Levy Forchheimer took an unconventional route when he decided to go 5,000 miles from his home in New York to study at IDC Herzliya’s Arison School of Business in Israel. Unlike many students who go abroad, his journey wasn’t for a semester or even for a year. It was for the long haul.
He received a BA in business administration when he graduated in 2010, and decided to continue living in Israel. A business degree from an Israeli school gave him a ticket into the country’s vibrant startup community, where he took a sales job for a small website eventually bought by Groupon. He’s now working in business development for another startup in the food service industry. For Forchheimer, who now lives in Tel Aviv, the gamble has more than paid off.
“I have learned a new language, studied with people from all over the world and live in a sunny, beautiful beach city,” he said. “All in all, it has been an extremely rewarding experience for me.”
MORE INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITIES NOW CATER TO ENGLISH-SPEAKING STUDENTS
Forchheimer’s decision to get his undergraduate business degree abroad is a path that is becoming increasingly common as a growing number of students are choosing to invest in an international education, realizing the dividends it can pay off in the labor market. It is easier than ever before for students to get their degree abroad, as more and more universities are catering to English-speaking students, offering English-taught degrees in countries where English is not the primary language (Israel’s Arison School of Business being just one of many examples).
There were 46,500 American students who pursued full degrees abroad in 2011-12, up five percent from the previous year, according to “New Frontiers,” a report released in May of 2013 by the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit that collects data on international university and high school students in the U.S.
Not surprisingly, business is among the top five fields of study that U.S. students in overseas degree programs choose to pursue, the report said.
ONE HURDLE: A DAUNTING APPLICATION PROCESS
“In a global economy, professional, financial, and academic incentives continue to motivate Americans to pursue degrees abroad,” the study’s authors wrote in the report.
Getting a degree abroad, especially one in business, may sound appealing, but the application process can seem daunting. For one thing, it is not as easy a process as filling out The Common Application or applying to your local state university. Poets&Quants’ Alison Damast spoke to three experts on international education to get their advice on how aspiring business students should approach the international college hunt and how to thrive once they start their degree program abroad. Here are a few of their tips:
Do your homework:
There are hundreds of program abroad that offer a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, but no obvious way to ascertain the quality or reputation of the program. Graduate business students can turn to the Financial Times’ Global MBA rankings, but no such thing exists for undergraduate business programs, said Norean Sharpe, the senior associate dean for undergraduate programs at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and an expert on undergraduate programs and global education. “Applying to BBA programs abroad is tricky,” Sharpe said. “It involves quite a bit of research on the part of students because the ranking for the MBA program does not necessarily translate to the same reputation for the BBA program.”
So where should one start? Brian Whalen, the president and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad, a nonprofit that advises students and universities on study abroad programs, recommends that students look for schools that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a U.S.-based accrediting agency which is seen by many in the management education world as the gold standard for B-school approval. From there, students should make every attempt to pay a visit to the campus they’re targeting, even if it means a plane ride to the U.K. or China.
“Just as students here in the U.S. visit colleges before they apply to them, I think the same basic advice would hold true for students considering colleges or universities overseas,” Whalen said. “I wouldn’t recommend that they go cold without having visited ahead of time to really make sure it is a good fit.”
Don’t Be Shy:
U.S. schools often have admissions counselors whose sole responsibility is to recruit international students to campus. Don’t necessarily expect that to be the case when you start applying to business programs abroad, said Claudine Vainrub, a principal with EduPlan, a college and graduate admissions school consulting company. “It is important for them to be proactive in getting information and calling the school,” she said. Students should look for programs that offer many or most of their courses in English, unless you are fluent in the language of your host country. Among the schools that are ramping up their offerings in English for undergraduates are Spain’s ESADE, which has an international BBA program, Copenhagen Business School and Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management said McDonough’s Sharpe.
“What is happening is the European Union is simply trying to be more international and attract students outside of their own country,” she said. “They really are competing on a global scale and that means having a more international student body and faculty.”
Carefully crunch numbers:
On the face of it, a undergraduate business degree abroad could seem like a bargain compared to the cost of a college degree in the U.S., where the tuition at a private institution can cost $30,000 a year or upwards. Many European host countries offer generous scholarships to international students or charge only nominal fees. For example, in Germany, both tuition and all living expenses are covered for international students, according to the IIE report. Other countries, like New Zealand and France, highly subsidize their degree programs and offer low tuition fees to international students at the same rate as for domestic students. Even China now offers competitive scholarships and stipends to promising international students, the report said.
Those are the best scenarios, though. The the true cost of attaining a degree abroad can often be hidden, said the Forum On Education Abroad’s Whalen. Students need to factor in things like the exchange rate, the cost of living and travel expenses. “It can seem like it is cheaper because U.S. higher education seems to be on the high end when compared to the cost of higher education in other countries,” Whalen said. “But it can add up to be quite significant.”
Students should think carefully about how long they’ll be living in the host country, and what that will mean for their financial picture, said EduPlan’s Vainrub. For example, in Venezuela, it takes five years to complete a business undergraduate degree, she said. ”That is non conditional, so students need to be aware of the amount of years it takes to complete a program before they apply to make sure it is convenient,” she said.
Look Before You Jump:
One thing that often takes students aback when they decide to do a college degree abroad is how vastly different the academic culture can be from their home country, said EduPlan’s Vainrub. Business programs abroad can be more competitive than in the U.S., she said. For example, some undergraduate business schools in Latin America will accept 1,000 students, but only 50 or 100 at the most will end up completing the degree, she said. “The filter is not going to be in the admissions process, but be within the schooling,” she said. “That can be actually shocking for U.S. students because they don’t except that. It’s very important for them to know that going in.”
Students also can expect the day-to-day classroom experience to be quite different from U.S. classrooms, said Whalen. For example, the material may be taught differently and the student-professor relationships may be more formal. Class participation more often than not will not play a role in a student’s final grade, and there are not the regular, frequent kind of assessments that take place here in the U.S,” he said. “That can come as a surprise to students,” he said. “Their entire grade might hinge on one final exam, which is more the norm in other parts of the world than the U.S.
Students applying to degree programs abroad are more likely spending most of their time daydreaming about the glamour of living in a new country on their own, rather than where they’ll get their internship or first job after college. That can be a mistake because where a student goes to school has a direct impact on their career prospects, said McDonough’s Sharpe. “I’d encourage students going abroad to look at the strength of career counseling and job placement,” Sharpe said. “For example if you want to attend a school in the European Union, the job placement will be stronger there because that is the pipeline.”
However, if you envision yourself working in the U.S. after college, you might want to reconsider your plans, recommends Whalen. U.S. students who take their degree abroad could find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes time to apply for entry-level positions in the U.S. merely because they are so many thousands of miles away, he said. “It can sometimes take students away from the networking opportunities that might be available to them in the U.S., such as internships and other experiences that might be built into colleges and universities here in the U.S., he said.
On the flip side, that time away may give them a valuable opportunity to get a job in their host country or another part of the world from the U.S. for several years. Said Whalen: “It’s a tradeoff. I think students need to think carefully about their future career goals and plans.”
Top Ten Destinations of U.S. Study Abroad Students
||% of Total
| 1. United Kingdom
| 2. Italy
| 3. Spain
| 4. France
| 5. China
| 6. Germany
| 7. Austria
| 8. Costa Rica
| 9. Ireland
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