|

Student Ambassador Experience-Andrea in Utrecht

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.

 

 

|

Is Free Tuition the Most Affordable Option?

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 would love to help you find life-changing opportunities within your budget! Use coupon code “affordable” through March 7th to save 20% on the Choosing A University Course or your first month of bachelor’s or master’s membership.

***Our master’s membership includes webinars that walk students through the same process.

|

The Ups and Downs of Expat Life

A few months after we moved to Portugal, I saw a post in a Facebook expat group that made me laugh. A person was planing their move to Portugal and trying to figure out what they should bring with them and what they could wait and get after the move here. Their question was “what have you had trouble finding in Portugal”. One of the answers was “A sense of urgency”.  This response seriously cracked me up! Others though took offense and criticized the person for not appreciating life in Portugal.

I have to tell you-living abroad can be hard! I’m sometimes reluctant to talk about the struggles, for fear that it implies that we regret moving abroad (which we don’t) or that we don’t appreciate the country that we live in (which we do).  I strive to be real, open, and honest in my posts (though I do clean up my potty mouth…). Since our students have many of the same experiences, I want to share some of the struggles with you.

We sold our house, got rid of many of our belongings, and moved into an apartment nine months before leaving the US. This helped us adjust to less living space before moving here.  That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it sometimes though! Watching TV shows and seeing “typical” American houses is usually the trigger.  Yes, I miss my big, organized, and modern American kitchen.  I also miss central heat/air and spacious master bathrooms.  And I really miss being able to run more than one appliance at the same time without blowing a fuse. Other than that, I miss consumer related conveniences like good customer service, ordering food online from around the country from Goldbelly,  the abundance of resources to easily purchase anything I need (or want), and things being delivered to my door soon after I hit the “order” button on my computer.  Of course, we miss friends and family, but Facetime helps us stay connected. In fact, I “see” one of my closest friends more now on our scheduled Facetime calls than I did when living in the US.  Other than family and friends, most of the things I miss are fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things and have actually helped me gain some awareness about myself. For instance, I don’t want consumerism to be such an important part of my life, so the realizations around this help me to work on that.

More than missing things though, the hard part of living abroad is just how much effort is required for regular task of life.  This includes things like: figuring out whether your landlord is taking advantage of your lack of knowledge about renter’s rights-and knowing what to do when they are, asking for help finding an item in the grocery store, figuring out which milk is skim/low fat/whole, finding a dentist and doctor, and figuring out how to make an appointment with that doctor when the phone prompt options are not in English. Then there are things that are a pain even in your home country, but doing so abroad adds an additional degree of difficulty.  Calling utility companies, opening up a bank account, and figuring out what cell phone package to choose can take a lot of brain power! Bureaucratic systems can be another source of headaches, particularly in the early days when sorting out residence permits, trading in drivers license and such are required. And don’t even get me started on learning the metric system! I feel like I have to hold so much extra information in my head every time I leave the house-from how to convert kilometers to miles when I’m driving or kilograms to pounds when shopping, to the tax number they ask for every time I make a purchase, to how to say certain phrases, to remember the rules of the traffic circles. It can be really exhausting!

Despite the difficulties, I do not regret our decision to move one little bit! I love that my daily walks include an ocean view. I love exploring new types of shellfish, wines, and cheeses. I love the affordable cost of living-and that health care is also included in that affordability. I love the community we’ve started to build. I love that eventually, we will be able to easily explore other parts of Europe. I love that there is a five year path to citizenship, which will open up the possibility to live throughout the EU. More than anything, I love the feeling of accomplishment that came with following through on a dream.

What really blows my mind is when I think about our students experiencing these same struggles and benefits. As a middle-aged woman, I have significant life experiences that helped me through difficult tasks. The fact that they are handling these situations without those life experiences is truly incredible. Sam had to go to the embassy four times before he had all the documents in place to get his passport renewed. It was a pain, but what a learning experience around both bureaucracies and attention to detail! Our students also have to deal with difficult landlords, getting residence permits, grocery shopping, and the like. They would not have had this set of challenges had they attended universities in the US. And you know what? These difficult experiences lead to tremendous growth! Accomplishing these tasks gives them confidence in their abilities. They also realize that if they successfully manage the logistics involved with living in one foreign country, then they can also do so in just about any other country. They see the world as a place that is open to them. This is a realization I have had since we’ve moved also and I can only imagine the impact it would have had on my life if I learned this as a young adult!

I often talk about how college in Europe provides life-changing experiences. This confidence and new perspectives about one’s place in the world is absolutely part of that. Though I love learning about the experiences our members have while studying in Europe, I’m also super excited to see how their lives are impacted in the years after they finish their studies.

 

 

 

|

Great Options for Studying Abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

|

Wrapping My Head Around Problem Based Learning

I’ve received several emails since my last blog asking about Sam’s program at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Just like the full university name (I’ve been told that Erasmus University is not accurate, without the Rotterdam at the end…), the program name is also a mouthful. Sam is in the Management of International Social Challenges program.  Students in this program learn about international problems that are multidisciplinary in nature. These include issues like “migration, pandemics, terrorism, climate change, economic stability, international crime”, and more. Students learn to look at and analyze these issues through the lens of a variety of disciplines, including sociology, economics, political science, management, international law, and public policy.

 

As I mentioned in my last blog, one of the standout features of this program is it’s use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL).  This is an educational approach used at a few Dutch universities. Maastricht University, for instance, uses it for all their programs while EUR uses it for just a few of their programs. This approach, along with the block schedule, has impacted Sam’s education experience in tremendous ways!

Maastricht in particular has loads of info on PBL, which is where I first learned about it.  There are a lot of phrases describing it that I feel strongly about…. Things like critical thinking, understanding not memorizing subject matter, public speaking, relevancy, active learning, self-direction, collective learning. I understood that the approach has these values/goals that I think are important in education (and in life!) and I understood that these goals are achieved through small group sessions that are structured in a systematic way, but I couldn’t really wrap my head. Luckily, I’ve been about to pick Sam’s brain and look at some of his course material to get a deeper understanding. I thought it might be helpful to go through an actual example to demonstrate how it works.

Sam has two classes during each of the five week blocks. One is an academic skills classes and the other is specific to the social challenges issue. The first two blocks were for the Globalization and Society class, with block one focused on culture and society and block two focused on politics and economics.  He has one lecture each week for Globalization and Society. In addition, he has one discussion group and two PBL groups each week for the course.

Sam’s PBL sessions are made up of ten students, and the group is the same for the entire five week block. While the weekly course discussion sessions allow students to become familiar with others, these intense sessions allow them to really start to get to know each other as work continues outside of the sessions as well.

Each PBL session has a “problem” assigned, though I think of it more as a topic that students that students then identify problems around. For instance, problems for the first block included things like Globalization and Crime, Cultural Identity, Migration, Ancestral Homelands and Global versus Local. There are certain facts, research findings, or questions that students are provided with, but that is all they come into the session with.

PBL sessions use a step by step process to explore that particular topic/problem. First, the tutor assigns a scribe and a chair for the session. The chair leads the session and the scribe takes extensive notes that the students have access to. Other than that, the tutor’s only role is to get the discussion back on track (if needed), assign breaks, and provide participation grades.

The problem I will use for this example is from the second block. The topic for the week was around whether globalization improves of worsens inequality. The basis for each side of the argument was presented and the goal of the session was to look at different countries (which were assigned) and determine whether globalization improved or worsened inequality in that particular country.

The first step in the process involves discussing the assigned topic, making sure everyone understands it, and defining any unfamiliar terms.  In this group, there were no unfamiliar terms and students progressed quickly to the second step.

The second step involves defining the actual problem and identifying the questions that they need to answer in the process. This step is not about answering these questions, just identifying them. Sam’s group came up with questions like:

  • What is inequality?
  • Does inequality increase with the progression of globalization?
  • Does economic growth lead to inequality?
  • Which countries are negatively and positively affected by globalization?
  • Does inequality increase with the progression of globalization?

The next step in the session is brainstorming around the questions they just came up with and the factors that play into the problem. For this session, students first came up with a rough definition of inequality to use. They then looked at different variables regarding each of the countries assigned.  They looked at when poverty began increasing or decreasing in each of the countries, they looked at education changes in each of the countries, and several other factors including equality, GDP and life expectancy. They also discussed relevant factors like the Lorenz Curve and Gini Coefficient.

The next step is problem analysis, which is primarily about structuring the information from the brainstorming session. This leads to the final step of this session, which is formulating learning objectives.  Students in this session realized that further learning was needed around two key questions.

  • How do we measure inequality?
  • What factors lead to inequality?

In between the PBL sessions, students complete the next PBL step which is to work independently on these questions, using the course texts and other identified material and come back to the next session with the information they gathered.   So, in fact, the first half of each PBL session is actually a discussion of the previous topic. Students go around the group and talk about their findings, citing their sources and discussing the findings before moving on to the steps noted above for the next assigned problem.

There is just so much I love about this process. As a former therapist, I spent many sessions teaching teens, parents, and spouses effective communication skills. Part of the PBL process teaches students to debate their differences of opinion in respectful and elicit meaningful discussion. If only every college aged student could learn those skills!

The academic skills classes that students take each block also tie into the skills they’ll use in PBL sessions (many of which are also useful in life as well). In addition to the more basic skills classes they take in the beginning, they also have skills classes in Research Design, Literature Review, SPSS, Interviewing, Argumentative Writing, Presenting, Negotiating, Professional Conduct, and Data Analysis.

Finally, I really love how this engages the student in the learning process. It’s not just about going and reading the assigned text between classes. It’s about active study strategies, critical thinking, applying theory to relevant real world issues, and doing your part as a member of a group. Learning to learn is such an important piece of being a student.  I think this structure provides students with the skills and resources needed to effective learners as students and-just as importantly-how to apply those skills to their lives beyond.

 

 

|

Internationalization: Who Benefits?

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

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

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

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

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

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

|

Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Knowing Your Area of Study

One of the biggest differences in applying to universities in Europe is that you are applying to a specific program, as opposed to applying to just the overall university. This is basically like declaring your major ahead of time and since there generally aren’t any university-wide core requirements, switching majors/programs often means starting over. Don’t stop reading this based on that fact! This doesn’t mean that you are stuck studying only one thing. This doesn’t mean that you must know exactly what you want to study. And this doesn’t mean you have to know what you want your career path to be!

Now, if a student does know exactly what they want to study, there are plenty of programs that focus on that area from day one. Many students appreciate that they can focus on their area of interest from day one, without having unrelated required courses. What appeals to even more students, though, are the multidisciplinary program options. The Dutch have been far ahead of other European countries about this type of English-taught educational offerings. Their universities have not only the largest number of English-taught programs, but also include liberal arts programs and many multidisciplinary options. I’m starting to see this in more and more other countries and today will focus on these types of program options in other European countries.

Vrije University, in Brussels, offers a Social Sciences program. It takes three years to complete and tuition is 3850 euros per year. The first two years provide the broad and diverse knowledge that so many students want. The first year of the program includes classes in sociology, political sciences, and communication studies. The second year seeks to interweave the three disciplines also teaches students to use critical thought in these areas. The thirds year allows for customization as students choose to specialize-like choosing a major in one of these three areas.

The Global Humanities program at the University of Sapienza, in Rome, allows for customization from the very first year! Students take 1-2 required courses each year, and the rest are courses they choose from different categories. The categories themselves are broad and include history, the arts, sociology, anthropology, economics, law, psychology, theology, and international studies. Course option goes beyond basic intro courses with options like
Environmental Law, Gender Economics, Law and Literature, Sociology of Media and Culture, Indo-Tibetan Studies, Global Health, Japanese Narratives, and Human Rights, Classical Archaeology, Latin Literature Medieval Art, and Contemporary History. And there is just a small selection of the offerings! The program takes three years to complete. Tuition at public universities in Italy is like a sliding scale, based on family income, and 2821 euros per year is the maximum annual tuition charge for this program.

Global Studies and International Studies type programs are a popular multidisciplinary program type for students with diverse interests around social sciences and cultures. The the University of Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, offers a three year Global Studies program that costs 6800 euros per year. The premise is that in order to develop a comprehensive view or world issues, students must look at the problems through the lens of different fields. Students take required courses in data analysis, global history, global communication, research methods, finance, economics, international relations, law, sustainability, cultural studies, business, and politics. They are required to learn another language and take electives focused on global issues as well as those that pertain to a region of their choosing.

Students who love math and science can consider the Science program at the the University of Helsinki. All students take courses in math, computer/data science, physics, and chemistry during the first year, and then they choose one of the four areas to focus on. Students can choose to combine more than one track and/or can take electives from the different tracks as well. The program takes three years to complete and costs 13000 per year.

Though it’s structured differently than in the US, students in Europe are still able to explore varied academic interests. Even those students who choose a more specific area of study can pursue interests outside of their program through the semester that is set aside for electives during study abroad. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the system in the US, just different, and the same goals can be achieved.

The options on this list represent just a few of the great options. My visits to schools and research did for other best-fit lists and such have helped me identify many more-including several programs that aren’t obviously multidisciplinary from the title name. I would love to help you find great options that fit your interests too! Act now and receive one-month free membership with your purchase of a best-fit list. There is no long term commitment for membership, simply cancel within the membership portal 7 days before your next billing date and you will not be charged again!

|

“How Can I Transfer to a University in Europe?”

I’ve been getting a lot of emails from college students in the US these days. Whether it’s due to the political climate in the US, frustration with how their universities (or fellow students) handled the pandemic, or seeing ROI issues around US higher education first hand, these students are seeking alternatives. Some have a year or more of college credits and others are working on their associate’s degree. The question I’m getting from these students is “How do I transfer to a university in Europe?” I wish I had a concise answer, but it takes a bit of explaining and the complications are often due to the differences between the systems.

One of the main differences around bachelor’s degree programs in Europe is that you choose your field of study from the get go and apply to a specific program (like your major) at a university. There aren’t a set of gen-ed requirements for all of the bachelor’s students at a university. Your course requirements are specific to the program you are in. Because International Relations is a popular program choice, let’s look at the course requirements for the International Relations and International Organizations program at the University of Groningen.

The first year of study, students take History of International Relations, International Politics, International and European Law, Academic Skills, Statistics for International Relations, International Organizations, Economics, International Organization, and Political Science. You also start taking a language, with choices for Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, French, or German. You have a variety of course topics, but they are cohesive and in some way related to the program objectives.

You don’t see life or natural science classes on the list of first year courses. Nor do you see philosophy or english comp. These are the types of courses, though, that most students at US universities take during the first year. Since there aren’t these types of gen-ed requirements, the courses would not transfer. Maybe you did have an intro course to International Relations. The university will have to determine, after you get in, if it’s a 100 level course at a US university is comparable in content to their course (and it very well may not be, depending on the country).

You might be wondering whether your gen-ed courses could transfer as electives. The issue is that the courses are structured for each year of the program. Groningen, like many other universities, sets the first semester of the third year aside for a semester abroad, which is when students take electives. Since some programs require or encourage students to study abroad, particularly when the content is international in nature, you would still need to (and probably would want to) take part in that semester. Further, even if the credits are applied to that semester, you won’t graduate early since you have course requirements to complete in the second half of that final year.

Don’t let this discourage you! Let’s look at why this isn’t all horrible news!

First of all, your credits can be used to open up even more opportunities for you in Europe! There are about 350 of the 1900+ programs that require US applicants to have more than just a high school diploma to apply. These requirements can be met with an IB diploma, a certain number of AP scores (usually 3-4 scores of 3+), a year of college credit (not from a community college) or an associate’s degree. If you didn’t got the AP or IB route in high school, you are now apply to these 350 programs! Further, if you have two years of college credit or an Associate’s degree, you can apply to schools in Germany (which has free tuition for international students at most public universities).

Further, as mentioned earlier, most bachelor’s degree programs in Europe take only 3 years to complete. If you spent a year studying in the US, you will still be graduating in 4 years if you finish your degree in Europe. Further, you are likely to spend less than your would on tuition in the US, since the average tuition of bachelor’s degrees in our database is about $7300 per year, with hundreds of options under $4000 per year.

It’s still a good deal if you have two years of credits. Let’s look at the math around this. The average in-state tuition for flagship universities in the US is $11,849 per year. Using this number, after two years of credits in the US, you have $24968 left in your tuition budget. Even if you have to participate in the entire duration of the study program, there are 965 options in our database that fall within that tuition budget!

That said, your credits generally will transfer to the American universities in Europe. There are some really strong and affordable options in this category. McDaniel College in Budapest and Anglo American University in Prague are great options. There are other American schools in Europe that come with an American size price tag. Further, these schools often cater more to semester abroad students than full degree students. The academic and social needs of these groups are very different, so an emphasis on the semester abroad students can effect the experience of full degree students. This isn’t the case for all of the American schools, but something to assess if you choose to go that route.

I encourage students not to limit their choices to just those that will take their credits. You may miss out on some amazing opportunities that are within your budget if you limit yourself to just those that accept the credits. Come up with your overall tuition budget for the rest of your degree, like in the example above and work backwards from there. Yes, it may take you an additional year to finish, but that is one more year you get to spend living in Europe!

Have you taken advantage of our our Back to School Special? Join Beyond the States now and receive access to both the Choosing A Major in Europe and Choosing a University in Europe self paced classes. The regular non-member price for these courses is $75 each. Join now and the courses will be unlocked and waiting for you in the portal-at no additional cost!

|

Why Not Ireland?

If I’m on Facebook and see an ad for shoes, for example, I might click and see if they offer blue shoes.  If they don’t, I will scroll on. It would never occur to me to demand in the comments that this company carry blue shoes or make accusations about their motives in not carrying blue shoes.  MAYBE, I would send them a private message saying “Hey-I really like blue shoes. Please let me know if you ever start carrying them.”, but it’s much more likely that I would just keep scrolling through my feed and carry on with my day.

This is not the case for many people! The things people will post on Facebook always amazes me and it really seems worse these days! We have a post on Facebook right now that uses the map image. Many of you have already seen this. It’s one of my favorite images as it really demonstrates the number of options and the incredible tuition for the universities/programs we have information on.

So, there is one person, I’ll call her Susan (not her real name), who saw the post and posted several comments on the fact that we don’t include the UK. This included an accusation of “Eu petulance”. She also declared that she “believes that  US students should be given choice to make those decisions” around UK universities. She also stated that she finds it finds it “irritating that an organization such as this should actively omit the UK and not give US students the choice. Unless of course they are funded by the EU, which they should declare.”  Funded by the EU? That made me laugh given that we don’t even take money from any of the universities in order to maintain our objectivity.

After I responded to her claims more than once explaining our stance she backpedalled a bit. She did maintain that she “ cannot accept that you found not a single university in the UK which you deemed suitable, and so (in my opinion) it calls into question the criteria by which you are selecting.”  You guys….she posted nine comments like this!

We generally say that our focus is continental Europe, it’s less of a mouthful than “non-anglophone countries in Europe”, but it’s not really accurate since we include Iceland and Cyprus.  With Brexit becoming official in January, I wondered if we should add Ireland, so we could just say that we include information about the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in EU/EEA countries. I know that there are wonderful schools in Ireland and decided to start by exploring tuition. We did this five years ago, but I thought it might be a good time to revisit this. If tuition was comparable to those in the other countries we list, I would consider adding the country to the database.

Right now, the countries with the highest averages in our database are Denmark, Sweden, France and Switzerland.  The average for the English-taught programs in these countries range from $13075-13470 per year.  I’m comfortable with this number, given that most of the programs in this countries are 3 years in duration which makes them comparable to 4 year programs that are $11,625. The average in-state tuition for flagship universities in the US is $11,849 per year so even universities in these countries with more expensive programs give options to students working with an in-state tuition.

Further, there are a few things to know about the programs in these more expensive countries. The averages in France and Switzerland are pulled up by very expensive American universities that are there. If you look at the programs in any of these four countries (excluding those at American schools), then you find a great percentage under 10,000 euros a year. Not only are there 16  programs under 10,000 a year in Switzerland, but 11 of those are under 2 k a year! As I said before, most of the programs in these 4 countries are just 3 years in duration, which further adds to the savings.

So these countries provided the financial criteria I was looking for in Ireland.  I was looking for an average of no more than 14000 euros per year, though I was open to going up to 15,000 if the duration of most programs was three years. I wanted at least 25% of the programs to be under 10,000 euros per year.

Let me preface my findings with a few things. First of all, there are wonderful options in Ireland-and in many other parts of the world, too. My intention is not to discourage anyone from exploring those options, just to explain the process we go through when we are deciding to add countries to our resources.  The other thing to note is that we did not look at the tuition for every university in Ireland. We started with the public universities, which are the most reputable, to gather enough numbers to make generalizations with.

We looked at 12 public universities and, while most schools had a huge range in tuition for each of their programs, the numbers I saw most frequently were in the 16-20,000 euros range.  Remember this is $18,230-22,846 per year and the majority were four year programs.  There was only one school on this list of 12 that offered tuition under 10000 euros per year. Now, this is still much less expensive when compared to tuition for out of state or private universities in the US but, as I suspected, it did not offer the level of affordability that those in continental Europe do.  I mean, we just talked about the most expensive countries in continental Europe, but there are others countries offering programs  at the other end of the tuition spectrum too. In fact, eleven of the countries we list have an average tuition of less than 6000 euros per year!

The more I thought about it, the more I felt confident in our decision to focus on non-anglophone Europe-no matter what the Susan’s of the world think about it! The core reason that we don’t include the UK and Ireland is because they are anglophone countries. I started Beyond the States to fill a gap I saw. There simply was not a single source of objective information about the options in non-anglophone countries and many people didn’t even know they existed. The options in anglophone countries are simply easier to navigate and there are abundant resources with information and services about universities in the UK and Ireland.   The fact that they don’t offer the level of affordability as provided by universities in continental Europe is secondary.

Bottom line, there are incredible options throughout all of the world. These includes universities Canada, the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore. Though I’d love a reason to visit all of these places, I don’t think it’s aligned with our focus area. Students moving outside of the US and exploring the world during their studies is so exciting to me-no matter what part of the world they do this in. I really believe that it benefits them as individuals as well as the world as whole!  If you are interested in doing so in the non-anglophone countries in the EEA/EU, we would love to help!