Need to start your application to study abroad, but unsure where to start? Emma’s got you sorted…

It’s likely I won’t be the first to tell you that studying abroad takes a lot of preparation and research, and as the application deadline gets closer it can begin to feel a little daunting. But I promise the work you put in now will be so worth it! I’ve been through the process myself, and ended up spending the most incredible year abroad, studying in the film school at UCLA, so I would love to share some tips with you to help you along the journey!

Choosing a destination

It goes without saying that the first step is to pick where you want to go. I was set on my final destination before I got to QM, but with so many options to choose from, I understand it can be hard to choose where you want to go – if you do know where you want to go, it is also important to research your back-up options (just in case).

I chose my top choice for a number of reasons: the classes, the career connections I could make, the calibre of the school, and the sunshine! Everyone has different demands from their year abroad, so here are some questions you should consider:

  • Why do you want to do a year abroad?
    – What do you want to gain? Is the focus education, career, exploring culture, learning a language or travelling?
  • What kind of classes do you want to take?
    – Do you want the ability to take courses in other subjects?
  • What are the academic expectations?
    – Consider that some universities demand a lot more or a little less from their students than Queen Mary. Do you want to push yourself a lot academically, or are you wanting to spend more time exploring the culture?
  • What extracurriculars do you want to take part in?
  • Can you speak the language of the country? Would you be willing to learn?
  • Are there any cultural or personal differences that would affect your experience in this culture?
    – Can you freely express yourself, your beliefs and your religion? Is this country accessible to me? Can I cater to my dietary requirements?
  • Will you be able to budget to comfortably live in this destination?
    – Also if you need to work whilst studying, research if your visa will let you!
  • What excites you most about studying here?

Budgeting and finances

After that, you hopefully have a rough idea of where you would like to study. Now for the fun part, budgeting! Honestly, this was one of the most daunting parts of the process for me, but I think making a rough budget early on set me up for success. Finances will differ drastically depending on personal and family circumstances and the destination you study in. Personally, studying in LA was much more expensive than living in London. Full transparency, it was $15,000 for my triple dorm (yes, that’s a bedroom for 3 students) and meal plan, and roughly $3000 for medical insurance (inc. summer coverage)  – but the exchange rate on education for a university was a STEAL (in my opinion). Even if you don’t make a strict budget, I’d highly recommend researching the cost of things, and carefully consider how you will finance them!

Potential outgoings:

  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Flights (do you want to fly back during holidays?)
  • Visa
  • Insurance
  • Textbooks
  • Mobile data
  • Socialising
  • Shopping
  • Travelling

Other things to consider:

  • Exchange rates
  • The general cost of living (e.g. I found grocery stores in the US so much more expensive than in the UK)
  • Is tax included?
  • Can you legally be employed?
  • How are you going to approach conversations regarding money from your parents?
  • Some universities charge extra fees when you pay your bills (I was charged an extra $99 per international transaction – this was reduced to around $15-20 when I paid in dollars)
  • Do you need to open a new bank account? AND how easy is it to transfer money in and out of the account?

When I was applying, I was sent a budget template by Queen Mary that gave a general idea of how to budget, but there are also hundreds of free templates available online. Truthfully, my budget went out the window a little bit once I made it to LA, as I was able to get a job whilst studying. But my prior preparation meant that my financial responsibilities were covered and the money I made was a lot more dispensable – being abroad is not the time to be spending beyond your means. There are a number of ways you can ensure you have the money to enjoy your year abroad:

  • Maintenance Loan
  • Savings
  • Family
  • Turing grant
  • External scholarships and grants (a little harder to secure, but worth looking into)
  • Work abroad

I never used them myself, but I have been told that the QM financial advisory office also gives great assistance if you need some financial advice.

The application

Now it’s time to write and submit your application. Your grades will speak for themselves and the personal statement should be fun to write; you are essentially bragging about what you’ve already accomplished and the reasons you’re excited to study at this university.

Here are my tips for a great personal statement:

Questions to answer:

  • What makes you unique, and a good candidate to study abroad?
  • Why do you study your subject?
  • Why do you want to go to that city/country?
  • Why do you want to go to that school?
    • What can the school offer you? Research classes and opportunities!
  • What will you get out of studying abroad and how will you use it?

Advice to make yourself stand out:

  • Prove that you have done your research
  • Make a case as to why you should get to go to that university.
  • Get a second opinion and proofreaders.
    • I went overkill and got 5 people, including professors and peers, to help me with my statement. But I was eager and it paid off. Use the help available to you!
  • Be passionate!

I would be happy to answer any questions or just chat your ear off about my year at UCLA (genuinely, I could go on for hours)! You can contact me via my Global Ambassadors’ page or drop me a message on Instagram. Good Luck!!


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