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Comparing courses to study abroad at University

Studying abroad is such an exciting way to incorporate travel and new experiences, but the ultimate aim of studying abroad is always to further your education. It pays to really take your time here to consider what subject you will be studying in the course that you choose, as you will be investing a lot of your time and potentially deciding your future career with this decision. There are a lot of things to consider at this stage, and we have listed some of your most important considerations.

What will you enjoy studying the most

By studying something you are genuinely interested in, it will feel exciting and rewarding every step of the way. Perhaps you know from your current experience in education the subjects that you really enjoy or you are particularly strong at.

When you go to university to study abroad, you can pick a specific area of the subject that you have a passion for and really focus on developing your skills and knowledge in this area.

What are the career options in this area

This is where you need to start your homework. If you are confident that you know what area you would like to study, it is also worth considering what the job prospects are like in this area, or what career options a degree in this area can lead to.

Many careers do not require you to have obtained a specific degree, and many degrees give you transferable skills that can be applied across a range of roles. This means that upon graduation you may have many job options to pick from. University websites often list popular career progression options for each of their degree courses to give you a helpful guide.

Some careers, a good example being that of a Doctor, require a more specific degree path, and you should research this if you have a specific career in mind. You can take a look at the type of job listings you would be interested in applying for in the future, and check if they contain any specific university degree requirements.

You may also wish to check what the job prospects are like in general for your chosen area of study. Are there many jobs available in that sector at present? Is it likely to be a growing sector in the future?

If you are moving abroad for your studies, you should also consider where you will be located on the completion of your studies. Do you intend to stay in the country you have moved to abroad and if so, what are the job prospects like in this country?

Employment opportunities may not be your sole reason for choosing your degree, but doing these checks before you begin your application may help you in the future.

How you will study your subject at university

Studying at university may be a different experience to the studies you are used to. Some elements of university work may even seem challenging to start with, but don’t let that put you off!

Depending on the course that you choose, it may be delivered and assessed by a variety of methods. These include:

  • Lectures, where a large group of students will be addressed by one or more speakers. You will be expected to pay close attention to the contents of the lecture, making notes where appropriate. Lectures don’t tend to involve much interaction between student and lecturer.
  • Seminars, where a teacher will deliver learning content for a smaller group of students. Group discussions and interaction with your teacher is encouraged in seminars, and you will also be involved in group work.
  • Practical work/fieldwork, where you will learn in guided hands-on sessions, learning techniques that are relevant to your degree course.
  • Self supported study/project work, where the onus will be on you to manage your own workload to produce a body of work that will be assessed.
  • Exams, where you will be tested on your knowledge of specific areas of the subject that you are learning, along with your ability to form well reasoned arguments.
  • Research/Dissertation, where you will be expected to carry out your own research project into an area of your subject that you find interesting, to produce a large body of academic work that will be assessed.

Example subjects that are more likely to involve a greater amount of field work and practical work include degrees in Earth Sciences like Geography, Physiotherapy and Archaeology.

Example subjects that are more likely to include a greater amount of lectures include Computing, Mathematics and Business degrees.

Depending on the course that you select to study, several or all of these teaching methods will be used to deliver your course. When you are searching for the course that you would like to study, you should consider what kind of learning methods you are likely to enjoy the most, and try to check how this matches the course that you pick.

What topics will you actually cover in your course

If you have a good idea of the subject that you would like to study, make sure that when you are searching for a course in that subject that the topics covered in the course that you select match the areas that you want to learn more about.

For example, you may wish to learn more about Computing, because you have an interest in video game development. We shall look, as an example, at two potential degree courses at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, Computer Science BSc (Hons) and Computer Science (Games Technology) BSc (Hons).

If we examine what you will study in these two courses, you will see that the modules for Year 1 of both courses cover the same subject matter. In Year 2, the topics covered in the courses begin to become more specialized, and Games Programming and Graphics become more of a focus for Computer Science (Games Technology). In this example, Computer Science (Games Technology) is more likely to suit what the student wishes to study, and the student is more likely to enjoy studying this course.

The example we looked at was fairly clear, but you should use this same technique to assess the courses you are interested in. Make sure you research the exact modules and topics that you will be studying, and don’t simply rely on the title of a course to make your selection.

What language will you study in

Depending on your native language, you may choose to conduct your studies in a second language when you study abroad. Courses taught in English are incredibly common, not just in places where English is the official language such as the UK, USA and Australia, but also in countries such as Germany, France and Italy, where many English taught courses are available.

There is no reason why you have to study in English, however. If you wish to study in Spanish, German, French or other languages, then you will find plenty of options to do so as an international student. You may also find specialist degree courses taught in two or even three languages.

If you are going to be studying abroad in a second language, you are likely to be required to show that you have sufficient language skills in your second language to enroll on your chosen course. For the English language, this is likely to be in the form of an English language test or qualification. The most common of these are The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), TOEFL (IBT) and Pearson Test of English (PTE).

If you are studying in Spanish, you may be required to demonstrate your skills in Spanish with a Spanish Diploma for Foreign Language (DELE).

Another method of showing your language proficiency in European languages is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which is a framework for describing proficiency in a language based upon language qualifications you have obtained in a particular language.

Opportunities for future education

If you feel that academia is likely to be of interest to you after you have completed your undergraduate studies, you should pay attention to the education pathways available when picking your course. Research what options there may be in your chosen area to move directly into a postgraduate course upon completion of your studies.

Go and find your university course

Now you know what course you would like to study abroad, keep these tips in mind when searching for your course. Make sure it’s a subject you are interested in and enjoy learning about, and you already have a big head start to getting the most out of your time at university.