From Application to Enrollment: A Guide for International Students Navigating Universities in Europe
by Nur Amalina Shamsun Nahar
As an international student myself, I can attest to how overwhelming yet exciting it can be when choosing and navigating different universities in Europe. The world is truly your oyster. From the various visa requirements to the diverse student life and career opportunities. How does one begin? At Innustame, we encourage exploring the diverse study opportunity the world offers. We go beyond rankings and encourage students to look at parts of the world that they may have never considered.
In this article, I will go through nine factors you should consider when going abroad, specifically in the European region. From the importance of climate, location, and safety and the possible scholarships and career prospects. I wish I had known some factors before, and some I have learned from my own experience!
1. Visa requirements
The first and most technically vital factor to consider as an international student would be visa requirements. It is usually recommended that students apply months in advance for universities so that they can start applying for their visas and arrive on time for the semester to begin! Before choosing a university, check for the student visa requirements in the specific country. You can usually find the details on the local embassies’, consulates’, or universities’ websites.
For European students, it is generally easier to study in other European countries. But for non-European students, it may be more laborious and tedious, having to gather the necessary documents and attend interviews. For example, two deadlines are offered for admissions to the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University in Prague—one on the 28th of February and the other on the 30th of April. The first deadline is recommended for students from visa-seeking countries.
With that said, don’t be discouraged by the tedious process. Rest assured that it is definitely worth the wait and hassle!
2. Language challenges
The next challenge would be which language you want to study in? Most universities offer courses in English. However, your proficiency in English might need to be proven by different tests. Some official tests that most universities accept for English proficiency are IELTS Academic, Duolingo English Test, TOEFL or Cambridge ESOL tests.
However, studying in a country’s language that is not taught in English may benefit international students as well. In most European countries, if you study in another country's language of instruction, the university programme will be free! If you are interested in this option, find out what support they offer for international students adapting to the country’s new language. Most universities will offer a semester or a year of language preparatory courses. For example, if you would like to study in Germany in a German higher education institution, the land of ideas, Study in Germany has a great guide on how to get started.
3. Location, Climate & Safety
One aspect I wish I had thought about when looking for universities abroad would be the location and climate. Coming from a country on the equator with consistent weather throughout the year, I was not used to Europe’s climate.
The first thing to consider is how close the university is to the city, how public transport is, and what amenities are around it. Are you a city person or a small-town person? Does the university offer student accommodation, or will you have to find an apartment instead?
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Secondly, how safe is the city, and what are the health infrastructures like? Is personal safety an aspect that is important to you? If so, Vienna, Austria, ranks as one of the safest cities to live, study and travel in! Vienna is home to a rich history and diversity, great architecture and the recently established Central European University.
Thirdly, how is the weather in the country? Will it be summer all year round? Will you get dark winters like in Norway, or must you be equipped for all four seasons? These questions are essential when choosing the right university!
4. Available programmes
Next, when choosing a university and programme, find out the offered courses and electives. Most higher educational institution programmes have an array of options. To narrow it down, check if these programmes align with your interests, passions and future career goals.
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A higher educational institution that offers English-speaking programmes in various fields would be the University of Southern Denmark. This institution offers Bachelor, Masters and PhD programmes from Mechatronics, Engineering to European Studies and Anthropology.
The next important factor that may go without saying is the cost of studying abroad. Finding out what the tuition fees are like may be a factor to consider. As well as the living costs. The costs of tuition fees vary depending on the different parts of Europe and countries. You may find that some countries may even offer free education.
While money may be an issue for some students, plenty of scholarships are also available for international students to support them with tuition fees and living costs. Most universities share details of scholarships on their website; all you have to do is apply.
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The Holland Scholarship is a scholarship for students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) in the Netherlands. This 5,000 Euro scholarship is granted to non-EEA students in bachelor’s and master’s programmes in an eligible Dutch higher education institution.
6. Student support
A factor many international students overlook is the university’s student support. As an international student, extra information and help are needed in all aspects of student life. Knowing how well a university is ready to equip students with issues with their visa, accommodation, and even psychological support is important. With this, don’t hesitate to ask alumni or current students for their opinions. A quick look at the university’s websites also tells a great deal about the support provided for international students.
7. Student life
We all know the saying, Work Hard, Play Hard. Aside from academics, a good factor to consider is the student life offered by the university and city you study in. Discovering what the international and student community are like and the societies and clubs in place will provide an even smoother experience and transition when moving. One way I researched student life in universities abroad was by watching videos on Youtube on students’ experiences!
8. Work opportunities
It is common for students to work part-time while studying. It is nice to have that extra spending money and work experience. If this is something you would like to do, check the policies on international students working in your chosen country. In each country, student visas have different rules regarding working while studying.
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A country that provides students with an excellent opportunity to study and work is the Czech Republic. Unlike many countries which limit the hours students can work, in the Czech Republic students are able to work part-time and full-time during their studies. This gives students easier and open access to the job market once they graduate.
9. Career prospects
While career prospects may be too much in the future to consider, it is one of the final factors you should contemplate when choosing universities abroad.
Looking at the job opportunities in the area after you graduate and what the alumni have to say would be a great start. Some universities also share statistics on the percentage of students hired after graduation. If you’re lucky, some institutions offer placements as part of the programme and may provide career guidance counsellors for their students!
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A common programme offered in most universities in the European Union would be the Erasmus+ traineeship programme. Erasmus+ offers grants for students to embark on internships and work placements abroad. This also includes international students! As long as you are enrolled in a higher education institution that is part of the Erasmus+ Charter for Higher Education, you may apply!
While all this information may be overwhelming at first glance, if you start soon and take your time in assessing each factor, you will definitely not regret it! Studying abroad has changed the way I think, learn, and live. It is how I have met most of my closest friends, and it is an experience that I wish everyone could get a chance to experience.
Admissions: Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University
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