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How to prepare: Studying abroad

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This guide is written for students who are interested in completing their full undergraduate or masters degree abroad.


  1. Setting your expectations
  2. Finding a study program
  3. Choosing a country
  4. Choosing a university
  5. Applying for the program
  6. Searching for scholarships
  7. Managing tuition fees
  8. Making the decision
  9. Start learning the local language
  10. Connecting to local students

Settling the preparations required for studying abroad can’t be achieved overnight, it takes some time to go through each step along the way to your dream university. I have come up with a 10-step guide to walk you through the most important preparation steps. Start as early as 1.5 years in advance to make sure you won’t miss the important deadlines for enrollment and scholarship application periods! 

  1. Setting right expectations 

Before starting to search online for random study programs abroad, know what you want to get out of the program and set your own expectations. This concerns the level of education, field of study and also the ranking of the university abroad. Think about your budget and your geographical limitations, the languages you speak and want to learn in the future and even beyond this, the country you could imagine yourself working in for the first couple of years after graduation.

  1. Finding a study program

This is the difficult part, finding a study program that suits your interest and motivation is a challenge that sometimes takes more than the time that you have available on your hands. To make sure that your expectations match your interest, my tip is to talk with current students from the study programme you would like to attend. If you don’t know any students who are currently enrolled in this programme, simply contact the (international) student affairs office and ask for the contact details or experience reports of one of their current students. Most of the universities I have applied to, were very helpful in this matter and talking to the current helped me to form a more in-depth picture of the study programme.

  1. Choosing a country

If you have already chosen your study programme or major, it might be a good idea to filter the best programmes on each continent to get an overview of the more popular universities in your study area. If you haven’t decided which major you would like to pursue, you can also filter by country and search for your study direction with a geographical filter. If you would like to study in the Netherlands or are currently completing your secondary school diploma in the Netherlands, I can recommend the website: www.wilweg.nlfor extensive information on studying abroad from the Netherlands.

  1. Choosing a university

Similar to finding your major, you can approach current students at each university that you are seriously considering for your studies. This helps to get a more personal perspective and feeling of each university atmosphere. You should feel comfortable and welcomed at your future university, so make sure to take your time to get to know the campus or current students to find out whether you can see yourself as a prospective student of this university.

  1. Applying for the program

To ensure your application is completed on time, you should start to research the preparations required for the application process about one year in advance. I can highly recommend to carefully read the admissions office instructions on time and make sure to not miss any of their important admission deadlines. Mark them in your calendar!

  1. Searching for scholarships

Especially for students from outside the European Union, tuition fees can amount quickly. Luckily, there are many scholarships available for each study area and university. Make sure to check out your preferred universities scholarship website section for the most up to date and relevant information. For the Netherlands, you can check out for a convenient filter list of available scholarships per academic level and field of study.

  1. Managing tuition fees

Several countries such as Sweden, Denmark or Norway, offer study finance to aid their students with financial assistance. In Germany for instance, even international students can study for free as long as they get admitted into their German university. Tuition fees are an important factor while choosing your study programme and the government subsidies for some study programmes in the north of Europe are a great advantage, even for international students.

The Netherlands have capped their study finance in 2015 and now offer a 0% interest loan to students to finance their studies. In addition, students with a Dutch nationality get to travel for free throughout the country during the week or weekend. If you don’t have the Dutch nationality but still want to receive the study finance, there are several ways to become eligible for the programme, such as working for 56 hours every month next to your studies. Talk to your parents or other supporters about your finances and find a way to tackle the study fees together.

  1. Making the decision

After taking finances, study programmes, language or culture barriers, reputation, rankings, career opportunities and geographical location (in no particular order) into careful consideration, it is time to make the decision. Choose the programme or university that offered you admission and seems the most attractive to you based on the above mentioned factors. Making a pro and contra list and talking over the options with your close friends and family can help you in making the decision.

Ultimately, my tip is to choose the university or programme that you get the most excited about when imagining yourself as a future student. Since you will be spending lots of time and effort at your university, consider the biggest advantages and disadvantages of each admitted programme and finally make your well-informed decision.

  1. Start learning the local language

Do you already know the local language of your study programme or destination country? If not, it is time to get started with learning the basics of the local language for a smoother transition into your new life chapter. Check out my language learning journal for tips and experiences on how to teach yourself and get started with a new foreign language.

  1. Connecting to local students

Once you have arrived at your local university, definitely make sure to join a (language) buddy programme to help you get around in the first few weeks of your university adventure. If your university doesn’t have a buddy programme, you can either try to contact the international office for student contacts or simply ask around during the orientation days. Try to connect to the local students in your study programme and inform yourself about the local culture prior to your departure to avoid major pitfalls and cultural mishaps.


The time of studying abroad can be a fantastic experience and gives you lots of opportunities to connect with international peers, immerse yourself in a different culture and expand your horizon with a different worldview. Take this amazing opportunity and make the most out of this time while it lasts!

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