Thinking of taking your studies overseas? We talk to some people who've done just that...
Heading to university for the first time is a big deal, but more and more people are taking it a step further and going to uni overseas.
We spoke to three students who took the plunge...
Private university in Portugal
Cielib is from Finland, but she earned her BA degree in Portugal. She's just starting her MA degree - also in Portugal, though at a different university. She also spent two semesters as an Erasmus student in Brussels.
Where did you study?
I studied in a private uni in Lisbon, I didn't know anyone from Portugal before actually going there. I didn't manage to get a place in a public uni (a long story!) so I started to look for private unis in Lisbon with BA courses in foreign languages. Luckily, I found one which turned out to be the perfect course for me (Translation & Interpreting).
I chose Portugal because I wanted to learn a new language, I really had no prior knowledge of Portuguese before my studies began. But I was already fluent in Spanish (thanks to my exchange year in Mexico during upper secondary school) so I picked up the Portuguese language quite fast. I'm still so thankful that they did not request any language certificates, they just let me in!
What kind of experience did you have?
I had a great experience and I learned so much about the country and the academic life in Portugal. I also got the chance to go out on Erasmus and improve my French. The group of Translation students was really close-knit and I think I couldn't have had a better experience!
How do you feel international study will affect your job prospects?
After my studies I worked in Mexico and had no problems in finding great jobs. I think all the experiences I had will give me a competitive edge and I'll definitely stand out from the competition in the future. So if you have the chance to study abroad, go for it!
Going down under
Why did you decide to study in Australia and how did you choose your course and university?
I wanted a challenge and something different. I also wanted to see what the culture and art was like in the southern hemisphere. The University of Melbourne has a great reputation.
How did you go about finding more information and making the decision, and who gave you advice?
Study options were great in assisting my application process over here.
What have been the best, and most challenging, aspects of your time overseas so far?
Being able to explore and see new things all the time and meeting the most amazing people. The hardest part is financing myself, as it is so expensive being over here, and shuffling work hours with school hours.
Have you found Australian culture different?
Not really, to be honest. It's nice to see and learn about the Aboriginal culture which is so important here.
What's your top tip for handling homesickness?
Keep yourself busy and do things you enjoy.
Finally, what's the best thing about living in Melbourne?
The art and cafe culture. The lane ways are great and the art scene is so affluent. It's a really inspiring and buzzing city to be in.
Learning the language
What were your expectations before you went?
I didn't really have any expectations. I just wanted to have some fun and perfect my French.
What kind of experience did you have there?
Brilliant. I made lots of French friends, had some great times, and learnt a lot. I met lots of people from all over the world.
How did you deal with the language barrier?
At first it was difficult, my French was nowhere near perfect and I had to use signs a lot to get by. Enrolment was awful, I had problems trying to explain certificates, my allergies etc but it got sorted in the end.
All the lessons were in French with no chance of anything being explained in English if you didn't understand. After a couple of weeks though, my French got a lot better. I was helping some of them learn some English and life got a lot easier. For the record, drinking is the same in any language.
What advice would you give to someone considering studying abroad?
Don't be afraid to ask for help. The university is probably used to international students and will be more than willing to help with any problems you're having. Montpellier has an international student union that can help with accommodation, job hunting and visas (if you need them) plus anything else you're finding difficult whilst you're there.
Don't stick with the people that speak your own language and DON'T speak your own language. Speak the native language, it will help you. If the natives want to speak English with you, then they can speak to you in English and you can reply in their language. That way you both get some practise in, and you can both help each other out.