A growing number of Americans are going overseas for degree programs. The number of U.S. students enrolled at foreign universities remains quite small, but the statistics show astounding growth. The number of American students at Canadian universities has more than doubled since 1997, and the number of U.S. students studying full-time in the U.K. has increased by more than half since 2001. Over 1,500 Americans were working toward degrees at Australian universities in 2004, a number observers estimate to be a ten per cent increase over the previous year.
Students give a number of reasons for studying outside the U.S. Some are looking for adventure or travel, or a chance to acquaint themselves with another culture or language. Others are looking for value. As tuition goes up in the U.S., foreign degrees can become a surprisingly good value — especially since programs at UK and other universities often take less time than American programs do. Another factor driving increased interest in overseas study is that foreign universities are marketing themselves to U.S. students, and making it easier for Americans to apply by accepting SAT scores and U.S.-style high school transcripts.
Foreign study is a wonderful experience, with lifelong benefits that go far beyond formal education. However, the decision to pursue a degree overseas is a life-altering one, and deserves careful research and much thought. What impact will holding a foreign degree have on your career or graduate school plans? In many cases, it may be a benefit — but in other cases, it may make it more difficult to enter certain fields or programs. You should also look at the total costs of studying abroad closely. Tuition may be a bargain, but other costs — housing, travel — may be far higher than they would be closer to home. Above all, think carefully about how happy you’re likely to be living abroad, not just for a few weeks or months, but for three or more years. Consider, too, whether you might be able to get the experience and adventure you’re looking for through a year or semester abroad program.
If you can ask yourself these questions and still say with confidence that overseas study is the right choice for you, by all means go for it. Your college years are a time to explore the world and the place you want to make for yourself in it. If you’re ready for the adventure of living abroad, this may be the most opportune point in your life to go after that experience.