Study abroad: things to think about

Gone are the days when students went abroad to study only for post-graduate or doctorate degrees. Now, many students have "one leg out of the country" by the time they complete Class 12. With the advent of private universities and engineering and medical colleges making higher education expensive in the country, many middle-class families feel they might as well send their wards abroad since the costs are almost the same.  

The hankering for an overseas education is increasing. Young students go abroad with a lot of enthusiasm, but many start to question their choices after living abroad a few years. They must be prepared to face a number of problems. They need to work hard not only at studies but also at managing their domestic affairs, especially when the level of support from back home diminishes.

During studies, Indian students take up odd jobs to make ends meet, but with the hope of getting well-paying jobs after graduation. Increasingly, such jobs are hard to come by, sometimes for reasons of technological progress, sometimes due to increasing protectionism in the advanced countries.  

Parents are not averse to sending students abroad where opportunities to study the subjects they are passionate about are more, and they are not slotted rigidly into a Science or Commerce or Arts stream. Parents let go of their ward thinking, maybe they will be happy if they have such opportunities and choices. True, but only if they are able to adjust to how things work in a foreign country.  

There is some emotional sacrifice involved in letting a teenager travel across the oceans. Parents not only feel a void when the son or daughter has left, they also feel panicky. They comfort themselves by thinking that there is no college or university in India quite suitable for their ward. Which is true. The Indian education system does not offer enough choices for a young mind to be able to do something of her liking. Does any Indian university offer Psychology, Math, Computer Science and Journalism in a single degree programme, for instance?

Students, on the other hand, might suffer home-sickness. Not all students do, of course. Some may have been brought up in a way that makes them think their home, their parents and family are everything; others may be too open-minded and raring to experiment living and doing things on their own to feel the absence of family; still others might not want the family's help or interference. It all depends on upbringing.

Surveys show that Indian students strive for recognition on a global platform, and some 61% of those who make the choice to study abroad do so for this reason. Therefore, the four most important factors for Indian students when they make the choice of which university to go to are: (a) the reputation of the university; (b) the programme choices available to them; (c) the content and quality of programmes; (d) the professors they want to study under.

Good move

All in all, if you can afford it, studying abroad is a good choice. Students get a chance to select from a range of subjects and streams and have access to top-notch facilities. Young adults face less interference from families about their studies and social life.

Within our country, many good students do not stand a chance at high-profile jobs because our education system does not turn out industry-ready graduates, but ones with mere bookish knowledge and rote learning. They fail to meet professional expectations of the industry. It is only in recent times that we have come to hear of internship during college education.

It must not be forgotten that candidates with international exposure get foremost preference from employers. Overseas education offers this kind of education, and globalisation throws a stiff challenge to any industry that wants to employ people. It is an advantage to students when they experience the differences and similarities between their host country and their home country.

Being an educator all my life, I have this advice for all parents: don't molly-coddle your sons and daughters. Let them go and be on their own. Do not be apprehensive of sending you wards abroad. Be bold and send them. You will make a man and woman out of them and will be proud of their achievements.

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