One of the first questions I ask people is why they’re learning English. One of the most common reasons is “for international study”. (That is, to study abroad.)
What are the advantages (and disadvantages) of going to an English-speaking country to study – and how should you prepare for international study?
The Advantages Of International Study
There are three main advantages of studying in an English-speaking country.
1. You can improve your English
When you’re in an English-speaking environment, your English level will improve. You’ll be studying in English, but you’ll also be able to hear and speak English outside University. This “immersion” method is the best way to improve your level – as long as you make the most of it. Watch TV, listen to the radio, read newspapers, and interact with other people. It might not be easy at first, but you will see progress.
2. You can study at world-class universities
Many of the top-ranked universities are in the UK and the USA. These are universities with some of the best research facilities in the world. In particular, British universities are known for their small class sizes, meaning you get more one-to-one time with lecturers and tutors.
You’ll also make great contacts at university – both with native speakers and with other international students. The contacts you make can be useful for the rest of your professional life.
3. It’s a life-changing experience
It’s also true that living and studying in a different environment will give you a greater international perspective. You’ll learn a lot about how to communicate with other people from different countries, and how to appreciate different customs. It will be an unforgettable, positive experience!
The Disadvantages of International Study
There are three main disadvantages: the cost, and bureaucratic / personal challenges.
1. The cost
It’s expensive to study abroad. You’ll need to pay tuition fees (the cost of the university), plus living costs. Many students in the UK live in “halls of residence” (special accommodation for students) but these are still expensive. Then you have other costs, such as for books or study materials, and transport. You may be able to get special student grants or bursaries, and its always worth checking individual universities to see what financial help they offer.
2. Bureaucratic issues
You may need to apply for a special visa to study in the UK or USA. Check the university admissions office to find out – and give yourself plenty of time to apply. Most study visas will prevent you from working while you’re studying.
You might also need to prove that you are able to study at a degree level. For example, you might have to show predicted exam grades (from your school), pass an English exam, or write your personal statement (for UK universities). You can find out all the “eligibility criteria” from the university admissions office.
3. Personal challenges
How do you feel about living in a different country from your family, friends and support network? How do you know that you’ll like the city, the student accommodation, or even your university course? All these are questions you’ll need to answer before you take the decision!
How To Prepare For International Study
Make sure you meet all the English language proficiency requirements first. Your university (or course) might ask you to get a certain score at IELTS, or to pass the Cambridge Advanced Exam (or the TOEFL in the USA). If you want to do an MBA, you might also need to pass the GMAT. Give yourself plenty of time to pass these exams.
You can often do these exams in your home country (the British Council is a good place to start) but you can also do the IELTS and the Cambridge Advanced in the UK. You’ll need to find a study centre and an accredited language school for a preparation course.
Universities in the UK often also offer English language courses before the start of the academic year, as well as ongoing English support during term-time.
Want to get fluent in English? When you join the English Fluency Club you get access to my two fluency programs, plus group live lessons twice a month, and weekly challenges. Plus:
* 1-1 Support and feedback from a British (native) English teacher
* International community of professionals
* BONUS: 2 free personal lessons – great for exam preparation classes