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How to Study Abroad: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Every year, over 5 million students choose to study abroad. This number continues to rise every year as international student mobility increases – in 2000, there were just 1.6 million international students globally.

People study abroad for many different reasons. For some, it’s a way of gaining a degree from a top-ranked international business school. For others, studying abroad is an opportunity to discover a new culture or learn a new language. Whatever the reason, studying abroad is a valuable experience.

Studying abroad has additional benefits for business students in particular. Attending an international business school or university abroad allows you to expand your network beyond your home country and explore international job opportunities.

As beneficial as studying abroad can be, preparing for the experience can be stressful. Applying for an international business school can be a very different experience from applying at home. The more prepared you can be, the more confident you’ll feel in your decision to study abroad and the more value you’ll get out of the experience.

If you’re wondering how to study abroad as a business student, this guide has been made for you. We’ll take you through everything: why studying abroad is a great choice, what you need to know about student visas, the best places to study abroad, financial aid opportunities, including what kinds of study abroad scholarships are available.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know all you need to know about how to study abroad and student life abroad to make the most out of this exciting time. 

Why Study Abroad?

Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity to meet new people, learn a foreign language (like Spanish), and broaden your business experience. Not only that, but you’ll have the opportunity to study at some of the world’s best business schools and universities abroad, whether that’s in North America, Europe, or Asia.

Here are some more reasons why studying abroad could be a valuable step in your business career.

Study at Top International Business Schools

Where you study for your business degree can have a huge impact on your future business career. Though it’s not always the case that a top-ranked business school is better, a globally-recognized school may offer more networking opportunities and connections to major global companies.

As such, many students decide to study abroad because their home countries lack top-ranked business schools. Studying at an international business school can broaden your network, enabling you to learn from other cultures and expand your business thinking.

Networking Opportunities

Networking is a huge part of doing business, especially internationally. The strength of your network will impact your career opportunities and your ability to ask for professional assistance when you need it. Studying abroad is an opportunity to grow your network and meet people from all over the world.

Discover a New Culture

It’s easy to forget that studying abroad will also enrich you not just professionally, but personally, too. As you study abroad, you’ll learn to appreciate other cultures and ways of thinking, making you a more well-rounded and sympathetic individual.

Career Opportunities

Many international students use their study abroad experience to start a new business career. If there’s an industry or sector you’re interested in, this is your chance to move to a country where you’re more likely to find an opportunity that could turn into your dream job.

The Best Places to Do Your Study Abroad Program

The first step in preparing to study abroad is choosing where to go. In this regard, the whole world is your oyster, but personal factors may influence your decision.

Top-ranked international business schools are located in every corner of the globe, from Germany to Singapore. However, other requirements may factor into your decision. Are you targeting a certain industry for your career? Do you want to strengthen your skills in a certain language?

While it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to study, some business school destinations are more popular than others. These are the destinations that attract the most international students every year. 

5. Australia

Australia is growing in popularity among international students. Between 2019 and 2020, the country saw a 10% increase in its total number of international students, and overall, 30% of students in higher education in the county are international. Students are attracted to the relaxed lifestyle in Australia, where you can unwind from classes on impeccable beaches and explore lively cities such as Melbourne and Sydney.

4. China

In 2019, almost 500,000 students chose China as their study abroad destination, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an affordable destination, where tuition fees are far less than in comparable destinations. For business students, studying in China is also a chance to explore job opportunities in one of the world’s biggest economies.

3. Canada

Canada is another destination seeing strong growth in international student numbers – they experienced a 15% rise in the number of international students in the country between 2019 and 2020. Canada is known for its high quality of life and top-ranked schools, as well as the ease of its visa system for students wishing to remain in the country after their studies.

2. United Kingdom

Over 550,000 international students chose the UK for their studies in 2020. For a small country, it packs plenty of attractions including a wide variety of top-ranked universities and business schools, global cities such as London and Edinburgh, world-renowned tourist destinations as well as the opportunity for weekend trips to nearby European countries.

1. United States

It’s no surprise that the US outranks other countries when it comes to the number of international students. It’s a diverse country with a wide variety of business schools and universities, so you can find somewhere that suits your interests and career aspirations.

As the world’s biggest economy, the US has particular value for business students and is also home to many top-ranked business schools like Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business. For this reason, the US is also the most popular study abroad destination among MBA applicants.

The Application Process for International Business Schools

If you’re wondering how to study abroad, then know that the process of applying to an international business school is fairly simple. Follow these steps and you’ll be prepared to apply to your chosen program.

1. Find your ideal international business school and course.

Your first step in applying to an international business school will be to find the right program for you. This can feel daunting, especially if you’re unsure exactly what to study. 

When you’re preparing to study abroad, your country of choice will also be a big factor. Think about the countries you’re interested in visiting: would you be prepared to spend a year or longer there? Then search for an international business school in that country that offers the program you’re interested in.

2. Prepare important documents

While every business school application will vary slightly, many international business schools ask for the same important documents from applicants. These often include:

  • Your degree certificate
  • An academic transcript
  • A one-page resume/CV
  • 1-2 professional references
  • A personal statement or letter of intent

Additionally, you may be required to provide a couple of test scores with your application. This includes an English-language test if English isn’t your native language. There are a few internationally-accepted English language exams, including the TOEFL, Cambridge, and IELTS.

3. Take the GMAT or GRE

If you’re applying to a postgraduate program like a master’s or MBA, you will often have to take a standardized business school entrance exam like the GMAT or GRE. These tests show business schools if you are ready for the intensive learning environment of a graduate business program.

The GMAT is the most popular standardized entrance exam for international business schools. You should start preparing for your GMAT in good time, as you may have to retake the exam if you’re not happy with your score. The GMAT can be taken online or at a global testing center, and you can find a list of locations online.

4. Apply directly through your chosen business school or university

For postgraduate courses like a master’s or MBA, you will apply directly through your chosen business school. While the style of business school application forms will vary, they will all ask for similar documents (covered above).

Make sure you check application deadlines for your chosen school(s) carefully before starting the application process.

5. Prepare for your interview

An interview is usually the second stage of any international business school application after you’ve submitted your application form. Not all applicants will be invited to an interview; it’s a way for the school to personally assess the most promising candidates.

Most interviews will take place online to accommodate international applicants. However, your school may hold in-person interviews at global locations.

You’ll likely be asked about the things you wrote in your personal statement and CV, as well as more generally about your goals and aspirations.

6. Wait for a decision on your application

After the interview stage, there may be a short wait for your application decision. However, a long wait doesn’t necessarily mean bad news.

If you’re applying for an MBA, many top-tier business schools have different application rounds, so you should expect your decision within the same round that you have applied to. Typically, there are four rounds, ending in the fall, New Year, and early and late spring.

Everything You Need To Know About Student Visas

A crucial part of preparing for your study abroad adventure is applying for and receiving a student visa. While some students – such as EU citizens planning on studying in another EU country – will not need one, for most people this is an unavoidable step in the study abroad process.

Thankfully, the process of applying for a student visa isn’t difficult, and you may get assistance from your chosen university or business school as you apply for one. In most countries, you can apply online for a student visa, though you might have to visit the country’s embassy or consulate in your home country.

For most student visa applications, you’ll need at least:

  • A valid passport
  • Passport photo
  • An acceptance letter from a university or business school
  • Proof you can financially support yourself during your studies
  • In some cases, your student visa application may also ask for:
  • An academic transcript
  • A letter of explanation or intent, outlining why you want to study in your chosen destination
  • Evidence of health insurance
  • Proof that you meet English language requirements by taking an accepted English language exam like the TOEFL or IELTS exam

Below, you’ll find important visa advice for some of the top study abroad destinations.

Australia

All international students in Australia apply for the same visa, called the Student Visa (Subclass 500), which costs AUD630 (approximately US$450). You should apply for your Australian student visa at least six weeks before your course starts, and most students will receive a decision on their visa application within 30 days.

To receive an Australian student visa, applicants must have adequate health insurance, called Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), which should start the day they arrive in Australia. You also need to provide evidence that you have enough money for your stay, in the form of loans or grants from a financial institution or scholarships: you need to prove that you have more than AUD12,401 (US$8810), the average 12-month living costs in Australia.

China

There are two types of Chinese student visas: the F visa for students staying less than six months and the X visa for students staying more than six months. The application fee is approximately US$150 but will depend on your nationality and the country you are applying from. Visa processing normally takes just five days, but you should begin the application process one month before you arrive in China.

Once you have arrived in China, you should visit a local public security bureau to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit, which grants you the ability to stay in China for the duration of your studies.

Canada

In Canada, international students must first apply for a study permit before they can apply for a Canadian student visa. The study permit costs CAN$150 (US$120) and requires students to prove they have sufficient funds to study abroad in Canada. If you’re studying in Quebec, you have to show that you have at least CAN$10,000 per year. If you’re studying outside Quebec, the figure is CAN$13,134.

You also need to provide a letter of explanation, detailing why you want to study in Canada and acknowledging that you accept your responsibilities as a student. If you’re studying in Quebec, you also need a Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ), issued by the Québec Government. Once you’ve applied for your study permit and been accepted, you will be issued a Canadian student visa.

United Kingdom

A UK student visa costs £363 (US$456) or £490 (US$616) if you are switching from another UK visa to a student visa. You also have to pay a healthcare surcharge when you apply, which costs £470 (US$590) for each year of your visa.

As part of your application for a UK student visa, you need to prove that you have sufficient English language skills unless you are from one of the exempted countries. Most applicants will also have to prove they have enough money to study in the UK: £1,334 (US$1678) per month if you’re studying in London or £1,023 (US$1287) per month if you’re studying outside London. This is in addition to your tuition fees. Again, though, some countries are exempted from this requirement.

United States

The US student visa is called the F-1 visa, which costs US$160. Before you begin your student visa application, you’ll also have to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, which is US$350.

It’s recommended that you begin applying for a visa as soon as you can; it can be issued up to 120 days before the start of your course. However, you cannot arrive in the US until up to 30 days before your studies start.

How to Pay for Business School

It’s no secret that business school can be expensive; but exactly how much you’ll spend on studying business abroad will depend on a few factors, including where you study, how long your course is, and where you live.

The good news is that there is financial assistance available for you to study at an international business school abroad. This could be in the form of a full or partial scholarship from your business school or another organization. You might also enquire about student loans for your studies, or see if your student visa allows you to explore part-time job opportunities while you study.

How Much Does Business School Cost?

The total cost of your study abroad experience will depend on the country and international business school that you choose to study at. Tuition costs, for example, can vary considerably in different countries and for different programs.

On average, Bachelor’s and Master’s business programs will carry tuition fees of US$15,000-US$60,000 per year. For MBA programs, tuition is generally much higher, though it’s important to note if you are applying for a one-year or two-year program. However, it’s normal for total MBA program fees to exceed US$100,000, especially in the US.

Here’s an overview of yearly tuition fees for the top five study abroad locations. As program costs can vary at individual business schools at universities, always check your chosen program’s costs carefully.

United States

  • Average Bachelor fees: US$26,000-US$35,000
  • Average Master fees: US$10,000-US$80,000
  • Average MBA fees: US$100,000-US$160,000

United Kingdom

  • Average Bachelor fees: US$12,500-US$25,000
  • Average Master fees: US$20,000-US$50,000
  • Average MBA fees: US$63,000

China

  • Average Bachelor fees: US$2,500-US$10,000
  • Average Master fees: US$11,500-US$34,000
  • Average MBA fees: US$70,000

Canada

  • Average Bachelor fees: US$5,000
  • Average Master fees: US$15,000-US$55,000
  • Average MBA fees: US$78,000

Australia

  • Average Bachelor fees: US$14,000-US$32,000
  • Average Master fees: US$15,000-US$35,000
  • Average MBA fees: US$47,500

In addition to tuition fees, you should also consider how expensive your chosen country or city is to live in. As with tuition, your total cost of living will also vary considerably depending on where in the world you study.

As of 2022, India is the cheapest study abroad destination in the world, while Switzerland tops the ranking as the most expensive destination. Other countries that appear in the top 10 most expensive in the world include Norway, Iceland, Japan, Denmark, and Singapore.

Some of the cheapest places to study abroad include Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, Malaysia, and Poland.

Popular study abroad destinations like Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, and Los Angeles also rank as some of the most expensive cities in the world. If you want to study at an international business school on a budget, you might consider living in a smaller town rather than a city, where things like rent and food will be more affordable.

Study Abroad Scholarships

The good news is that most business schools and universities offer a range of financial aid opportunities via scholarships for international students to apply to. Most of these scholarships will have specific requirements; for example, you have to hold a certain nationality, be studying a specific program, or hold a high GMAT score.

If you think you will need financial aid to pay for business school, check with your business school or university first. If you’re eligible for any scholarships, you may have to apply for these at the same time as you apply for your business program. 

However, some global organizations also offer study abroad scholarships to international students. Some of the most popular study abroad scholarships include:

  • The Chevening Scholarships (UK, one-year Master’s degree)
  • The Commonwealth Scholarships (UK)
  • Fulbright Foreign Student Program (US)
  • Erasmus Program (EU)

Some organization scholarships, like the GMAT Talent and Opportunity Scholarship, award students with application assistance rather than financial assistance. This can be helpful for students from underrepresented communities like ethnic minorities or disabled candidates, for whom entrance to the GMAT might already be a financial burden.

It’s also worth checking if the local government in your business school destination offers scholarships to international students. For example, the Government of Canada and the Chinese Government have popular international student scholarships available.

Can I Get a Loan?

Unfortunately, finding a student loan as an international student can be difficult. While many governments fund student grants and loans for study, these are often only available to citizens of those countries.

However, there are companies working to make access to education more equal for international students. These companies provide student loans to students often without the need for a co-signer.

If you’re finding it difficult to find financial aid for your study abroad experience, the following companies provide student loans to international students:

  • Prodigy Finance
  • Future Finance
  • MPOWER
  • Juno

However, you should read the stipulations carefully, as many student loan providers only fund studies in certain countries or at certain institutions.

Preparing for Business School 

So, you’ve been accepted to your business school of choice and received your student visa. Perhaps it’s only a few weeks until you leave to start your study abroad adventure. How can you prepare in the meantime?

Finding International Student Services

The most important thing to make yourself aware of is the international student services at your chosen business school or university. Every school should have a dedicated office for international students where you can get specific help with things like your visa, finding part-time work, and adjusting to life in a different country.

Make sure that you know where to find these services before you arrive. You might not need assistance, but if you do, you should know exactly where to find it beforehand.

How to Adjust to a New Culture

One of the most daunting parts of studying abroad is living life in a new country. While some students choose schools based on existing language abilities or family connections, you may have chosen a specific international business school without thinking of where it is based.

It will inevitably take some weeks for you to adjust to a new business school culture. To make it easier, do some research in advance to see what your new life might look like as you study and live in a new country. For example, you could see what clubs and extracurricular activities there are available – joining a club is a great way to meet new people and feel more at home at your chosen business school.

You should also plan a study routine before you arrive. Staying on top of school work will make it easier for you to feel relaxed and enjoy your time abroad. Plus, it will make it easier for you to factor in time to explore your new home and become more familiar with your new environment.

Improving Your English Skills

Though many universities ask for an English language exam score for entry into their programs (or as a requirement for a student visa), you might still feel uncomfortable living and studying in a non-native language. If so, you might use this time before you move abroad to work on your English skills.

Firstly, consider your language strengths and weaknesses. Do you find some situations more difficult than others? For example, do you feel comfortable speaking one-on-one but more anxious in a group? Or, do you feel confident ordering food in a restaurant, but are unsure how to speak about emergencies?

During this time before your move, try and join in with some English language speaking events online or in-person. For example, Duolingo hosts free online events where you can meet other English speakers and improve your confidence.

Small talk is another area that some international students feel worried about. As with most skills, the only way to improve is to practice with native English speakers, but there are some points to keep in mind.

For one, you could have some go-to questions or statements ready for when you converse with your new classmates. These could include things like:

  • “Are you living on or off campus? Do you enjoy it so far?"
  • “What are you most interested in learning about on the course? Is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to?”
  • “I found that class pretty difficult. What did you think?”

Tips for Networking

One of the most important aspects of business school is networking with other people, whether that’s with your peers or your professors. However, this can be daunting if you’re in a new cultural environment and using a non-native language.

Firstly, make sure to join clubs and societies related to your career aspirations. This will allow you to get to know other people who have the same goals, as well as faculty who may have connections in your chosen industry or sector.

Use this time to also update your LinkedIn profile. This is where future recruiters or even faculty will go to find out more about your professional experience, so it’s worth updating it before you get to business school.

How to Study Abroad

If you were wondering how to study abroad, hopefully this guide has made the process easier. Studying abroad can be a valuable experience, especially for business students. Studying at an international business school will introduce you to new ways of thinking and learning, and you’ll meet people from all over the world. All of this will help to get your career off to a great start.

Remember, your university or business school is always there for help and guidance, so don’t hesitate to reach out to an admissions advisor or international student support for guidance with student visas or your application.

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