Studying Abroad - The True Cost of an Foreign Degree

September 1, 2016 | Youth Advisory Group

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by Editorial Youth Advisory Group member Alice Cheng

GraduationSome consider it the adventure of a lifetime, while others will say it’s not worth the distance and money. In the end, is pursuing an undergraduate degree overseas really worth it?

Be it Harvard or Stanford, MIT or Caltech, there are few domestic universities that can rival the sense of euphoria and prestige evoked. Institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Caltech – they carry with them not only a vast history of accolades and success, but also a long lineage of graduates comprising the world’s most influential thinkers and contributors. It is a potent combination of these factors that grants the current top schools with such reputation and recognition, to the extent of becoming household names – something that proves especially true in the homes of rising senior high school students, and perhaps even keen rising juniors across the nation.

With the new school year coming to a start, it also signals the imminent anxiety (or joy, but in most cases it is the former) of considering post-secondary options. A majority of the time, this is an issue which greatly affects the graduating class, but by no means is this exclusive; students of all ages may be susceptible to the worries brought upon them by the sheer amount of different pathways available as they prepare for the next chapter of their academic careers.

One such route to take is the choice of going out of the country for an undergraduate degree – it should be noted, however, that other pathways such as apprenticeship, work placements, or college are also not exempt from being actively pursued by senior students, but they tend to occur in overseas settings much less frequently, so for the purposes of this article, foreign university studies will be the main topic in question.

Perhaps it is the exhilarating thrill of being far from home for the first time, or the search for a perfectly tailored, one of a kind work-study program offered at no other school, or even the inexplicable attachment for a specific country’s landscape, born out of an intrinsic wanderlust and curiosity for the rest of the world. These are just a few among countless alternative reasons why one may choose to study abroad, but needless to say, upwards of 46,000 Canadian students are embracing the practice, according to the 2010-2011 data from the Institute of International Education, a figure that has surely risen since then.

The same statistics suggest America, the UK, and Australia rank first, second, and third, respectively in terms of popularity among Canadian international undergraduate students, with France and Ireland trailing closely behind at fourth and fifth place. Surely, one might conjure up picturesque visions of exploring the Empire State, Big Ben, or the Sydney Opera House upon learning of the numbers and the wide array of possibilities for further education, however this notion may subsequently be dimmed after hearing just how much more costs for transportation, accommodations, and integration for these seemingly exotic locations may rack up to for a student’s already shoestring budget. Add on tuition rates and other miscellaneous expenses multiple times that of expenses required if they were to stay in Canada, and they might begin to think twice about that glamorized, four year getaway.

This may explain the relatively low number of Canadians studying abroad; at only three per cent, this number puts our nation on the bottom end of the spectrum among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, according to a report from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).

Experts argue that Canada’s global competitiveness may increase significantly if more of its youth looked beyond the nation’s borders for study, but this only begs the question – should this take place immediately following high school, or is an international exchange more appropriate for a graduate student who is much well off financially, but in retrospect, may not have had the most eye-opening, life-changing, international-frontier equipped undergraduate experience?

Going into the 2016/2017 school year, it is highly recommended that we all maximize the resources available around us in order to make a suitable, informed decision for the future of our education.

Check out some library resources that might help get you ready for post-secondary education!

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