One of a university’s favourite selling points of a year abroad is that it’s free. You don’t pay for the year, how great is that! You get to explore another country, for FREE.
This is a lie.
A well-intentioned lie, but a lie nonetheless. A year abroad is not free, it is just, in the case of my university, tuition fee-free. You still need to pay for accommodation, flights, and other costs such as a meal plan and visa expenses. These quickly mount up, and it’s an unfortunate fact that not everyone is able to justify the costs. I’m aware this perhaps comes across as rather entitled, but I promise it’s not intended to be. I’m grateful to be in a position where I’m able to take part in a year abroad, and I think it’s important to recognise the amount of time and money that goes into a year abroad.
As much as I love my university, I don’t think it’s fair to mislead potential applicants/future students. Because we’re advertising the university we’re encouraged to emphasise the positives, and a year abroad is one of those positives. However, as a Visit Day Ambassador, I’ll admit I strayed from the party line and informed those I was showing my campus of the real costs of a year abroad. This isn’t in any way to attempt to dissuade them from coming to Essex; I make sure to let them know that every university has costs involved, some more than others. In fact there are universities where even the tuition for the year isn’t free, but instead perhaps reduced. I just wouldn’t feel right if I gave someone the impression that they were going to get something that they were never able to receive.
Having said this, a year abroad is excellent value for money, particularly if you consider countries like the US. As an international student you’re looking at parting with sums in the area of £20,000 per year of study in the States (depending where you go). Even if you do pay for a full year of tuition at your UK university, the current maximum tuition fee per year for a Home student is £9,000, clearly the cheaper option when comparing prices.
An experience like a year abroad is priceless in so many ways. You can’t put a price on the cultural, personal and academic growth that’ll occur when you’re out there. You can put a price on rent, though. Whilst costs are important to factor in to a year abroad, you do need to remember one of the most important things: