Great news! Your child wants to continue their further education. Then, they drop the bombshell: they want to do it several thousand miles away. But don't be offended – it's not you, it's them. More and more British students want to carry on learning in a different country, with the British Council finding that half of 16-30 year-olds were considering a foreign undergrad university course and a third said they were interested in some form of overseas study.
It's easy to see what the attraction is. Rising tuition fees for those who don’t live in Scotland and the increasing cost of living, coupled with the idea of carefree year of making new friends and soaking up a new culture sounds like a no-brainer.
So if your son or daughter is serious about studying abroad, pull up a chair and start to work out how to make their dream a reality. Here's what you need to know:
Start the research
It's never too soon to begin the research. Help your child focus on which country they'd like to study in, and if applicable, which subject they'd like to concentrate on. Do they speak the language or would they be willing to learn? What are they passionate about? What do they hope to do after graduating? Would this course be a help to their career goals? From these first decisions, you can then research what qualifications are needed – it will vary from country to country and institution to institution – and if a visa will be required, too. Also, it sounds obvious, but check all passports are valid for the next few years, too.
Sign up to useful websites
There's a wealth of great websites which can offer an overview of different courses and countries that can prove highly useful when weighing up a decision. Check out www.studyineurope.eu for Europe, www.internationalstudent.com for America and Australia and http://www.asiaexchange.org/ for Asia. Another super useful site is www.globalgraduates.com.
Speak to past alumni
Reading case studies from previous foreign students is a good window into the potential school or university. Or you could speak to friends or family members who have studied abroad to get a wider picture of what to expect. What did they find the benefits of doing it were? Did they find it was a big culture shock? What would they have changed or done differently?
Work out what the final qualification will be
If the trip will be a semester or year out of another UK-based course, will it earn them credits or in some way contribute to their final grade? Or if it's a standalone course, what will the final qualification be? Essentially, you need to confirm that the time spent abroad isn't just a bit of a jolly and will be beneficial for their studies.
Check out the cost of daily living in the new country vs. your own country
If the exchange rate is poor or if the cost of living is excessively high, this will impact on the amount of money you and your child will spend – so it might be false economy to study somewhere where there are no tuition fees, but the cost of living is very expensive, like Norway, for example.
Create a timeline
In the UK, the University and College Admissions System (UCAS) has a general undergraduate application deadline of January 15 of the year the person would like to study in, but this will completely vary according to the country and the institution and many are later in the year. So draw up a timeline for the next year, plotting all the different deadlines for the applications – and don't forget to add in other deadlines like applications for financial help, scholarships and on-site accommodation.
And once the offer has been accepted…
Sort out housing as early as possible
While many universities will place students in halls of residence, other colleges or schools might require students to find their own accommodation. Try and confirm a place to live as early as possible – check the institution's intranet or take a look at some specialist websites like www.uniplaces.com for Europe or for America, try usa.accommodationforstudents.com or www.americancampus.com. If your child hasn't managed to find anything before flying out there, don't panic, and book a week or two on a short-term letting site like Airbnb.com or Craigslist.com until they find something more suitable.
Insurance, insurance, insurance
Obviously you'd like to hope your child won't be in a situation where they need to use their insurance. But, accidents can happen and personal property can be lost or stolen, so make sure they're set up with the right kind of insurance which will cover you for an extended trip.
Make sure they're digitally connected
Thanks to social media, WhatsApp and Skype, young people abroad will probably be more available than if they were living at home. Make sure they've got a good international roaming deal on their phone, and also tell them where it’s possible to hook up to widely available Wi-Fi spots. In places like Argentina, for example, every public bus has a free Wi-Fi hotspot on. Bonus!
Make a Google doc of all their important travel information, including important names, addresses, dates and telephone numbers, so if they lose everything, they'll still have all the details. Also, make sure they sign up for an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which gives discounts on travel, entertainment, shops and restaurants. They’re supposed to be having fun as well, after all.
This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.