Have you ever thought about going to graduate school, but decided against it because $40k is too much money to spend on a master’s in representations of dragons in medieval Italian literature?
Or maybe you’ve imagined going to live in Europe for a few months, but it seemed too complicated to find a job that would sponsor your visa.
Whether you’re not ready to jump into the 9-5 “real world,” want to live abroad, or just want to get an education for less money, there are lots of reasons to consider graduate school abroad.
Here are five reasons to consider getting your master’s degree in Europe:
1. Save thousands of dollars on tuition.
The average cost of a master’s degree from a public university in the United States is $28,000, and at a private university, it’s more like $38,000. That’s a lot of money.
And while student loans are available for accredited degree programs, the result is often compounding your student debt from your undergraduate education and taking years to pay it off.
In the rest of the world, though, education is generally taxpayer-funded and a lot cheaper. While foreign students may pay a premium on an undergraduate or graduate degree in a foreign country compared to local students, a year’s tuition costs nowhere near five figures.
In France, for example, tuition for one year of a master’s program costs €462 – and that includes a year of student health insurance.
Of course, there are downsides to the low price tag, like bigger classes and less-modern facilities. And while any university in the world can apply to be eligible for federal financial aid using a FAFSA ID number, few universities outside of English-speaking countries have completed the paperwork. This means that you won’t be able to get a subsidized student loan for your education abroad or defer your student loans while in school.
If you’re saving 95% on the cost of a degree, though, it may be worth it to try and make it work.
2. Perfect your language skills.
With the creation of the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS) that allows students to easily transfer coursework between European institutions, and the opening of the European Economic Space, it’s gotten easier for European students to study outside of their home countries, and universities have adapted to an influx of foreign students.
You may be surprised to know that you don’t need to speak a language fluently in order to enroll directly in a foreign university. Most European schools require a B1 or B2 level – low to upper intermediate – in order to enroll directly without intensive language classes. That means that unlike American study abroad programs, which typically have you take one or two classes in the local university while spending all of your time taking classes in their program with other Americans, you get to jump right in to classes with local and international students.
You may have the option of taking an intensive language class before the semester begins, but even if you don’t, you’ll get a lot out of being forced to communicate in language for everything from the enrollment procedure to discussing homework with your fellow students.
Living in another part of the world to study can also be a great opportunity to travel and explore other places, both as an expat living in a new country and as a tourist, passing through for a few days.
Whether you prefer overnight trains, carpooling, or discount airlines there are lots of ways to travel cheaply, especially in Europe, where students and anyone under 30 often get great discounts.
With a university calendar comes generous vacation time, and it’ll be expected that you use some of it to see the sites in your host country and the surrounding areas.
In France, university students have seven to eight weeks of vacation during the academic year – a week or two every six weeks – plus half a dozen holidays that always get turned into long weekends.
Plus, if you make friends with other international students in your classes or in your dorm, you may even get invited to stay with your friends in their home cities – a great way to get to know a country and a culture from the inside.
4. Gain international work experience.
In most European countries, foreign students with a student visa have the right to work part time to help pay rent and cover their bills, so it’s likely that you’ll want to find a job or internship during your year abroad. Students in France, for example, can work up to 964 hours per year, which works out to about 20 hours per week.
Not only does this mean you won’t have to take on debt to pay your bills (most European students are self-sufficient, even if some of them live at home during their studies), it also means you’ll have a great opportunity to work on your resume while abroad.
Whether you try your hand at teaching English, land a job as an English-speaking tour guide, or get an internship working at a bank, international work experience and using two or more languages fluently in the workplace will show you’re a great asset to a future employer in any country. No matter whether you return to the US after getting your degree, stay in your host country, or move to a new place entirely, your ability to navigate the business world in two languages and cultures will give you an advantage at any company that wants to develop internationally.
5. Use generous student discounts.
In the US, many companies consider that students are rich, since parents and loan companies are often footing the bill for education and padding students’ pockets, at least temporarily.
Not so elsewhere in the world.
In Europe, everyone knows that students have no money, and social and business policies cater to students by providing steep discounts. The idea is that students who appreciate the discounts during college will continue using the same companies once they’re older and earning a regular salary.
Student discounts are available on everything from monthly transportation passes to movie tickets, free entrance to museums and even sandwiches at the corner bakery at lunchtime.
While the nature of student discounts obviously varies according to place and age, you can expect to get about half off what a “normal” salaried person would pay on most necessities.
Bonus reason: It’s an adventure.
Your twenties are a great time to explore the world and live abroad, and to do things you can’t do as easily once you have a family and a mortgage. Enrolling in a master’s program overseas is a fun, inexpensive way to see the world and experience a new culture while you’re still young.
If you have already started school, I recommend developing a strategy that incorporates these 4 ideas into your current schedule. Back to School: How to Graduate from College with a High GPA
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