Imagine this: a university degree program where you can study whatever you want, alongside diverse and dynamic students and professors, complete with a study abroad element, the opportunity to travel, competitiveness on the global marketplace, as well as a foreign language element that all but guarantees fluency upon graduation.
Now imagine that this degree program was tuition-free. No need to apply for grants and scholarships, just free of charge right out-of-the-box. It may sound impossible, but I am here to tell you it is not. I graduated from one of these programs. What is the name of this program and why have I not heard of it before, you may ask? Because it is an unconventional educational choice for Americans: it is called College Abroad.
The United States has been and continues to be the most popular destination for international students, and until now there was little incentive for Americans to fully enroll in a foreign university. But times change.
According to the World Economic Forum, the US currently ranks 13th in the world on economic and educational competitiveness. 123 of the top 200 universities as ranked by the Times Higher Education are located outside the United States. Between 2000 and 2011, tuition at American public universities rose by 42 percent (U.S. Department of Education). A report compiled by the Institute for International Education indicates that there is a strong desire by universities throughout the world to increase their enrollment of Americans for full-time study. American students, who made up only 1.4% of the internationally mobile students in 2010, are not gaining the intercultural communication skills, the global perspective, the resourcefulness and independence, and perhaps most importantly, the additional language skills that students from many other countries are honing.
And meanwhile, universities outside the United States tend to charge tuition fees at a fraction of even in-state tuition at American public schools. For example, Quacquarelli Symonds, another global ranking system, ranks the University of Wisconsin-Madison number 37 in the world, while Seoul National University in South Korea was 35 in 2013. Tuition in Seoul is roughly $4,600 per year while in Madison you’ll pay $26,600 ($10,000 for Wisconsin residents). SNU also offers almost all of its undergraduate courses in English.
Similarly, the Free University of Berlin, where I’m currently enrolled as a PhD student and where English language programs abound, is, unsurprisingly, free and ranked 109th by QS. Compare this to Penn State, ranked 107th, where a doctorate comparable to mine in international relations would run me somewhere in the neighborhood of $13,000. Not only are tuition fees generally lower outside the US, but in many countries BA programs are three years long while MA programs are one. This means one less year of already-low tuition.
Before I joined FUB, I completed my Masters at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany for zero tuition. While my degree programs were in English, living in Germany allowed me to become fluent in German. I also received funding to study and live in Israel and Hungary, where I learned some Hungarian and I saw first-hand the epicenter of interest in international politics as I regularly traveled between East and West Jerusalem. I have studied with students from places like Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and China. Class discussions with such a diverse group were an education in and of itself.
Furthermore, living in Europe allowed me to travel extensively throughout the continent, as well as the Middle East and North Africa. Had I attended an MA program in the US, I probably would have paid between $25,000 and $35,000. And while I loved my time at Knox College in Illinois, I genuinely wish I had considered the college abroad option for my undergraduate so as to avoid student loan debt entirely.
Of course, there are costs associated with college abroad. The cost of living must be taken into account but the student lifestyle can be dirt-cheap. Besides that, international flights might be the next biggest cost, but I’ve been able to find flights between the US and Europe for as little as $400. And then there are the emotional costs in terms of homesickness and culture shock.
While these are difficult costs to bear, they are also profound learning experiences and instill a strong sense of maturity and self-awareness. So if you can see yourself spending your semesters in Barcelona, Sao Paulo, or Osaka and never filling out a FAFSA, pack up your bags and pick my complete guide on becoming an international student, College Abroad, available now at Amazon.
The amazon link to the book is http://amzn.to/13wqFoR, and my personal blog about going to school abroad ismorelikeamoat.wordpress.com.
Holly Oberle, the author of “College Abroad”, was a guest on “College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on November 23rd, 2013. Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.
Photo Credit: Leaf Languages