Overseas Education: 10 Hidden Elements Students Should Know

A degree from a foreign university can give your child an edge in life. But, do you know what you should look for before sending your child abroad to study? Here are ten points to pay attention to.

By Ashwin Lobo

Overseas Education: 10 Hidden Elements Students Should Know

Globalisation has made the world a smaller place. More Indians than ever before are travelling abroad, not only to work or spend their holidays there, but also for quality education. The Minister for External Affairs, Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha (9 August 2017) about the number of Indian students studying abroad stated that it was estimated to be 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 studying abroad, Indian students prefer going 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 other popular destinations include Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Bahrain.

Some of the reasons why Indian students seek admission in foreign educational institutions are —better quality of education, easier access to research funds, a higher standard of living and enhanced job prospects.

Emigrating to the country of their choice is another reason why Indians take admission in foreign educational institutions. They 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. Here are ten hidden elements that you should deliberate upon before you send your child to study abroad:

Before admission

1. Costs: The costs associated with studying abroad far exceed the expenses incurred in India. Apart from the expensive 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 scholarship, studying abroad can be an expensive proposition.

2. Scams: Before sending your child to a foreign country, talk to 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 and acceptable in India.

3. Accommodation: Several accommodation options are available in most 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 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 traveling to.

4. Visa: A number of issues could turn up while applying for a visa. So, make sure that your child’s documents are all in order before applying for the visa. Every country has its own rules related to visa. However, the general requirements for getting a visa 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 visa only through credible, official sources.

5. Insurance: The cost of medical treatment abroad is considerably higher. So, get a medical/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 to see if your policy deals with these aspects. If not, most colleges and universities offer student health insurance programmes or student insurance plans. You can also opt for individual insurance through one of the many reputed agencies. The policy should cover the following elements:

  • Medical emergencies: For emergency medical assistance
  • Emergency cancellation waiver: For cancellation of prepaid fees or accommodation
  • Twenty-four-hour assistance: A helpline to assist in difficult situations
  • Sports cover: Insurance against sports injuries
  • Personal possessions: Insurance for lost or stolen personal items

6. Money management: 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 ATM access fee while using ATMs of other banks. Call your chosen bank to ask for facilities they provide to international students.

7. Language: 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 funds 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. Food: 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. 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.

At the end of the day, choose the course and the university based on the interests of your child. Go through the options with her on the various courses available in India and abroad to come to a decision. While studying abroad will give her great exposure, the emphasis should be on the course and how it’ll help her career. If you and your child need help in arriving at a decision, talk to an education counsellor

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