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Study Abroad: Get An Education *AND* An Adventure

October 15, 2007

Thinking about taking a year off from work and can’t decide if you should travel or go back to school? Do both. You’ll get the excitement of a new country and the benefit of going home with a new degree. The list below is targeted at those considering doing time Down Under, but even if you’re considering a destination other than Australia, it will give you a place to start in deciding if studying abroad is right for you.

The Pros

Sydney Opera House1. It’s cheap(er). Between the favorable exchange rate and the lower prices, you can pick up an Aussie degree at a big discount from an American degree. Other coutries may not offer the same exchange rate benefits, but their universities are often much more affordable than private schools in the States.

2. You get to live in Australia while you do it! A working holiday visa only buys you four months, but as a student your visa is good for two or three months longer than your program lasts. Add to that the university holidays and you’ll have plenty of time to study, travel, and even work if you want to (up to 20 hours a week while classes are in session, unlimited hours during holidays).

3. No GRE’s. That’s right. If you’re looking to do a post-graduate program, the schools here aren’t concerned with standardized tests. All they want is proof that you graduated from a real college in the States, that you speak fluent English (if it isn’t your first language), and then a short statement about your work history and why you want to attend their school.

4. It’s still a real degree. Don’t think that an Australian degree is any less impressive than an American one. Sure, a Master’s in History from the University of Adelaide isn’t quite the same as a Harvard Law degree if that’s the other path you’re considering, but if you’re looking at any of the arts or sciences, there are universities in Australia that have a department for you. There’s plenty of quality research going on around the country, along with state-of-the-art facilities.

5. It will give your resume some diversity. As a grad student or undergrad, having overseas experience will show future employers that you can adapt to new situations, that you have a sense of adventure, and that you are open to new people, new ideas, and new challenges.

6. You’ll meet a gazillion new people from all over the world. International students make up about 20% of the population at the University of New South Wales, and that’s true of many other large institutions around Australia and around the world. Overall, foreign students are Australia’s sixth largest export. It’s a more than $2 billion dollar industry here, and that guarantees that you’ll be living It’s a Small World.

7. Form instant friendships. I enjoyed the working holiday I did in Sydney before going back to be a student. But I can say without hesitation that being a student is a much easier way to meet people and become involved in the community and the culture. There are clubs and societies to join, contests and events on campus to participate in, and a sense of family among the international students.

The Cons

1. Australia is far away. Getting there isn’t cheap. No matter where you head for higher education, it’s true that at least part of what you save in tuition will get spent on travel, accommodation and getting set up. Maybe you’ll decide you want a car, or a fancy apartment, or a surf board and scuba gear, or you’ll need to buy furniture if you rent something unfurnished. Starting a new life costs money, and while you can do it on a budget, you just might not want to have to do it all from scratch. (Although if you do buy a car or anything else, you should be able to sell it before you go, earning back at least part of what you put out.)

Australian giraffe2. You may not get the name recognition with an Australian (or French or Kiwi) degree that you would with a school back home. Whether or not that will matter to you depends on what you’re interested in studying, what you want to do with it, and how important the name on your degree is. If you’re looking at international relations, hospitality, the history of indigenous peoples, post-colonial literature, or marine sciences, then Australia will have a lot to offer you. If you want to be an American History professor, it might not be quite the right place. The quality of education is high though, so don’t worry that you’ll be missing out on something.

3. There’s a lot of red tape involved with getting all the paperwork done, and it can be frustrating and confusing. To get the visa you need a physical, including a chest x-ray to prove you are tuberculosis-free. You also have to put together financial statements, photos, and college transcripts and you may have to fax things all over the place to get them stamped and signed by all the right people. If you take it piece by piece though it will all get done, and it will all be worth it.

4. There are big bugs here. That’s about the worst thing I can think of. It seems like there should be more of a downside, but I’m stumped.

If you want to learn more about studying abroad, a good place to start is BUNAC. From their site:

BUNAC offers a range of working holidays including a summer camp counselling programme in the USA and Canada, flexible work and travel programmes to Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and South Africa and volunteering/teaching placements. These are open to 18 year olds and over in the UK and the USA. Programmes last from five weeks to two years.

2 comments

  1. I’ve got to second all these things. Australia is awesome!

    Damnit Lisa, now I want to go back. Do you see what you’ve done?!?

    Con #4 is unfortunately true. I remember my first day waking up in my apartment (flat!) there, a huntsman spider decided it wanted to share a room with me. Not cool.


  2. Most awesome activity is learn to surf and the one-time hippie-hamlet turned learn to surf capital of Australia – Byron Bay – is where you’ll find the
    Kool Katz surf school.

    Owned and run by Byron Bay’s original and best surf tour operator, Terry Hannon, you can be standing up and riding a wave on your first lesson for only AUD $49.

    Kool Katz offers a world exclusive surfing guarantee: “Stand and ride a wave for 40 metres or your money back!”



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