Why Study Abroad? Get Educated In A Foreign Country

by Jacques Sprenger on 2012-05-0323

Why earn a college degree abroad? Have you considered sending your kids (or yourself) to study in a different country? Besides some relatively cheaper options for schooling, studying abroad may also offer a lot of rich and new experiences. In this article, we explore Mexico as a potential place to get an education, but the ideas here are simply representative of what to consider when you decide to pursue your studies overseas.

When I was living in Mexico, teaching English to Mexican university students in Monterrey, a doctor friend of mine launched a bold program to attract dollars to the School of Medicine via American students who either were unable to enter a school due to the high costs, or who were simply rejected because their SAT scores were too low. He was quite successful and I helped him welcome the first batch of 20 students from various states north of the border.

Of course, these medical students were aware that once they had their degree, they would still have to satisfy State Bar medical exams to be able to work as physicians. Some courses were in English, but a wise requirement by the University of Monterrey mandated that they had to learn Spanish during their first year; hence, ad hoc classes were provided as part of the curriculum.

study abroad, get educated in a foreign country
Pretty picture by the NYTimes.com

Take Your Studies Abroad

This program lasted only 3 years, as the founder passed away suddenly of a heart attack; however, any American student can study at any Mexican university, as long as she/he understands Spanish. The costs are a little higher than for native Mexicans, but still a long way below the amount paid in the U.S. The Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon is a state university that is renowned the world over for its extraordinary record in kidney transplants. It has its own public hospital which caters mainly to the indigent population.

…And Broaden Your Horizons

You don’t have to get your degree in a foreign country to enjoy studying abroad. Many American universities even require some students (based on their curriculum) to spend a year in a foreign country studying the language and the customs. Some financial aid is even available:

“The Carlos Castañeda Memorial Scholarships are available to students with an above average academic record as well as significant financial need. Awards are $1,000 toward summer tuition or $2,500 for a year of study in Mexico. Applicants must also meet Spanish language proficiencies,” according to this site called College Scholarships: this offer is among many other offers of scholarships for American students in various areas. Isn’t it fascinating to think about archeology or anthropology in Mexico, Costa Rica, or Honduras? Primitive artifacts are awaiting the audacious graduate student!

Note as well that if you have a 529 college savings plan in your name (or your child’s name), then the funds here can be applicable to certain accredited colleges and universities abroad. There are certain “study abroad programs” that are approved as viable recipients of funds from 529 plans.

Scholarships For Americans!

While most of this site is in Spanish (you’d also have to ignore the questionable web design), there are sections here that discuss options and possibilities for financial support for American students (referencing the Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholarship for tuition and living allowance.) The U.S.-Mexico Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (COMEXUS) has government support for growing the understanding between the two neighboring countries by developing programs of this sort that allow graduate students who are US citizens to seek international experience.

Advice For American Students

One of the most important words of advice to young American students who wish to polish their education abroad is: Be Careful! What may be tolerated here may not be acceptable in the host country. I remember a young American tourist in Singapore who was condemned to 20 lashes for smoking pot. You will discover very quickly that we enjoy a much greater freedom and safety here in the United States than in many other countries. Mexican jails are not particularly hospitable to gringos (particularly to the younger ones). But if you adapt quickly and show tolerance for different mores, your stay could be highly memorable!

Created August 9, 2009. Updated May 3, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

AJ August 10, 2009 at 8:26 am

I am out of college but I still want to study abroad.

Erica Douglass August 10, 2009 at 9:41 am

I wish this article had been more about your personal experience and less about generic information. Was it worth it for you? What are the do’s and don’ts?


Silicon Valley Blogger August 10, 2009 at 10:04 am

Jacques lived in Mexico for a good length of time and was a teacher there. But I can tell you MY own experience studying abroad — except my experience is the reverse: I was born and raised elsewhere and decided to study abroad by going to the United States for my college studies. In my mind, the experience was well worth it, but it was difficult for me in the beginning, being alone in a university town as a foreign student. I believe I only got over the culture shock after 2 or 3 years (that, even though I come from a very westernized country that embraces American culture). But as you can see, my decision to study here paved the way for the rest of my life.

The same can be said about becoming an intern abroad. It turns out to be very enriching, where you’ll get experiences you’ll never have by staying home. I have family members who’ve done this and will say there’s nothing that compares to it (the social scene notwithstanding). They know they’ll be returning to those countries they’ve interned before — it was both fun and rewarding (maybe not so much financially, but you know what I mean 🙂 ). A lot can be gained by just stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing the lifestyle elsewhere.

You never know — maybe by doing a stint overseas, you may end up deciding to relocate somewhere else for a while.

Tom Frost August 10, 2009 at 10:22 am

My wife, Maya Frost, recently had a book published by Random House called “The New Global Student. Skip the SAT’s, Save Thousands on Tuition and Get a Truly Global Education”. It details how to do part or all of your high school and college education abroad. Read the NewGlobalStudent.com’s first chapter online.

Craig August 10, 2009 at 11:58 am

Studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my life. Not just the classes, but learning about a new culture and gaining perspective on the world are life lessons that money cannot buy. It was an unbelievable experience and if you have the opportunity to go abroad, you should.

shraddha August 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm

this is very relevant toic.
i have heard of an increasing number of people from our Indian community doing this.
That is why the IB (Internation Baccalurate) programs in public schools are becoming all magnet school everywhere. The IB program makes children earn credits that are recognized all over the world. Even Oxford!

My blog is in such a different theme.
Otherwise I would have loved to write about IB programs.
My twin girls are 3 and in our city only one public school offers IB program so we are thinking of shifting house to be in that area!!!

Havilah August 10, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Do you think there was anything that could have made the culture shock easier to get over? I realize that’s a broad question but am curious if you have thoughts on that. I have some good friends who moved here from another country and I’m always aware that it must take some courage to leave everything you know for a completely different experience. Reading your comment about it taking 2 to 3 years to get over the culture shock, I wondered if there was something that could have made it smoother. Or maybe overcoming that and being stronger because of it is part of what makes it worthwhile.

In thinking about the blog post, perhaps that is also true for some future physicians who explore options outside of their own country.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

To answer your question, yes — there are certainly ways to get over the culture shock. It’s best if you have family around! If you’re able to attend school in a country where you already have some roots — maybe extended family or some friends, it may help. But I found that over time, I was able to build new friendships that helped me get over the difficulty of adjusting.

Think about it: I came from an all-women religious school and ended up in one of the most liberal universities in the U.S. It was crazy! So you can imagine the mind-blowing revelations I ended up grappling with. But hey — I can say that I learned a tremendous amount about the world, how it works, how people relate and live in a different society. I had lived a sheltered life as a child so this was a great opportunity. These days, I am able to keep an open mind about everything — I always draw from both experiences I’ve had: from the first half of my life (where I grew up in a developing country in Asia) to the second half (living the life as an American). I can say I am comfortable living in either place and that I’m grateful for!

Bottom line: Making friends, having family around will help you transition better — especially when school pressures get to you.

Savvy Frugality August 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Don’t forget that even if you cannot afford to live and go to school abroad, but still want a college degree from a non-U.S. school, you can still study online. Many UK, Australian, South African and some Latin American schools offer degree programs entirely by distance learning. Even with the current exchange rates, the cost of getting a degree from a good UK school is about the same or perhaps a little bit more than a college degree from the US. Although you may not be on the campus, there are opportunities to interact with the other students online through chat rooms, group work assignments, etc.

ark August 11, 2009 at 2:07 am

it is interesting to study abroad, to find new friends and new experiences in another side of the world …. thank you for the tips!

Kevin@OutOfYourRut August 11, 2009 at 6:51 am

This is an idea with real merit if for no other reason than that the world is becoming more global in nature, and in every regard. We have every reason to believe that the trend will continue.

A degree in another country can provide you with a footing in at least two countries, which can be a real plus given that many economic opportunities exist simply in bridging two countries. A degree in a Spanish speaking country can open up opportunities in dozens of countries.

I know people who have made a (good) living working between the US and one or more Latin American countries, usually for companies with operations throughout the western hemisphere. It’s a good bet that the line of applicants for such jobs is a good deal shorter than it is for some common occupations here at home.

The Frugal New Yorker August 11, 2009 at 7:44 am

I love any article that encourages studying abroad. I studied abroad for 2 years in France and Spain, and am so grateful for the experience. Not only am I more culturally aware and tolerant, have excellent language skills, and have friends around the world, I also am familiar with more than one way of life. The Spanish pace, French style, their attitudes toward food—all of this has rubbed off on me and, I think, improved my standard of living.

Sadly, both experiences were done through my home schools, so I paid full American tuition each year. But high school students should consider studying for the IB and applying directly to European (and other) universities—you’ll save a ton of dough, get a good education if you choose carefully, and have a unique and exciting college experience! And I don’t think any American employer will look down on a foreign degree if you explain it in that light.

Russell Abravanel August 11, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Travel abroad is great but make sure to find a safe country to visit

Nelly August 14, 2009 at 6:45 am

Studying abroad is a perfect opportunity not only to learn other cultures, the mentality of people of foreign countries but also is a great chance to understand your own country. I am from East Europe and studied at the University in Germany. It was a wonderful experience! Furthermore it helped me to get the difference in mentality of people. I have also found that we have very much in common. And I would like my children to study abroad!

Chandler AZ August 23, 2009 at 11:30 am

For no other reason, it’s important to make connections and see the world over. The extent of globalization today calls for everyone to know about the rest of the world at least to some extent.

marina k. villatoro August 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I studied abroad and it was the best experience of my life! It literally changed the way I look at everything today!

jessiev September 3, 2009 at 11:03 am

i’ve read maya frost’s book (*the new global student*) and LOVE it. i’ve traveled my whole life – and think it is critical to live (and work or study) in other places. why? to expand your worldview and enrich your life!

Dario September 4, 2009 at 11:00 am

Studying abroad can be a very enlightening experience. I agree with what you said about being careful with cultural differences in a foreign country. It can be real tricky getting down every last detail right in order not to make a fool of oneself.

Keep up the good blogging! 🙂

personal career coach October 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm

One of my friend studies medicine in China, he is originally from India. He wants to pursue his post graduation degree. Can he do so in Mexico at your above said university?

Study in India March 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm

With the potential for more students to start studying abroad, it becomes more important than ever to know which resources to use and trust.

Shennan T. October 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Studying abroad gives you a different perspective on life. A lot of times kids are stuck in the area they live in and don’t visit other places, and discover other realities.

Brian December 31, 2010 at 4:57 pm

After spending a good amount of time learning Modern Standard Arabic in the states, I can say from experience that studying abroad will definitely enhance your ability to pick up on a foreign language as well as introduced you to different types of dialect. Great stuff!

andi May 10, 2012 at 3:18 am

I’d like to read about your personal experience.

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