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Studying Abroad For Your Master's Degree? 5 Tips To Prepare

From reading up on the local culture to finding somewhere to live, it can be hard to know where to begin when embarking on a Master’s degree abroad

Thu Aug 17 2023

Maybe you’re pursuing that course you’ve been dreaming of. Maybe you’ve been enticed by the array of jobs on offer. Or maybe you’re simply looking for a bit of an adventure.

No matter the reason, choosing to study your Master’s abroad can be one of the most exciting decisions you’ll make. You’re bound to find new friends, visit beautiful places, and experience a whole different way of living. Plus, spending time studying internationally looks great on a CV.

That said, it can also be a little daunting. There are a whole host of factors for international students to consider when moving abroad. Countries have different laws and application processes  not to mention completely different ways of greeting each other. 

Luckily, there’s no reason to get overwhelmed. With these five tips, you’ll be feeling confident before you even step on the plane: 

1. Understand the visa requirements

There are few things more mind-numbing than poring over legal documents. However, it’s something you’re best not putting off. 

Different countries can have completely different entry requirements for specific nationalities, which means it’s easy to overlook important criterion if you’re not careful. 

For example, while applying for the Schengen visa allows international students to study in over 20 European countries, those from outside of the US planning to attend any of its top-rated schools are typically required to fill out two separate forms to get the much-prized F-1 study visa.

2. Sort out accommodation

Although many universities do offer priority accommodation to those coming from overseas, it’s not always a guarantee. Since most of the time, rooms are offered on a first-come first-served basis, the best way to avoid getting rejected is to apply as soon as you get accepted onto your program.

If you’re unlucky enough to miss out, or your school doesn’t offer accommodation at all, then it might be time to sign up to a student housing website. Each country will typically have their own so it’s probably best to check the recommendations given by your university. 

Failing that, social media can also be a possible avenue to go down. Just be careful to screen the people DM'ing you offers when posting on platforms like Facebook housing groups. 

3. Get to know the laws and culture 

Navigating a new culture can be a challenge, especially if you’re preparing to be a business student. There is nothing more embarrassing than making an unintended faux pas when you’re trying to deliver a presentation, or orchestrate a group project. 

Even more worryingly, different countries—and even towns—have their own etiquettes. No one wants to put a damper on their international study experience by making an unintentional mistake.

Luckily there are online platforms out there dedicated to educating students planning to study abroad. Take CulturaGo, this platform currently has more than five different programs on offer, providing in-depth cultural introductions to countries such as Italy, Korea, and the UK.

Preparation such as this can go a long way in ensuring you're clued up on the culture and laws of your new home, which will make it far easier to settle in when you arrive. 

When studying abroad, there will also be ample opportunities to explore even further afield—if you're open to the opportunities available to you. 

“I went on trips with my classmates to the South of France and Spain, went to great parties organized by ESSEC, and enjoyed Paris as much as we could,” says Julian Weidemann Reig, who made the most of his time studying a Master in Finance as an international student at ESSEC Business School, Paris.

4. Speak to other students and alumni

A key way to familiarize yourself with a new culture is by learning from the experiences of others. 

Often you can find alumni on your school’s website, or by looking them up on LinkedIn. It may seem daunting, but there’s no harm in sending someone a friendly message asking for advice or even for a virtual chat. Many alumni will be more than happy to help you, as they were in the same position as you once, too. 

Equally, reaching out to other international students who are going to be joining the same master's program or business school can go a long way towards making you feel more at ease. You can arrange meetups or Zoom calls, and maybe even organize accommodation together.

5. Reach out to your school’s careers team

An important tip to remember is that almost all schools have a careers team on standby to offer help when you need it. 

“As an international student who didn’t know much about the Belgian job market, the careers team were invaluable in helping me find companies that aligned with my values,” says Bhuveneswari BS, who moved from India to study the Master in Marketing and Digital Transformation program at Vlerick Business School.

Similarly, Scottish-born Zainab Iqbal, who studied a Master in Digital Innovation and New Business Design, says that the careers team at Italy-based POLIMI Graduate School of Management was critical in “preparing [students] for the world of work,” by offering CV workshops and skills sessions. 

The careers team will be there to take lend a guiding hand throughout your business school journey, whether for finding mental health support or lining up job opportunities when you graduate, so take advantage of them. 

International students are an integral part of the fabric of any school. So, while aspects of moving may seem daunting, there are plenty of resources out there to help.