Beyond The States
Beyond The States
Following Ellie's Path to a European College

Jenn has an interesting announcement about the upcoming podcast interviews around studying and living abroad with some of the top-selling book authors on that matter. William Deresiewisz, Jeffrey Selingo, and Tim Leffel are unquestionably inspiring guests and Jenn is more than excited to talk to them! For now, you can check out their books, which you can find in the episode links below! 

“I want to allow her to go through this process and make a choice that is best for her, but she needs to first gain insight into how to determine what is best for her. “ Jenn

Today’s episode is a bit different as Jenn provides first-hand information on how pursuing the options in Europe can look from start to finish, in a deeper way; a case study. There is nobody Jenn knows better in the world than her daughter Ellie. Hence, we will find out how she chose her areas of study, how she decided on a school, all about the requirements for admission, and a surprising request Ellie has made which may change everything!

Podcast Transcript –

Intro: You’re listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.

Jenn Viemont: Thanks for joining me today. I want to tell you a little bit about some of the interviews we have coming up. Some really interesting ones that I’ve been rereading books, preparing for the interviews and really enjoying it. We have William Dershowitz next month. He wrote excellent sheep. We have Jeffrey Selingo coming up in the spring, who wrote “Who Gets In and Why,” which is a really disturbing look at the admissions process in the US. We have Tim Leffel from guitar to us. He wrote “A Better Life for Half the Price,” which was really like my guide book for a long time when we were looking at moving abroad. So some really exciting guests. I’m excited to talk to them, I’m excited for you to hear them. 

But today’s a little bit different. Because I wanted to give you information on how the process can look from start to finish in a deeper way, a case study if you will. And there’s really nobody I know better in the world than my daughter, Ellie. So I’m going to talk about how she chose her areas of study, how she planned for admissions requirements, how she decided on a school, and I’m also going to tell you about a curveball she recently threw us which has possibly changed things. So at least three years younger than Sam. So she was in middle school when he was exploring options in Europe and Beyond the States have been going on since you know she was in sixth or seventh grade. So when she entered high school, she knew theoretically at least that this is what she planned to pursue as well. It was, you know, a regular topic at the dinner table, the benefits and all of that she was hearing about it all the time. Sam was going there, she planned to as well. So there isn’t much that needs to be done freshman year to prepare. The biggest thing we did that year was just to keep an eye on her interest areas. We casually discussed related areas of study, but nothing major. When we traveled to Europe, I was usually visiting schools. She would not be visiting schools, but we’d walk around different universities. It wasn’t a visit for her. But it made it less of an abstract idea, you know, she was able to see this is what college in Europe looks like, literally. So at least had some experiences and opportunities that were a little outside of the box during high school and even different than Sam’s. As some of you know, my husband, Tom had a brain hemorrhage in 2017. And he made a quick and full recovery. But being that close to death or having your spouse so close to death in my situation, can make you really look at life and what you want to do with it. So we always had an interest in living abroad and we started to look seriously at it. Sam really wanted to finish high school in the US. You know, he was going to college in Europe and wanted to finish at Chapel Hill High School, but Ellie was eager for an international move. So during Sam senior year, we put our house on the market to start the process with plans to move during Ellie’s 10th grade year since we didn’t know our exact timing and we didn’t even actually know which location yet. Ellie decided to do 10th grade online. She did a school called Whitmore and then we knew that once we moved you know somewhere during her 10th grade year she could finish up the Euro Whitmore and then start at an international school in 11th grade for ruin ended up so since Malaysia was high on our list, Ellie and I took a six weeks scouting trip during the first part of her 10th grade year that included side trips to Indonesian Singapore. And this is really an experience we would have had to reconsider if we were going the US college route. When I was rereading who gets an NY preparing for the podcast with Jeffery ceylinco. They talk about the importance recruiters place on specific high schools and the curriculum and the extracurriculars and demonstrated interest. She wasn’t there to be visiting schools. Whitmore also had a really different type of curriculum and that it was self paced and mastery based. So she was able to fly through some of the easy subjects but you can’t move on to another assignment until you master the first so some move more slowly. This approach, it was really great for her and then it helped her take ownership of her learning. She learned how to manage and structure her time and a ton of other important skills. But I’m not sure how admissions officers would see it. But more than anything more than any class she’s ever had. This experience was slow travel in a very different culture, cultivated all sorts of interests Anneli current events world religion, sustainability in the environment, and even some aspects of history became interesting to her because she was seeing it in a different way in in ways that were relevant to her an interesting and she was able to learn about these things for learning sake, not for a class not for her resume, not for any other reason than she was interested in learning about it. So we didn’t end up in Malaysia, we ended up in Portugal. But that time in Asia was changing experience. She was able to take this virtual year and pursue her interests in a non structured way, not clubs and such without worrying about how it will look on her college application. Schools in Europe simply don’t require the resume padding that the US does. So 10th grade was basically travel, exploration of interest and preparing for admissions requirements. In terms of exploration of interest, we did start to do this a little more formally during 10th grade, I mean, not to like choose an actual program or a school that she’d applied to. But so she could see if programs related to her interests sounded interesting, we’d look at websites to see the classes involved. We’d look at related careers and such. At that point, tourism, especially wildlife, was a main interest, and so was creative business, especially around things like social media. So due to the overlap in her other interest areas, we also looked at things like cultural anthropology, animal care type programs and Media Studies, again, not so much to choose a school, but just to look at it with the programs involved. So in terms of admissions, we knew that she would need for AP scores of three plus to keep all the doors open, and that having either calculus stats would help keep even a larger number of doors open. So during sophomore year, she took AP Psych and AP Human Geo, through a different online provider. So we knew that junior year would be about really figuring out her area of study. And at this point, she was most interested in NHL Stenden, the tourism and creative business program, and also the fashion and food program at Sacred Heart in Italy fashion and food business program. I think it’s called Communication Management. But it’s all about fashion and food. So she thought social media was interesting, as was tourism, fashion and food. But what about the business classes that would be at the core of all of these programs, since she started in person school in person school is now what you call it now that she started an international school for 11th grade near Lisbon. And she took IB business to see if that core of business would interest her. And guess what she quickly learned that she would not want to study business for a minute more than she had to. So that was kind of a fast forward to part of 11th grade. But before that, like all of us, you know, summer of 2020 was locked down. And so this was before she started in 11th grade. So we were in a country where she didn’t have friends yet, since she didn’t start school until that fall. Because of that summer included a lot of TV watching and she had gotten into the show Criminal Minds. This was also after we’ve watched Homeland together. It’s a show Tom and I of course already watched the entire series, but it became our like family show during lockdown. And then she went from homeland to watching Criminal Minds. Around the time she realized that business related programs weren’t for her, she started expressing an interest in criminology and criminal psychology. So first thing I did was this in her article after article about how these TV shows, while enjoyable, aren’t indicative of the actual work done in each of these fields. And she has a pretty good understanding of that. But she still found the material interesting. So we dug into the database. At that point, we were still gathering information on schools in Ireland and didn’t have that all updated in the database yet. And continental Europe was really lacking in criminology and criminal psychology type programs. There were a couple of close options, but nothing that really excited her. So we decided to work backwards. If she decided to go into forensic psychology, she’d beat her masters. So we looked at psychology programs that would allow her to study some of her other interest areas too that may have some you know, kind of forensic type classes. The majority of these types of programs were at university colleges in the Netherlands. She attended a number of online events for different schools and decided that she was most interested in University College Roosevelt. This is one of the university college programs offered by Utrecht University, and she liked the flexible curriculum, because it would allow her to focus on psychology, but would also allow her to take classes and other areas that interested her but that she didn’t want to have as her focus area. She also liked that they have this program called going Glocal, which involve field work in classes around certain topics in a relevant region. For instance, this year, they’re focusing on global justice and activism in Mexico and next year, they’re studying development and globalization in Singapore. So all of this on paper look right to her. And she attended an online event how to q&a with students, and she was all in. So this was around Christmas of last year, she was working to identify a non University College program as a backup in case she didn’t get into UCR, since it’s selective, but we were pretty much good to go, you know, Hoody purchased, all set, but then I started working with the Ireland data. Now, one of the reasons we decided to add Ireland this year is because it offers programs that are really hard to find in English around the continent, you know, things like arts related programs, like, you know, theater is an example, criminology is another example, there were two schools in Ireland that really fit her interests. One was the criminology program at University College Cork, and then the other one was an arts program at Maynooth. And this is similar to liberal arts in that you choose for different subjects from the program offerings to study the first year, and then you narrow it down to a major, double major, or major and minor for the years moving forward. And this particular one of a Knuth would allow her to study criminology and also psychology or law if she changed her mind. So and it’s important to note that the traditional universities in Ireland, most of them have a program like this, this isn’t specific to Monique, she fell in love with both of these options on paper, we went to visit over the summer. And schools in Ireland were still shut down at that point due to COVID. But she was able to get enough of a feel that she knew she really liked the location and the flexibility of the program at Maynooth cork. I personally love cork myself, and they do have an arts program. But criminology wasn’t part of their arts program. It’s a separate program in itself. Okay, so we had the new plan, we knew that the application process was fairly transparent, and that she should get in their application period open in early October. And she was super excited in October 1 to apply right away. And she’d been told by the school by the admissions office over the summer, that they’re turned around quickly, and she should get the decision in about a week. But there was a glitch in the office. And she didn’t get the response for six weeks. And she was sending emails that weren’t getting responses. Now, we pretty much knew that she did it. And I mean, we know how the admissions works here. But this waiting period really messed with her and she started having doubts. She wondered if this was a red flag about the school. And she started reexploring Cork, which opens up for admissions in December. I personally think the program at Cork is better aligned with our interests. But she was stuck on the fact that she didn’t like the city, she wasn’t really able to grasp that the fact that it was summer might have affected her view at all. So then we’re in the car one day, and she’s talking about one of her friends and where they’re applying. And I casually just making conversation said, “Do you ever wish you were going in the US?” And her response was, “Could I really?” Crap. What a can of worms I’ve just opened and I’ll tell you it was several years ago. And when she was probably a freshman I was interviewed for a podcast, extra pack of peanuts, e pop. It was a really fun interview. And I enjoyed talking to Travis a lot. And one of the questions he asked me was what would you do if your daughter ever wanted to go to school in the States? And I think my answer was something like Oh, that would never happen? Well, here we are. I don’t want her to be forced into any or feel forced into any decision. So I told her, we could discuss the possibility if, number one, she could find something with comparable costs to the schools in Ireland. That’s not so horrible, because Ireland is more expensive in continental Europe. Second one was that it would have to have her major third condition is she would have to go through the curriculum for both of the schools in Ireland as well as the school she finds that meet those criteria. And look at which classes are required for both of the programs because I thought that the Gen Ed requirements would really kind of turn her off, and I wanted her to be able to really explain why she’s interested in this. I also let her know that it’s quite possible that she won’t get in. Since we haven’t been going this route. You know, she doesn’t have any extracurriculars. Her GPA is really good. But I don’t know how though view her online school and her Sats are only okay. I mean, they were good enough. But they’re not you know, often I’ll see kids on the best fit list who have a similar score who were like retaking it. Oh, I thought it’s pretty good score. It’ll get her whatever she needs in Europe. So anyway, comparable cost and major narrowed it down to state schools, NC State and UNC Wilmington both had criminology programs. This was a Friday. It was like a Friday just a couple of weeks ago. It’s been rolling. So I let her know that we didn’t know if we qualify for in-state tuition since we had just moved back. And it was a weekend but she still forged ahead with her research. So like I said, I was sure that the Gen Ed requirements, you’d be like, Oh, forget it. But similar to the UCR structure, she liked that she could take some classes and other areas without it being a curved focus area. So I was foiled there. But in terms of why she’s interested, she wasn’t able to articulate it still, she still can’t. And I’ve thought about it quite a bit often at you know, two o’clock in the morning, I think we’ve been gone for the last two years. So the American social experience is really new to her and sort of foreign, and that’s not a good enough reason. Um, she’s also been sort of the different one or the of her friend groups, she’s been the one taking a different path for the past two years. So I think she likes the feeling of being the same. And then, of course, there’s always the fear of missing out as everyone talks about their plans. But I also think this is a form of this developmentally appropriate stage of individuation, where you know, what better way to create her identity that’s separate from our family than to not study in Europe. So I had all these theories, but I didn’t quite know what to do with them. So then that was over a weekend that Monday we found out even though we have been taxpayers in North Carolina, for 17 of the last 19 years, because we were gone for two years. And by the time the semester starts, we will have been here 11 months, instead of 12 months, you know, fall of 2020, we would not find qualify for in state tuition. So that was one of my conditions, and it was temporarily just off the table. She understood she was disappointed. And you know, what life with a disappointed teenager is like so anyway, we’re gonna get through it, she found out about Menuett. The very next day, we talked about how she could go for a year and transfer if she really didn’t like it. And she was kind of okay with that. But then I started thinking about an interview I did with Bill Dershowitz. And a discussion we had about the importance of students knowing their reasons for going to college and their reasons for going to a specific college as well. And the discussions I’ve had with Liu through this time made me realize that it’s an area she really hasn’t developed this insight into tuition is high enough in Ireland, that I didn’t want this to potentially be a throw away your if she’d decided to go someplace different after a year, particularly someplace different in Europe, because not all schools take transfer credits. This was the case with Sam. But I sort of viewed that as his exploratory year, he learned so much about himself that it didn’t feel like a waste, particularly since the tuition was more reasonable. And the content was something that was very aligned with what he was looking for. But this is different, you know, so we’re starting to explore the possibility of a gap year and man, a lot of these are just crazy. Of course, the ones that initially appealed to her are the ones I eliminated immediately. They were like these super expensive summer camps, which is not what I’m looking for. I explained to her that if she does this, it has to have an international experience, and to be a program that challenges her in some way and leads to some personal growth and insight. Further, it would need to cost similar to a year in Ireland and provide college credits. We figured this way, if she decides to stay in the States, she still has the college credits to stay on track. And if she decides to go to Ireland, if the credits don’t transfer, and they may, the credits don’t transfer, this would just be in lieu of her study abroad here, which is an optional additional year at the schools in Ireland that she’s looking at. So we’ve landed on a couple that mostly fit these parameters. We’re looking at Carpe Diem, which has amazing programs, but it’s just like, you don’t have your phone for three months. And we’re also looking at Verto education, it’s a little bit more expensive. So we filled out the FAFSA, something I hope to avoid in my entire life, but no luck. But either way, she might have this solo international experience and realize that she does want to have more, you know, through college in Europe. Or she might have it and feel like between our two years in Portugal, and this semester, you know, it’s been enough and she has an insight into why she’d like to be in the States. Or she might get through the applications for colleges in the states and decide that she wants to go in Ireland after all, so she expected her spot at Maynooth. But I really don’t think she’ll end up there. I think she’s going to decide to apply to Cork too. And we’ll figure out ways for her to explore her concerns around the cities and she does think the school is really cool. And it is and boy the food is great in that city. Anyhow, I want to allow her to go through this process and make a choice as best for her. But she really needs to first gain insight into how to determine what’s best for her. And I’m also going to have boundaries Round, and I’m not going to pay more than I would in Ireland, and I’m not willing for her or us to incur debt. It’s about the value. And the admissions process in the US is also something I have major personal objections to. But if she can get in without us having played that game for the last four years and fine, and if she’s able to answer that question, what college is for me, then she can be intentional in her choices while she’s in school, and get the most out of her education. So I thought about waiting to report this episode. And so I know what the plan is. But I thought that it was important because some of you might be experiencing, you know, kind of a less conventional path as well. Or maybe you also have students who don’t have the insight into what they want to get out of college. That insight into what is college for me, it’s just so key, because I’ll be fine with whatever place in the world meets those needs, once you can understand what they are. So our episode next month, like I talked about is with Will Deresiewicz who one of many things we talked about was his question. And I do talk a little bit before the interview about ways that you can start to think about this and how you can start to answer this question for yourself or encourage your kids to answer this question for themselves. So be on the lookout for that episode next month. And just a couple of things about scheduling because of all the holidays over the next couple of months. We’re having only one episode in December, which is December 14, and then we’ll be taking a break for the holidays and we will be back with our next episode, January 11. So that is it.

For now,

I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on in our world. Hopefully, I’m going to have some understanding of what at least going to do next sooner rather than later. On November special of the month, it’s a $100 discount on our annual and lifetime memberships. These are options to consider when there’s a student looking to start for the 2023 school year later or when there are students of different ages or when you want to learn about both masters and bachelors memberships. The annual membership is 12 months of membership for the cost of 10. Further you get a $100 credit that can be used on beyond the state services or classes, as well as three email exchanges with me to answer any questions that come up along the way. The lifetime membership provides access to both bachelor’s and master’s degree databases and resources and you get $200 up on the state’s credit and 12 email exchanges with me. The full price for both of these memberships offer tremendous savings and through the end of the month you can save an additional $100 with the coupon code November special.