After you have decided to become an international student, the second challenging part comes into play: choosing your ideal location. From choosing the one country you’d like to study in, to thinking about where exactly in that country you would want to spend these years of your life, the following tips can help you make a wise decision.
1. Think about how you want to be treated: Different cultures have distinct customs. The way people treat you is directly influenced by where they live and the people they have interacted with during their lives.
If you wanted to go somewhere in the middle of the U.S, where people may not have not seen a lot of international students before, you should be prepared to answer all of their questions and be understanding if you run into some cultural conflict. If you go to New York City or Boston, where there is a large international population, you should not expect as much curiosity from others.
Generally speaking, this holds true around the world. The difference in cultures and location leads to substantially varied perspectives. In building relationships abroad, whether for business or personal purposes, communication is also extremely important. People in the U.S. and Europe will often expect you to stand confidently and look them in the eyes while communicating. However, you cannot do the same in some Asian countries, where looking straight at an older person’s eyes can sometimes be considered disrespectful.
2. Think about different academic systems: Friends studying in other countries tell me students are generally expected to be more responsible and self-motivated in the U.K. or in France, for example, as there are only one or two final exams during the year. Therefore, if you are the type of student to leave your homework undone and wait until the last day to cram in a lot of material, you will likely not succeed in that course.
The U.S education system is considerably different, as colleges generally have exams and quizzes periodically to ensure that students have a firm understanding of the material. It is hard to tell which system is easier or harder, but it all depends on whether you are comfortable studying under their methods.
3. Think about the number of people in the area: If you are an outgoing, personable student who loves to meet local people, go to restaurants and shop around, a big city may be your best option. If you are a hardworking, focused individual who does not want any other distraction, a nice and quiet rural area would be a more suitable place for you.
If safety is a concern, you can consult your admissions counselor or use the Internet to figure out how high the crime rate is in that area.
4. Think about your personal and career goals: I personally chose to attend my school because it is only one hour away from Boston, and three hours away from New York City. This allowed me to gain a much broader exposure to the job opportunities and cultural diversity that the two cities offer.
The job recruiters who often pay a visit to my school are either from Boston or New York City, so it is easier for students to make business connections and start making plans for their future. If you already have an idea of what you want to do in the near future, you should pick a school location that best matches your preference.
This is the same even outside of the context of the U.S. Take the U.K as an example: If you wish to enter the competitive fields of accounting and investment banking, you might choose London as your location, since it is where many top firms have their headquarters – that way, you would see those companies at every career fair and event. However, if you love to study marine science, for example, you may want to attend a school closer to the ocean, where there are rich opportunities for research and hands-on experience.
5. Do not think about where your high school friends are going: The moment you decide to leave your hometown is the moment you have reached a different level of maturity. This includes gaining new cultural perspectives, meeting new people and enriching your own experience.
Your friends from kindergarten may get along with you very well, but it is highly unlikely that all of their choices and preferences in the next few years will be similar to yours. Plus, only hanging out with them in college hinders your chance of meeting new people and becoming more exposed to the college environment. As I mentioned earlier, college is where you build your future, so it is always better if you explore more options and meet new people.