English Language College Abroad: Let’s Comparison Shop
The Netherlands, Czech Republic or Estonia (yes, Estonia) might help your kid excel in life
Newsflash: For many American students, better university opportunities await beyond U.S. borders. By “better” I mean dramatically cheaper and shorter degree programs with admissions processes unlikely to corrupt the souls of 18-year-olds. The specific benefits of these programs depend on the student. A high-achieving scholar might land a slot in a foreign elite school that costs an eighth of an Ivy League berth; a student with no extracurriculars may find more opportunities at the many European universities that don’t care about non-academic activities.
Here's where you can get the big picture about this higher-education abroad option.
Before you forge ahead, know that an international education is not the same animal as a typical U.S. co-ed experience. “They’re not going to be tailgating on the weekends, and they’re not going to be walking around in sweatshirts with the name of the school,” says Jennifer Viemont, founder of English-language degree resource site BeyondtheStates.com. “Your neighbor probably isn’t going to know the name of the school, and you need to be comfortable with that.”
You heard her: English language courses abound overseas, making the transition for American students a whole lot easier than when coursework is in a local language.
But the university-as-social-development cocoon is a uniquely American construct, and not the expectation abroad. Because most schools are publicly funded and do not depend on parents as customers, universities feel no need to provide most on-campus activities, leading to less community feel: Think large lecture halls, no centralized campus, and rented apartments (not dorms). This can be fine for some students, and strategically counteracted by carefully choosing programs and cities with community opportunities. Here’s where to look:
If you’re on a tiny budget: The Czech Republic is your friend, with dirt cheap tuition and living expenses. (Don’t be deceived by the “free” price tags of many universities throughout Europe: It’s not free if rent and food cost $30,000 a year.) Start with the Czech ministry of education’s official search engine of more than 1,000 English-language programs at StudyIn.cz.
Sample degree: Bachelor’s in environmental engineering
School: Czech University of Life Sciences Prague
Cost: $354 per year
If you want to study in English, and are indecisive about a major: The Netherlands is calling you. “They have more English-taught programs than any other country, and they have liberal arts options, which a lot of American students are drawn to,” Viemont says. A search engine of 1,860 programs is at StudyInHolland.nl/studies.
Sample degree: Bachelor’s of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences
School: Erasmus University Rotterdam
Cost: $5,216 per year for students with European residency (which can sometimes be finagled — more than a few countries offer programs like citizenship by descent)
If international business is your calling: “France has a lot of great options,” Viemont says. And a lot of red tape. A moment of honesty: The undertones of France’s study-in-English website, www.CampusFrance.org, mostly communicate that they don’t really want English speakers. Oh, France.
Sample degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Business (three years)
School: Toulouse Business School (with campuses in Barcelona, Casablanca, Paris and London)
Cost: $12,449 per year
If you want an edgy tech degree: Quiet Estonia is anything but a backwater for coding types. Following crippling cyber attacks in 2007, the country flipped the script and made cybersecurity its calling card, swiftly attracting top talent. You can search tech programs and numerous other degree options at StudyinEstonia.ee.
Sample degree: Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering (three years)
School: Tallinn University of Technology (Taltech)
Cost: Free for European residents, or $7,110 per year, with scholarships available
If Asia is more your speed: Thailand is the education hub of Southeast Asia, filled with a melting pot of fascinating people, and many more English programs than you would expect. A few large universities, including Mae Fah Luang University, Chulalongkorn University and Mahidol University, offer hundreds of degrees in English.
Sample degree: Bachelor’s in Information Technology
School: Mae Fah Luang University
Cost: $1,938 per year
If you want to pay truly nothing: Seek out the funding offered by governments to attract international students. British scholarship information is available here, while the Australian government funding is here. The China Scholarship Council has recently offered quite generous funding to attract American students.