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Planning to study abroad? Here’s what you need to know

Choosing which country to study in and which educational institution to study at, then going through the application could be a daunting process. Picture: Supplied

Choosing which country to study in and which educational institution to study at, then going through the application could be a daunting process. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 30, 2022


According to Brent Morris, the managing director at Sable International Study Abroad, an average of 11 000 South Africans study overseas every year. Which is quite a decent number.

“Most students want to expand their study options with a view to obtaining an internationally recognised qualification, building a business network, then working internationally and even applying for permanent residence or citizenship,” says Morris.

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As stated in a report done by Travelstart, the majority of employers – about 90% of them – share that candidates with international accreditation possess desirable traits and skills which could benefit them in the work environment, such as maturity, superior communication skills, flexibility, cross-cultural awareness, and independence.

Choosing which country to study in and which educational institution to study at, then going through the application could be a daunting process. Therefore, it is important for South Africans to do their homework.

Morris offers the following key considerations:

Start with the end in mind

It’s important for students to think and know why they are studying abroad and prioritise their choices accordingly. They may be choosing a destination based on the university experience, the status of the qualification, or the job opportunities after graduating, or for the possibility of obtaining citizenship in a country.

Consider costs

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Just like with anything in life, the financial part of studying abroad is of utmost importance as it may determine your choice. Take a serious look at your budget.

For instance, with regards to tuition, countries like Mauritius and Hungary are more affordable than the UK and US. In Mauritius, you’re looking at between $8 000 and $12 000 per annum, while studying in Hungary will set you back between $6 000 and $10 000 per annum. Compare this to the US where tuition fees are between $10 000 and $80 000, and in the UK, where you’re looking at anything between $14 000 and $50 000 per annum.

Keep in mind that’s just tuition. You should also factor in what your living costs will be. Let’s say you study in Mauritius, you’re looking at an additional $3 000 to $6 000. While in the UK that cost can skyrocket to $15 000, and to $30 000 in the USA.

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So yes, the financial plan to study abroad is very important.

Popular countries

South Africans often choose to go to the UK to study, and this number is expected to increase with the introduction of the new graduate visa route. This visa enables a graduate to remain in the UK to seek work for a further two to three years after they’ve completed their studies. So, if your plan is not to return home once you’ve completed your studies, this visa offers a great opportunity to grow in the UK.

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South Africans who have completed undergraduate qualifications at local universities can now go over to the UK to complete an honours or masters qualification and stay on with the graduate visa.

Other countries which offer cost-effective, excellent qualifications, include the Netherlands, Mauritius and Ireland.

University applications

Make an informed decision about the universities you want to apply to. Consider the course content in detail, for example, your career ambitions, and the costs involved, application fees, tuition, and living expenses as well as costs around the visa application.

Once you have shortlisted the universities you are considering, the next step will be to submit your applications. All the relevant documents need to be verified, you need to keep in mind all application dates and know just what each university needs from you. Usually, applications can be made directly through the university’s website and all the required documents can be submitted this way. In some countries, applications can be made through a dedicated online platform that allows applications to more than one university at a time.

Sable International Study Abroad currently works with over 250 universities’ admissions departments, and it is a complex process. A key factor in the success of many applications are the personal statements that are a part of the application process. It is important to work through the process with an expert advisor.

Applying for a student visa

Once you have received an acceptance letter you can start applying for a student visa. There are a few requirements that can make this tricky to navigate. The first port of call would be to check the relevant government’s website and see exactly what is needed in order to apply for a student visa. Generally, you would need:

● An acceptance letter from the institution

● Proof of funding for your child's stay

● Proof of at least a partial payment for the course

● A valid passport

● Secure English Language Test (Selt) certificate (if needed)

● Health insurance

It is preferable to work with a study adviser to guide you through the process. They will handle the application process (for both the university and your visa), assist in preparing the necessary documentation, as well as helping with the interview preparation, if one is required.

Pre-departure assistance

Once you have your acceptance letter and visa, you are ready to go and you need to prepare for the big move. Things that need to be organised include:

● You will need to secure accommodation before departure. Both on and off-campus accommodation have their pros and cons, so this will need to be weighed up.

● Make sure that you understand local transport systems.

● Think about what you need to take with you and what to buy there.

● You will also need to think about health insurance. As an international student, you will not have access to the health services of the country you are studying in, and this is often a stipulation of your student visa.

Yes, it may sound like a lot to take in at the moment, but there are numerous benefits studying abroad as stated in Travelstart. Besides improving your career opportunities and giving you a chance to gain a deeper understanding of how the world works, it encourages personal growth and opens doors to learn new languages and skills. Most importantly, you get to explore and experience life in a different setting and country.