Starting one’s university life is no easy feat. There are numerous aspects of applying to, deciding on and going to university that students have to deal with. For international students, however, making those decisions can be much harder.
Lack of reliable information online, the prevalence of cultural stereotypes and highly publicised yet misleading adverts can – consciously and unconsciously – influence international students’ choices. It might seem trivial to factor in things such as the cost of travel in your city before starting university, but in the long run, it can become a major influence over where and how you live or study.
To help with your decision-making, I’ve compiled a list of issues that international students could face that you should consider when weighing up your options.
Choosing a location
Where you live while at university ought to be given a lot of attention. Other than the obvious parameters of a city’s size and cost of living, remember to evaluate its demographics, which can influence your social circles. Also evaluate the geography of the area as it can determine the climate and how much walking you might do each day (I really wish I had known earlier how hilly Bristol is).
You should certainly factor in the cost of rent, food and transport, and then work out whether you have the budget for those things, as well as the social and cultural amenities the area provides. It’s even worth thinking about employment opportunities in case you plan to undertake work experience or internships while at university.
Choosing a university
It’s not sufficient simply to rely on rankings to select where you will study, even though they can be a good starting point. Some universities that fare well in overall rankings might not excel in the specific subject that you are interested in. Be sure to examine the curricula of the courses that you are interested in to gain a more rounded view.
Campus universities are more social and have a good sense of community, while city universities are bigger and less personable. Decide whether you would prefer to be in a place that is quieter or one that is vibrant. Researching from multiple sources and speaking to current students will help you choose better.
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You should, most certainly, choose the subject that you are passionate about, or at least interested in. But don’t forget to explore other things that might be included in your degree that you might be interested in.
Look for courses with a year abroad. Or courses with industrial placements. Check beforehand the number of weekly contact hours or the requirements for buying books. These are all important things that could help you make a decision.
Choosing course units
Make sure to choose units/modules that you will be able to handle and perform well in, but also ones that you are most interested in. If critical thinking or writing aren’t your biggest strengths, avoid units that require a lot of essays. If you prefer seminars to lectures, choose modules that have more seminars.
Do remember to research the possibility of including varied optional units in addition to the compulsory units.
It is vital, in all these cases, to keep communication open with your university and not feel hesitant to email or even call people if you have any questions.