicine in Polandng through Old Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage site is pretty wild.  It looks like it was built in the over 200 years ago when in fact it was built in the 1950’s-and the Royal Palace wasn’t completed until the 1980’s!  This is a very small part of Warsaw, one that you aren’t likely to spend much time in as a student, other than to show visiting friends and family the town. The rest of the city has the drab architecture that reminds me of the public housing projects in my hometown of Chicago. In many areas, Warsaw lacks the European charm I find in so many other cities.

Kozminski University: A Rising Star

I’ve learned that the inside of a building in Warsaw is often much more impressive than the exterior.  The building of my Airbnb looked quite dumpy from the exterior even through the entryway and stairways.  The inside held one of the nicest and most modern Airbnb’s I’ve stayed in. The same can be said for Kozminski University. The building was bought, not built, by the University in 1993 so the outside does not look particularly impressive. The facilities inside, however, are modern and well maintained. Kozminski is unique in that all of their facilities are on one campus and are quite extensive, including a sports hall, two sports fields, a gym, post office, ATM machines, four cafeterias, multiple computer labs, a modern library and a simulation courtroom for law students. The campus is about 20 minutes from the city center but is right across the street from a tram line that connects directly to the city center and a monthly transit pass costs only about $25 (and even less for students)!

So let me back up for a minute back to the impact of Communist rule. Privatization was prohibited until after the Cold War ended in 1989, so all of the private universities in Poland are still quite new. Kozminski was founded in just 1993, so it is especially impressive is that they hold the study in poland, Poland universities, study medicine in Polandprestigious “triple crown” accreditation and has very high ratings from the Financial Times.  Their tuition, at around $4,000 a year, is an unheard of bargain for those of us familiar with the astronomical US prices but is thought of as high for Poland, so Kozminski recognizes that they need to provide high-end value and student satisfaction.  To that end, they focus on combining practice with theory and also developing relationships with companies around the globe that provide their students with employment, internships, lectures, and workshops.  Some of the companies they have strong relationships with include Accenture, Deloitte, Loreal, and 3M. Recruitment events occur throughout the year, with some that focus on bringing in employers from one specific country at a time. They also have an entrepreneurial program called Grow Point, in which mentors from various companies help students turn their business ideas into successful ventures.  An impressive 90% of their graduates find work within 90 days of graduation!

Kozminski has three different English conducted bachelor’s programs which are all three years in duration.  There is a program in Finance and Accounting, one in Management (with specialization choices of Entrepreneurship, Marketing, or International Management made after the first year) and a Management with Professional Placement program.  This is a double degree program with DHBW in Germany.  Students study in Poland their 1st and 3rd year at Kozminski and their 2nd year at DHBW.  Summers are spent doing paid work for the companies who actually make the admissions decisions! There are two other double degree programs (one with the European Business School in Germany and one with KEDGE in France), but students don’t apply for these until they study in Poland for their first year.

Classes are a mixture of lectures, seminars, group work and case studies.  Most classes have both graded work through the semester in addition to a final exam, which students are able to retake if they don’t pass. Polish law requires all students to complete a three-week minimum internship, though most Kozminski students intern for at least a semester. The small school size of 8,000 allows smaller class sizes (usually around 30) and access outside of class time to professors.

The admissions process for international students is quite simple.  Students do need to have their high school studies completed at the time of application, but the admissions period does not even open until May and continues through August, which should allow for students to attend in the fall after their senior year.  No entrance exam is needed, students complete an online application and upload their documents. Students generally receive an admissions decision within 10 days.

About half of the programs at Kozminski are conducted in English and 70% of the students in the English conducted programs are international students from 70 different countries, which makes Kozminski the most internationalized school in Poland. Though English is widely spoken at Kozminski, students may choose to take Polish as a second language (with other language options provided as well). The Student Services department helps incoming students find housing. Kozminski does not provide housing and most students choose to stay in apartments while they study in Poland which range from 200-300 Euros per month. Kozminski holds a one-week orientation program before school begins and international students can participate in a buddy program.  Both Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and the Student Council arrange social events like parties and trips throughout the year.  As in most European colleges, student life extends outside of the university into the city far more than it does in US schools.  International students at Kozminski have put together a blog which gives great insight into the student life in Warsaw.

University of Warsaw: A Public Value

I wondered about the international student experience at a large public university. With more than 58,000 students, the University of Warsaw is larger than every US university, but one (Ohio State). It is globally ranked and offers seven English conducted bachelor’s programs including American Studies, Archaeology, English Studies, Finance, Accounting,  Internal Security, International Relations, and Philosophy of Being, Cognition, and Value.  Tuition for these programs ranges from 2,000-3,000 Euros per year and each one is just three years in duration.

For a firsthand perspective, I met with Josh D., a former US Marine from Florida who now studies International Relations at the university.  His first international exposure came during his years of overseas duty. His posting to the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (Marines provide security at embassies around the world) really increased his interest in higher education and stoked a desire for continued international experiences.  He also met his study in poland, Poland universities, study medicine in Polandnow-wife while serving at the US Embassy in Warsaw.  Josh’s studies are financed through the GI Bill which, until now, I didn’t realize could be used to fund college in Europe (more info here)!  The Polish conducted programs are free, so the English conducted programs are seen as the university cash cow.  Josh dispelled my images of crowded lectures and no contact with professors. His program is the largest English conducted program at the university and has only 300 students in total.  Students take courses with other students in their same year.  Josh is in his second year which has only 70 other students.  For most of his classes, the 70 students are split into three groups of just over 20 students each, though there are a few lecture courses that they all attend together.  The groupings also provide some flexibility for students.  If a student has to miss a class with their group on one day, they can go to the other groups class the next day.  Josh said that the professors are very accessible and encourage students to interact in class, during office hours, and through email. Josh told me that the international office handles any issues international students have, so students don’t have many struggles with the non-English speaking offices within the university.  The size of the university does cause some bureaucratic headaches, for instance, it took the school six months to reimburse Josh for a trip he had funding for.  Josh echoed what I hear from American students throughout Europe-that he is incredibly happy with his decision to study in Poland and that the impact of having the perspectives from students with tremendously different backgrounds is life changing.

Study in Poland Summary

Are all schools in Warsaw as impressive as the two I’ve written about in this blog? Nope. One of the many benefits Beyond the States members gain is access to objective information I provide in our database about schools I visit – even when that information is negative.  This trip did make me wonder why more students don’t study in Poland.  A lot of students use our Best Fit Program service in which they fill out information about their interests, preferences, qualifications, etc and then I compile a short list of programs I think they should look at. Many students say that they are open to suggestions in any country. Other students request a number of specific countries. I have yet to see a form that requests an option to study in Poland.  Why is that, I wonder? There are some excellent opportunities here at incredible prices. Further, the cost of living is incredibly affordable.  Almost every purchase I made while I was here was under $10 and meals out with wine were under $15. While Warsaw is not the most picturesque city in Europe, there are other cities that did not suffer the same destruction during WWII that appear to have more of the Old World charm (if that is a deal breaker for you). If you are looking for high-quality programs at an unbelievable value, consider your options to study in Poland.