Overseas Education: 10 Hidden Elements Students Should Know

A degree from a foreign university can give your child an edge in life. But, before planning her overseas education, pay attention to these 10 study abroad hidden elements.

By Ashwin Lobo

Overseas Education: 10 Hidden Elements Students Should Know

Globalisation has made the world a smaller place. An increasing number of Indian students are nowadays travelling abroad for quality overseas education. According to the Ministry of External Affairs,the number of Indian students studying abroad in 2017 was around 5,53,440 (based on inputs from missions/posts abroad as it is not mandatory for students to register themselves with the Ministry).

When it comes to overseas education, Indian students prefer travelling to the United States of America. As per the 2015–16 data (Ministry of External Affairs' Annexure), 2,06,708 Indians are studying in various educational institutions of the USA. The top study abroad destinations for Indian students include Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Bahrain.

Some of the reasons why Indian students travel to study in foreign universities are — better quality of education, easier access to research funds, a higher standard of living, and enhanced job prospects. The increasing number of study abroad consultants has also played a major role in this.

Emigrating to the country of their choice is another reason why Indian students take admission in foreign universities and colleges. Many of them stay back even after completing their education to pursue research or take up jobs.

Studying in a premier foreign university does bestow a lot of benefits. However, the decision to study abroad should be taken after careful consideration, as not taking informed decisions can ruin your child's future. Various factors such as study abroad hidden elements, study abroad hidden costs and study abroad scams should be considered before taking a decision. Here are ten study abroad hidden elements that you should deliberate upon before sending your child for overseas education:

Before admission

1. Study abroad hidden costs: The costs associated with overseas education far exceed the expenses incurred in India. Apart from the high tuition fees, your child will need to pay for accommodation, food, transportation and medical insurance. Exchange rates also play a big role in determining how much you will be spending (a sizeable sum of Rs 70,000 in India amounts to only $1,000 in the USA!). So, even if your child receives a study abroad scholarship, overseas education can be an expensive proposition.

2. Study abroad scams: Before sending your child to a foreign university, tell him about the need to remain vigilant to prevent himself from being conned. A few years ago, some international students at reputed educational institutions in the USA were targeted by conmen posing as immigration officials. They told the students that their visas would be terminated if they did not remit money to a certain account. Quite a few naive students fell for this fake threat and lost their money. Scams come in all shapes — from fake scholarships to accommodation hoaxes to student loans that don’t work out. Additionally, students should also inquire whether the degree offered by the institution of their choice is valid in India.

3. Study abroad accommodation: Several accommodation options are available in foreign countries. So, choose the one which is affordable and suits your child’s needs. Homestays are one option where your child would be hosted by a family. Usually, he would be provided with a separate room and offered food. Your child will have to pay for the rent and utilities. If he chooses to eat there, he will need to pay for food too. Apartments are a slightly more expensive option but afford more privacy. However, the costs can be cut if your child can find someone to share the apartment with. The cheapest option is to stay in a student dormitory. Taking care of your child's accommodation needs before he leaves home is a must, as some countries require proof that your child has a place to stay before allotting the visa. A good way to find out about accommodation is to reach out to students who have studied or are studying in the country/city your child is travelling to.

4. Study abroad visa: Several issues could turn up while applying for a study abroad visa. So, make sure that all your child’s documents are in order before applying for one. Every country has its own rules related to visas. However, the general requirements include a valid passport, passport-sized photographs, receipt of visa application fee paid, proof of accommodation and a completely filled-in visa application form. Confirm well in advance the documents your child needs to take to the visa interview. A word of caution here — watch out for fraudsters who may offer to obtain visas for your child in exchange for money. Apply for a visa only through credible, official sources.

5. Study abroad insurance for students: The cost of medical treatment abroad is considerably high. So, get a study abroad health insurance and travel insurance for your child. This will ensure that your child does not end up paying from his pocket for his medical expenses. Check with your insurance company as to what the policy covers. Also, most foreign universities offer international student health insurance plans. Your child can also opt for student insurance through one of the many reputed agencies. A student insurance policy should cover the following elements:

  1. Medical emergencies: For emergency medical assistance
  2. Emergency cancellation waiver: For cancellation of prepaid fees or accommodation
  3. 24-hour assistance: A helpline to assist in difficult situations
  4. Sports insurance: Insurance against sports injuries
  5. Personal possessions: Insurance for lost or stolen personal items

6. Study abroad money tips: Your child should have a local bank account while she’s studying abroad to make the transfer of money convenient. To open an account, she will need her passport, address proof and the proof that she is a student residing in the country. If possible, sign up with a bank that’s a part of the Global ATM Alliance. Customers of these banks do not have to pay an additional international access fee while using ATMs of other banks. Call your chosen bank to ask for facilities they provide to international students.

7. Learning a language while studying abroad: English is the most widely spoken language in the world. However, in some countries, the medium of instruction is their native language. If your child is going to study in one such country, he would need to learn the local language. However, even if it’s not compulsory, knowledge of the local language will definitely help your child get around. Check with the university to see if they offer courses to help students familiarise themselves with the local language or make sure your child learns it before he leaves.

8. Weather: The right clothes go a long way in helping an individual cope with unfavourable weather. Instead of buying clothes for your child in India and increasing the weight of her luggage, provide her with money to buy clothes and accessories abroad. Many brands are, in fact, more affordable abroad. She can also go to open markets to buy them at a lesser cost.

9. Eating while studying abroad: Setting aside her food preferences, your child will have to get used to the food culture of the country she is travelling to. This can take some time. The best thing to do is to teach her the basics of cooking before she leaves home. This will help her save money and get to savour some homemade food as well.

On arrival

10. Study abroad registration: Upon landing in a foreign country, your child should get herself registered with that country's Ministry of Internal Affairs within 24–48 hours. This legalises your child’s stay and helps her get temporary residency. Different countries have different rules regarding registration; so, make sure that your child is aware of the rules and regulations before she leaves home. It is also important to ask her to register with the Indian embassy as embassies provide invaluable assistance when Indians face problems abroad. In addition, Indian embassies often conduct programmes related to Indian culture and celebrate popular Indian festivals which can make your child feel at home.

Study abroad tips for students

If your child has already enrolled in a foreign university or college, here are some useful tips to help easily adapt to the local lifestyle:

  • Getting connected to local people/clubs: Staying in a new country can make your child feel lonely. Getting friendly with local people will therefore give her a sense of confidence and the much-needed support system. It will also be helpful in times of need. Similarly, becoming a part of groups such as art clubs and community service organisations will also help in mingling with the locals.
  • Knowing the local social customs and traditions: Getting accustomed to the customs and traditions of the country gives your child a chance to get closer to the local people, despite the cultural differences. It will also help in maintaining a positive and cordial relationship with the local people.
  • Understanding the local law: Obeying the laws of the host country will help your child keep away from troubles. Knowledge of local laws related to driving or general law and order will always be useful in staying away from doing anything illegal.
  • Learning to manage emergencies: An emergency may arise at any time and your child has to be prepared to manage such a situation. He should have the phone numbers of the local police station, fire station and other essential services. It is also important to be in touch with the local Indian community, to seek help in case of any urgent need.

Just as you choose the course and the university based on the interests of your child, also go through the various risk factors involved when sending your child to study abroad. While studying abroad will give your child a great exposure, you should also make sure she stays safe and secure. So, together with your child, make sure you check all the hidden elements involved and guide her towards a bright future. Let her study abroad experience be a memorable one for her.If you and your child need help in arriving at a decision, talk to an education counsellor

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