How I Studied Abroad For 4 Years (And How You Can Too)!

How I studied abroad for 4 years (and how you can too!)

As I sit on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico struggling to understand what the locals next to me are saying, I feel like it may be time to learn Spanish.

It’s time to find a language school and spend the next month or so taking Spanish classes so that I can make my way through Latin America without any language barriers.

While researching language schools in Guatemala and Mexico I can’t help but reminisce of my time learning French at a language school in Bordeaux.

My semester of french classes in Bordeaux turned into an experience that allowed me to study in 3 different countries, become fluent in french and live abroad for more than 4 years.

But now, almost 6 years after moving to France, I’m sitting here thinking why don’t more people study abroad, and the only explanation I can come up with is that they don’t know how. 

Today I’m not only going to show you how to study abroad, but how to complete an entire University degree abroad and stay abroad for as long as you want.

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Advantages of Studying Abroad

While studying abroad isn’t for everyone, there are many advantages of living overseas that you may not know about.  Before I show you exactly how you can study abroad, it’s important that you understand its advantages and what you can hope to achieve.

1. Learn a new language

Language learning is one of the most important things that you can do when living overseas. It enables you to better understand a new culture and a different way of life. When you’re able to speak and interact with locals in their native language, you’re able to understand them on a deeper level and why they behave and think the way that they do.

Whether you’re going abroad to study a new language or University course, you should definitely learn some basics on DuoLingo before arriving abroad. This means that once you arrive overseas you’ll be able to start talking and practising the language immediately.

2. Experience a new culture

Before I moved overseas for the first time I never really thought about how cultures could act and behave so differently. Yes, I was being naive but I was only 18 and I’d never really thought about it before. It wasn’t until I moved overseas, settled in and started interacting with the locals on a day to day basis that I was able to see how cultures can be vastly different.

By doing this you’re able to start looking at the world from a different perspective. This begins to make you question why you care so much about certain things that really don’t matter in the long run. When you get home after living abroad, you will immediately notice many differences about your own culture that you never saw before.

3. Become Independent

As I was only 18 when I moved to France, I was a young and naturally immature boy who really didn’t have a clue how to do anything. Being able to work things out for myself, finding a job, learning a language, opening a bank account etc. are the sort of things that you’ll do when your living by yourself abroad. It sucks and it’s scary but it helps you become independent.

4. Travel

The great thing about studying abroad in a new place is the travel opportunities. What I mean is not only exploring the city that you’re studying in but exploring new cities and neighbouring countries. Most of you will be studying abroad in a country far away from your own, meaning countries that were once too far to travel to, are now at your doorstep.

One of the best ways to document your travel adventures is learning how to start a travel blog. Not only will you be able to share your stories with others but you could potentially start earning an income by writing articles online.

5. Decision Making

Studying abroad is going to make you a great decision maker. The decisions that you make can have a big impact on your life abroad. On a daily basis, you will have to make decisions that will affect your budget, sanity, friends, family, adventures, housing etc. Be prepared to make difficult decisions quickly because you don’t want to miss out on any once in a lifetime opportunities.

6. Change of Perspective

You will start to see the world in a different way. Can you remember being told by your parents that you shouldn’t do something? As a young person, you never really question why things are the way they are and you do what you’re told.

By living abroad, you will start to meet new people with different views about things you’ve been told before. It’s time to start making decisions for yourself and making your own mistakes.

7. Personal Development

By studying abroad and being away from all of your friends and family, you’re able to discover who you really are. Because no one has a pre-existing relationship with you, you don’t have to put up any sensors or walls and can truly begin to be yourself.

Furthermore, you can take up a new activity or hobby that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do at home. Personal development is one of the most important aspects of studying abroad.

8. Career Opportunities

One of the main reasons that many people decide to study abroad is to add experience to their CV.  Most employers believe that people that have lived abroad have greater life experience and a broader knowledge on a diverse range of topics.

Although I didn’t study abroad for that reason, almost every employer I’ve met has not only been impressed with the fact that I’ve studied abroad for so long, but been jealous and wanted to hire me just to talk about my experiences abroad.

How To Study Abroad

How to study abroad

Now that you know why studying abroad can be extremely advantageous, it’s time to answer your main concern “How do I study abroad?”

Well, there are two different ways you can study abroad.

The most common way is through an exchange program either through your University or School. This usually involves either taking language classes or some form of University classes that will be counted as credits towards the University degree you’re studying at home.

The other way is to study abroad on your own.  This generally involves doing all of your own research, applying to the school/university directly and working out your own visa with the embassy.

I’ve been lucky enough to do both an exchange program and study abroad on my own. One way isn’t better than the other and it will depend completely on your situation.

Here is an overview of both methods and how you can apply for each of them.

Exchange Program

As I’ve already stated, doing an exchange program through the school or University that you’re currently studying at is the most popular method of studying abroad. Because there are so many students that go through these programs, the structures are already in place meaning the process is very simple.

Advantages:

-Earn credits towards your University degree

-There are many other students who will be doing the exchange program with you so you won’t feel alone

-The systems are set in place to make the process very simple

-You’ll be given help with finding accommodation, organising insurance, opening a bank account, applying for a student visa etc.

Disadvantages:

-You can spend too much time with other students in the exchange program

-You won’t spend as much time with the locals, meaning you won’t get the full benefit of experiencing a new culture and making friends with the locals

-You will most likely share housing with other students and not have many accommodation options

-You need to be attending University or School to do an exchange program

How to Apply:

1. Contact your University/School and see what programs they offer.

2. Check the University requirements of participating in the program. (You will generally need to start organising your study abroad through the University at least 6 months before you wish to study there)

3. Follow the instructions given to you by the University

On Your Own

If you’re planning on studying abroad by yourself you’ll need to do a lot more planning than you would otherwise need to do through an exchange program. The easiest way to do this is by applying to a language school.

Advantages:

-More independence as you won’t have to check in with the teachers in charge of an exchange program

-You’ll learn the process you need to take to study abroad anywhere in the world (which you can duplicate again anytime you want)

-You’ll Spend more time with the locals

-You can choose the type of accommodation that you want

Disadvantages:

-You will have to organise everything for yourself including accommodation, visas, banks, activities etc.

-You might feel lonely at times because you don’t know anyone

How to Apply:

1. Research where you want to go (check out this article to know how)

2. Look at the language school possibilities in that country/city

3. Check the requirements for the language school or University

4. Contact the embassy to see if you need to apply for a visa or not

5. Check the visa requirements and apply

6. Organise your accommodation

This is how I studied abroad when I first moved overseas. Although it may seem like an overwhelming task, follow the steps and it’s easy.

How To Extend Your Time Abroad

how to study abroad for as long as you want

For a lot of you, only being able to study abroad for a semester won’t be enough time. Don’t worry, there is a way that you can study abroad for as long as you like.

While studying in Paris, I can’t tell you how many people doing an exchange program were jealous that I was doing my whole University degree overseas, while they were only there for one semester.

As you know by now, I spent 4 years studying abroad. Although originally I only planned on doing a 6-month french language course, I was able to extend my time overseas to 4 years by attending University and completing a business degree. I was lucky enough to spend 3 years completing this degree in 3 different cities.

How I Applied for University in France

I completed the B2 level french language exam after 4 months of studying in France. This is the minimum level of french language required in order to study in a French University.

After completing this exam, I began researching Business Schools in France and made a list of the Schools that I found interesting.

I emailed the first school on my list and expressed interest in attending the following year.

I took a flight to Paris from Bordeaux, where I was living at the time, to visit the School and talk to the director.

I spent the next day filling out applications, organising documents and writing an essay about why I thought I would be a good fit for the School.

Two weeks later I received an email confirming my acceptance into the University.

Follow This Process:

1. Decide what subject you want to study

2. Do a quick Google search researching schools/universities related to the subject and country you want to study in

3. Check if the degree/qualification will be valid in your home country

4. See what the requirements for entry to the University are (in my case it was a B2 level of French because half of the classes were in French)

5. Contact the University and tell them you want to apply

6. Organise to visit the University (not essential)

7. Organise the appropriate documents required by the University

8. Apply (you may have to apply to several universities as not all will accept you)

9. If you’re already on a student visa, visit the embassy and extend it. If you don’t have a student visa, apply for one (these can be extended every year provided you show proof that you’re passing your courses)

Conclusion

We live in a day and age where studying abroad has become widely accessible to everyone around the world. Take advantage of this and start doing your research.

We all have that one special place that we wish we could live in. Stop dreaming about it and start making your dreams a reality.

Whether you only want to study abroad for a semester, or whether you want to study a University degree overseas, the process of studying abroad isn’t difficult.

Follow the above steps for whichever method is best for you and you’ll be living abroad and speaking a foreign language in no time.

Have you already studied abroad? Where did you study? How long did you live abroad for?

Lewi

Lewi is the founder of MoveYourLifeAbroad.com. For the past 6 years, he has been travelling and working his way around the world. He is extremely passionate about travel and loves sharing his knowledge with others because he believes everyone should have the opportunity to live abroad. In his spare time, he enjoys having a few cheeky beers with friends and riding his bicycle around town.

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