Studying abroad is definitely one of the best experiences you can have in your life which will allow you to grow academically and personally by taking courses in great schools and living by yourself in a foreign country. There are many universities all around the world in which you can spend a year or semester abroad and also several courses and seminars you can take. Unfortunately, the costs associated are high, but don't worry let me share with you my experience studying abroad with the help of scholarships, how can you find them, and what should you consider to choose a study program.
1) My experience
So far I have participated in three study programs abroad:
A semester abroad during university in Austria (Ernst Mach Grant)
I studied a semester abroad in Vienna with the help of the Ernst Mach Grant which covered tuition, accommodation, and flight expenses.
You can read the post How to win the Ernst Mach Grant for a semester or year abroad in Austria for a detailed description.
The summer academy Waves of Democracy in Denmark (Granted)
A group conformed by young students from all over Europe, participated in this platform for dialogue and networking. We had several workshops, cultural events, and activities around the city.
You can read the post How to participate in the Summer Academy Waves of Democracy in Denmark for a detailed description.
2) Where can you find scholarships?
If you are currently a student in High School or University, the first step should be to contact the exchange department in your school and ask for the list of agreements with foreign schools. For instance, sometimes there are modalities in which you can pay the same tuition fee as the one you pay in your school but applied abroad, so the only extra costs in which you'll incurre will be accommodation and the airplane ticket. Moreover, it may be possible that your school has scholarship agreements. But don't worry if it doesn't, in my case I went to study to Austria with the Ernst Mach Grant and my university didn't have any pre-established agreements with any Austrian university. On the other hand, if you are not a current student and you are a professional looking for career development, you can also follow my next advice.
There are many opportunities all around the world. The majority of the scholarships have existed for a long period of time so if you are constantly searching for them in the databases you'll see them published every year; but other scholarships are newly created. Therefore the best way to search for them is to:
- Like Scholarship Facebook pages
- Constantly check Scholarship websites
Usually this sites have both a website and a Facebook page, so I recommend you to like their Facebook pages because one advantage is that these Pages usually post the scholarship when the application period begins. For instance, if you're checking your Facebook Timeline and see a scholarship you like, you can instantly look which are its requirements and apply.
Another important thing to consider is that scholarships are offered depending on the country of origin of the applicant, sometimes developing countries are benefited because of the international effort to bring education and other times developed countries are benefited because of international agreements created between them (e.g. the European Union).
Therefore, the best way in which you can search for scholarships is to look in the websites that are targeted to your country or region, otherwise you could end up looking at enormous databases in which you aren't elegible to apply to the majority of the scholarships because your country is not on the list.
The following scholarship databases websites are focused in Mexico and Latin America and I will also mention international sites but if you want to find something more targeted to your country just google "scholarships grants fellowships your country" and start looking for these databases.
In Mexico and Latin America you can see scholarships in these Facebook Pages:
- Becas y convocatorias: scholarships abroad for people in Latin America.
- Quiero salir del país: scholarships, volunteer projects, internships and other opportunities.
- Becas para mexicanos: scholarships abroad targeted to Mexicans.
- Convocatorias para ONGs: scholarships abroad for people in Latin America which are focused in altruistic activities.
- Trabajo Humanitario: international internships and humanitarian work offers at the United Nations, NGOs and other organizations for the community.
If you are from another region rather than Central and Latin America you can search scholarships through the following Facebook pages:
- Scholarship Positions: college scholarships and financial aid.
- BMP Scholarships: Master, Bachelor and PHD Scholarships.
The links mentioned above will take you to the Facebook Pages of each organization, there you'll also see the links to their webpages to access the complete list of scholarships.
3) What do you need to consider to choose a study program?
To find the best opportunity I recommend you to consider the following points: location, duration and requirements.
a. Location: three important things to consider to choose the place where you want to study abroad are its culture, language and airplane ticket cost. First, you can grow as a person by experiencing the traditions and culture of different places; second, you can learn a new language or improve your skills in one you already know by taking classes and talking with native speakers in a foreign country and third it's important to consider that sometimes the airplane tickets are very expensive depending on the place and season when you want to go and the scholarships sometimes cover this expense but others don't.
Therefore I suggest you to first do a budget and calculate the amount of money that you can spend, then search for the available scholarships and then decide between the viable options which is the one you like the most.
For the airplane tickets I recommend you to use the "EXPLORE" KAYAK feature to get an idea of the ticket prices to different countries. Here after you select the country of origin it'll show you the prices to all other countries around the world. You can access it here: kayak.com/explore/
b. Duration: scholarships vary a lot and depend on your level of studies so keep in mind you don't necessarily have to go a year abroad but you can also assist to summer courses or workshops.
c. Requirements: keep in mind that in the application process for almost all of these programs will ask you proof of a good English level, your academic records, letters of recommendation and your CV.
- English level: the exams that are usually required are the TOEFL iBT or the IELTS. The exam results are valid for 2 years so try to do one of them as soon as possible to have that requirement ready.
- Academic records: if your academic records are not in English, usually you can ask your High School or University for a translation, but if they don't offer this service google "sworn translator and your country" search for a list and ask any of them to translate your records. Choose the one who is located the closest and offers the best price.
- Letters of Recommendation: ask your professors/bosses to write you a recommendation letter with time, the majority of the time people are busy so it's better to do everything in advance and secure a quality letter.
- CV: create a good CV highlighting the achievements that are related to the scholarship. You can find advice on writing a compelling CV in this post: How to create a professional CV that will get you the job
A vital thing you should consider is that usually students with the best grades or a combination of good grades and CV are the ones chosen to receive the scholarships. Each scholarship usually specifies what are they considering in the selection process so if you don't have the best GPA you could compensate it with extra curricular activities, social involvement, or activities in which you have shown leadership; this could also be bolstered with recommendation letters that explain why you are a great candidate.
A good way in which you can improve your CV is to participate in experiences abroad, you can start by participating in volunteer projects in which you'll only require a good level of English to participate. For this, you can read the post How to find paid volunteer projects abroad. Furthermore, if you have already finished University and you are looking to improve your CV by working abroad you can read the post How to work with a NGO in Africa.
My advice is that you apply for any scholarship that you like and if you are not selected don't give up, improve your CV and try again.