Beyond The States
Beyond The States
Podcast: The Return of the BTS Podcast

The Beyond the States podcast is back! In this episode, recorded in August 2021, Jenn covers the basics of Beyond the States and overviews some of the biggest ideas around college in Europe. She talks about how and why she started BTS. She also talks about where she and her family are currently living and why they moved to Portugal. She highlights other key episodes to listen to, as well. We hope you enjoy it!

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: Welcome back to the Beyond the States podcast. So if you’re new to the podcast, or you’re new to hearing about beyond the States, I want to just tell you a little bit about what is got to this episode right here right now. So I started be on States back in 2015. At that point, my oldest Sam, he was finishing up eighth grade going into high school. And because I am a huge planner, I started to worry about college, I started to worry about the money of it, I started to worry about the admissions of it, I started to worry about the experience of it. All of this was absolutely keeping me up at night, even though we were still four years away. So right around that time, because I swear Facebook, you know, knows our thoughts. I see something on Facebook, about this kid who was studying in Germany, and he wasn’t studying in German, he was starting in English. So this got me thinking, you know, we’d love international experiences. There was a lot about this, it intrigued me. So I thought I would just look into this, you know, was it only Germany? How many options were there? Was it expensive? All these questions I had, I thought I’m just looking kind of at a surface level, to see if it’s something that we should keep on our radar for down the road. And you know, help me sleep at night. In the meantime, knowing there is an alternate plan. So I got sucked into this research, because I found out just how many options there were all over Europe, I was looking at the cost, which was affordable, and just amazed at what I was learning. So at this point, it was still sort of just a little bit deeper than the surface level of research. But I was really fascinated by it, I was excited by it. And I knew that there would be other families in the US who would share this interest. So at that point, I decided to start beyond the states. And I spent a year before kind of opening our doors, I spent a year traveling to Europe, to visit schools to meet with administrators to meet with American students who are already doing this, really to gather all the information that I knew other families would want when they’re looking into these options for their kids. So then I started beyond the states. And we started working with family and I started this podcast in 2017 as a way to spread the word about English taught higher education degree programs in Europe, because like I was in 2015, so many of us didn’t know this was even a possibility. So now we have more listeners than ever of these old episodes, because then again, it was still getting the word out. So not only have I learned a lot since then, you know, there’s more and more information, more English taught programs. But also some of the information has changed since 2017. Another difference is that we now have a number of students who have gone from exploring the options to either studying in a European University and some of them even graduating already from a European University. So the combination of all of those factors made me decide to relaunch the podcast. So moving forward after this episode, most of our episodes will have a discussion of a relevant topic, you know, things like what student life looks like in Europe, or how to assess quality or a different aspects of admission, or how to choose an area of study or how important location should or shouldn’t be, or the different resources to get some through some of the bureaucracy that’s involved with a move abroad and so many other topics. There’s so many little details that are good to know and important to know when you’re looking at these options. But what’s really exciting is that each of these episodes will also have an interview with relevant people, you’re not going to just hear me blathering on pre recorded a number of interviews already, mostly students in Europe who have some really interesting experiences to share. But we’ll also be doing interviews with some administrators and hope to get some authors as well. So I’m super excited for you to hear these interviews. Today though, I want to introduce you to the basics around the degree programs in Europe, and also introduce myself a bit. So as I mentioned, I have a son who was in eighth grade when I started beyond the states. His name is Sam. He’s now studying in the Netherlands in a program called the management of international social challenges at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, he actually started out at Leiden University in an international studies program that realized that well he hates economics. And it was also very, very theory focused. So he decided to switch to this School which though is theory focused, they use problem based learning, which really kind of, I don’t know makes it more relevant even though it’s theory and has a lot less of economics. And then the other program did. So anyway, this is a top 100 university, but we pay 6700 euros a year, which is under 8000 USD per year. So until last year, we lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in state tuition at UNC Chapel Hill is 8980 per year. So we pay less as an international student tuition less for international student tuition than we would have for in state tuition at UNC. So anyway, my husband and my daughter Ellie, and I have always had sort of nomadic type urges, seemed didn’t have them as strongly as us and he always wanted to finish high school in the US. So we stayed in North Carolina until you finished and then the three of us moved to Portugal last January in 2020. So Ellie did her 10th grade year through a virtual school since we knew we’d be moving in the middle of the year, and traveling some first, and now she attends an international school here in Portugal, we live in cash cash, it’s a coastal town right outside of Lisbon. And I have to tell you, an International move in the midst of a global pandemic is not ideal. But despite this, she’s made a lot of friends, Tom and I are learning Portuguese, we love the wine, the cheese, the shellfish, I love walking alongside the ocean every day, I mean, there’s still a lot of good around it as well, our original plan had been to stay here for five years, and get citizenship, not sure if that’s still going to happen or not. But I know that even if we don’t end up staying here, the full five years, we don’t regret our move at all. So Ellie’s entering her senior year. And her first choice schools in Ireland, it’s sort of a liberal arts type program, in that students start their first year choosing four areas to study. I mean, it can’t be any four areas, they have, I don’t know, maybe 30 to 40 different choices and you choose for. And then after the first year, you narrowed down to two, and you can choose with those two, whether you want to double major, or major and minor and things like that. So this is going to allow her to study the two areas she’s currently interested in, which are criminology and psychology. So she’s going to apply in October, and we should get her decision that month even so I’ll keep you posted on that. So anyway, this first season of the podcast has episodes that go deep into many of the benefits around studying in Europe. And I really encourage you to check some of those out because the broad level information is still the same. It’s just that some of the details around it are different now. So I just want to spend the rest of this episode quickly going through some of the main benefits and the details now. So the first thing I want to talk about is affordability and the number of choices. So when we started be on the states, it was something like 1200 options, it was just over 1000 that were English taught in continental Europe. You know, we started out just focused on continental Europe, because they’re non Anglophone countries. So when you’re exploring options in non Anglophone countries, it can be a lot more confusing, you know, the website is usually not in English, and it’s sometimes confusing about whether the whole programs and English are part of it. So that’s why we started with continental Europe because it was harder to navigate. So it was something like 1200. And then, about a year ago, it was all the way up to 1900, full English taught bachelor’s degree programs. So we were toying with whether or not to add Ireland because after Brexit, it was the only EU II a country that we didn’t have listed anymore. So we did decide to add Ireland and so now is up to more than 3000 English taught options in EU EEA countries. So the tuition average has stayed right around the same it’s around 8000 per year now that we added to Ireland, it was you know, maybe closer to 7000. Before that, but the thing to remember is that there are some American universities or not even American University uses private schools that have American in their name often. But there are these private institutions that charge American size tuition, which pulls up those averages. So 8000 per year, again, that’s you know, around in state tuition costs, but there are hundreds of options under 4000 per year, and there are 82 that are tuition free, even for international students. The other thing to note is that more than half of these programs just take three years to complete. Still a full bachelor’s degree is just only three years. And so that year of savings intuition, which is also a year in which you are hopefully, producing an income, that there also contributes to major savings. So I want to tell you about the admissions process, because this is one of the key benefits. But before that, it’s important to understand a really important difference around universities in Europe, which is that when you apply, you’re applying specifically to a program at a university, not the university as a whole, it’s like knowing your major ahead of time and declaring it. Now, this freaks a lot of people out. And it really doesn’t have to, because there are really, really broad programs that allow you to either stay broad or specialized later in the program. And there are also a large number of multidisciplinary programs and even some liberal arts options where you choose your specific major after but the program you’re applying to, is, you know, the liberal arts program, which isn’t generally called that, but that’s a detail that’s neither here or there right now. So each of these programs has their specific admissions requirements. And then they’re assessing your application not to see if you’re better than the applicant, you know, who applied right next to you. They’re assessing your qualifications according to their requirements and seeing if you meet those requirements, if you don’t meet those requirements, you shouldn’t even apply. I mean, they’re transparent about these requirements. And usually, it’s a non competitive situation, because they have enough seats to accept all of their qualified applicants, if you will. So they’re saying Does this person have the requirements, and sometimes they’ll also look at, does a student have the motivation and the fit for this program. And they evaluate that through Motivation Letter, it’s not like an essay where you have to talk about, you know, I don’t know the most traumatic experience of your life or anything like that, you’re talking about why you want to study at this school, or in this country, or this particular program, experiences that are aligned with those three things. And that’s what you’re showing them. Now, that’s not even often required. I would say if I had to guess, a motivation letter is looked at in maybe about half of the cases. But again, that’s just to look at it more than anything else. Things like extracurriculars, enrichment activities, all these other things you need to create for your What did I hear it called recently, your brag sheet in the US, you don’t have to worry about those things there. Because to them, they’re just not related to the job whether or not you’ll succeed in the program. So there is an episode on the first season, where we go deep into this, and I talked to an administrator of Groningen University in the Netherlands, it really goes into this in more depth, I’d encourage you to listen to that. But for now, know that it’s very transparent. Now, in that transparency, there are some options I said, there are, you know, over 3000 options in Europe, these are programs, English top programs, about 350 of the 3000 do require American students to have something a little bit extra. And that’s because for these countries, it’s let’s see, it’s Denmark, it’s part of the Netherlands is Germany, Italy, Norway. And I think Iceland, so for these countries, an American high school diploma is not the equivalent of the high school diploma in that country. So in order to meet the equivalence of their high school diploma, American students have to have these extra things. So in most cases, well, if you have an IB diploma, I mean, you’re good anywhere. That’s that’s really, as I say, the golden ticket for admissions, if you have a year of college credits at a school that grants bachelor’s degrees, so not a community college, that often suffices as well, sometimes a full associate’s degree will. And the other thing that meets those requirements is a certain number of AP scores. And depending on the country, it’s in the school at somewhere between three and five AP scores usually have three and higher, in most cases is for AP scores, if you’re looking for kind of what number you should shoot for, but the great thing about that is that, you know, it’s not like having 10 AP scores of, you know, four or five is going to make you more admissible, it’s about having what they require. So you know, kind of the goal to set it’s not about just sort of this, like unattainable perfection that’s often needed or not even maybe needed, but the students feel like it’s needed when applying to schools in the US. Again, if you can’t get APS, if you don’t want to get APS, don’t worry, again, this is just like 350 of the 3000 options. So there are tons of options that don’t require them regarding SATs and ACS, the places that require those are in the minority as well. A number of options in Ireland require them. There are a few schools scattered here and there that do, there are a few schools that allow them to substitute for something else, you know, whether that’s the AP scores, or whether that’s entrance exams. So I would say, you know, sure, take the AC T’s and SATs, but don’t worry about them, like you would need to in the US. Because again, they’re going to be options without them as well. And they’re also again, very transparent about the score that’s needed. And in most cases, that score is not like this unachievable score, you’ll be okay. So besides affordability, and admissions, those often start out as the benefits that draw people into wanting to look at these options. But then these other benefits that I call secondary, when students really get involved in the exploration, and certainly once they get there, the secondary benefits no longer feel secondary, they feel just as meaningful and high impact as admissions and then affordability. So a few of these, we have the opportunities for international experiences, not just being an international student in this other country. But you know, you can, it’s so much easier to travel here, well, when it’s not COVID At least, you know, trains are also you know, make connecting cities so much easier as well. So you can you know, travel all around Europe, you can go stay with your, your roommate, who lives in Spain, go stay with him and his family for the weekend, your school is likely to organize different trips as well, there was a school I visited, and the international student group I was going to Montenegro for the weekend for like 200 euros and that was for everything that was for like airfare and, and the place they were staying and all of that. So traveling on a student budget is also possible as well. The other thing about another international experience is that most schools have a semester set aside. And this can be used for study abroad or internship, you know, it’ll vary depending on the program. But studying abroad is almost always an option for for the different degree programs. And sometimes it’s even required, we have a full episode on this as well in the previous season. The thing to note is that it’s not run like this big business, like sometimes study abroad, programs in the US are run, if you go to a school, let’s pretend it’s my son who’s you know, paying, whatever, like 6500 euros a year in tuition. And he decides to study abroad at a school that charges 20,000 euros a year for tuition, he will still only pay that 6500 euros of his home university, when he’s studying at that university that has a much higher tuition. So again, kind of an affordable way to experience the world on a different level. So the other thing is that sort of an international experience, if you will. So you have this international community that you’re living amongst, you know, the English top programs were created not to draw just English, native English speakers from Australia, England and the US and Canada, they were developed to draw students from all around the world. So your classmates are from all around the world and your friends are from all around the world. I find it so fascinating whenever I talk to students to find out the countries that their friends are from, and having these friendships and even you know, having classmates having these sort of, I don’t know professional relationships, if you will, that give you this exposure to the world and perspectives from around the world, and experiences from around the world. Just really open up your mind at a time when it’s important to have your mind open. The other thing about this community, this community that you have with international students is that you are all sharing a major significant experience in living outside of your home country. So even though your backgrounds might be different, and you know details about your life and all of that those might be different. This shared experience and getting through the shared experience together is so significant and really, really creates deep and meaningful and lifelong bonds. In addition to having these deep connections, you also have a deeper level of learning. You know, we talked about how you’re applying to a specific program. And that means that all of your course requirements are going to somehow relate to that area of study. Now don’t worry some people are like Oh, but what if I want to take electives? What if I want to explore some things you’re going to be able to you know, as a, I don’t know, International Studies student you’ll be able to To take this, you know, literature course, as an elective or study abroad or whatever, it’s just not going to be part of your core requirements. And I think about that, I had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and entered the field, you know, right after graduating from college before I got my master’s degree. And I was definitely doing some very hands on work, I was a social worker working with severely mentally ill kids and families in a community mental health setting. And I think kind of can’t believe that with the lack of specialized knowledge, I was able to do this type of work. Now, I learned a lot while I was working. But I do think it would have been better had I had sort of a more deep understanding, or specialized knowledge around, you know, mental health care, in my undergraduate degree, before I was doing that work. So you’re gonna have that you’re going to have that specialized knowledge, because you know, you don’t have these Gen Ed requirements that aren’t related to your field of study. So anyway, I do want to note, I’m not trying to talk anyone into going to college in Europe, I don’t think it’s for everyone. I do think there are some great options in the US. I think there are great options in the UK that we don’t cover, I think there are great options all around the world. I just really feel like though. And life whenever we have any major life decision to make, we should really explore all of the options. And exploring this doesn’t mean that you’re committing, you know, to taking this path, it means you’re exploring it to determine if this is the right path for you. And again, making informed decisions this way is is something we do in most areas of your life. So so why wouldn’t you do it for this one, too. So that’s what I hope to help you with through this podcast has given you information about this path, so that you can decide whether or not it’s something you want to dig into a little bit deeper and consider and potentially pursue. So next week, we will move to our regular format. I’m going to be introducing you to Adam. He is one of our original members who is in his last semester of study. And he’s going to tell us about some of his unique experiences including playing baseball at a competitive level in the Netherlands, so we will talk to him I guess it’s not next week is two weeks from now, but we will release episodes every two weeks and thanks for listening.