Studying at an international university is the first step to broadening your horizons. Not only are you granted opportunities to go overseas, to get a job and potentially stay depending on your circumstances, but you can build a global network that will last a lifetime.

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This article was originally published on The South African

Step one: Explore your options

When deciding to study abroad, the first thing you should do is explore your options. This isn’t limited only to the course you wish to study, but also what different countries offer, the cost of living and how safe it is for someone who’s likely to be living on their own for the first time.   

Often, when students think of studying abroad, they think of big-name universities like Harvard or Oxford, but they can be really difficult to get into (not to mention very expensive). They are not the be-all and end-all of obtaining a degree from an international institution. There are many universities abroad that offer quality education that will bolster your resume, help you build your global network, and afford you the opportunity to travel and see the world while continuing your education.

While in this exploration phase, you should also seriously look at your budget because this limits the countries that you can go to. For example, in terms of tuition, countries like Mauritius and Hungary are more affordable than the UK and US. In Mauritius, you’re looking at anything between $8,000 and $12,000, while studying in Hungary will set you back between $6,000 and $10,000. Compared to the UK where tuition fees are between $14,000 and $50,000 and even more expensive in the US, where you’re looking at anything between $10,000 and $40,000.

And that’s just tuition. When taking your budget into consideration, you should also factor in what your living costs will be. Let’s say you decide to study in Mauritius, you’re looking at an additional $3,000 to $6,000. While in the UK that cost can skyrocket to $15,000, or $30,000 in the US.

Step two: Investigate if you need a bridging course

Sometimes students applying to international universities need to take a course in order to bridge the gap between a qualification from their home country and the level needed to enter into a university in the UK or the US. 

Pathway and foundation programmes are one-year preparation courses for international students, designed to boost their level of academic knowledge, English language skills and the grades they need to enter university. The difference between a pathway programme and a foundation programme is simply that the former is offered by a third-party organisation, while a foundation programme is offered by the university you plan to attend. Placement in the first year of your chosen course is guaranteed should you pass either of these programmes.

Step three: Speak to a study advisor

So you’ve explored your options and have decided that studying abroad is a journey you want to embark on. The next thing you should do is seek the advice of a study advisor. A study advisor will help you choose a course that fits in with your goals and find the best university for you. 

A study advisor has your best interest at heart and looks at the full picture of your individual circumstances to help you make an informed decision. They will provide you with university options depending on the information you give them, and you will be able to select the option that suits you best. 

Other information a study advisor will give you are the costs involved when studying abroad such as university application fees, tuition and living expenses as well any costs involving your visa application. 

See also: 7 Reasons why you should study abroad

Step four: Apply to your selected universities

Once you’ve decided on your shortlist of universities, the next step is to send in your applications. University applications can be tricky. You need to make sure you have all the relevant documents verified, remember all application dates and know just what the university needs from you. Usually, you can apply directly through the university’s website and submit all the required documents. In some countries, you may even be able to apply through a specific online platform that allows you to apply to more than one university at once.

Step five: Apply for a student visa

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted at your university of choice. Now you will need to apply for a student visa. There are a few requirements needed to obtain a student visa and this can be tricky to navigate. Your first port of call would be to check the relevant government’s website and see exactly what they need from you in order to apply for a student visa. Generally, you would need:

  • An acceptance letter from the institution 
  • Proof of funding for your stay
  • Proof of at least a partial payment for the course
  • A valid passport

Having an expert to guide you through this can help take the anxiety out of this process. They will handle the application process, assist you in preparing the necessary documentation as well as help you with interview preparation if an interview is required for your visa process.

Step six: Preparations before you leave

You have your acceptance letter. You have your student visa. Now what? Well, now you need to prepare for your big move. Things that you need to sort out include:

  • Where will you be staying? Will it be on or off-campus? Accommodation selection will need to be secured before your departure. 
  • How will you be getting to your new digs? Make sure you have transport arranged when you land at the airport. 
  • Sort out what you need to take with you and what you can acquire once you get to your destination country.
  • You will also need to think about health insurance. As an international student, you will not have access to the health services of the country you are studying in, and this is often a stipulation of your student visa. 

See also: When will international students be able to study at an Australian university?

Step seven: Bon voyage and enjoy your studies!

Going to a university in a foreign country can be overwhelming. Not only are you dealing with a new country and culture, but there are also hurdles like learning a new schooling system and sometimes a new language. Most universities with large numbers of international students have support structures in place to help with this transition. 

There are orientation programmes designed specifically to help international students adjust to campus life, which includes being given tours of the campus as well as the surrounding areas. There are socials and mixers where you will have a chance to meet with and bond with your fellow students. This support can also be found in the networks that are available to the students should any problems arise during their stay. Most of all, they are there to ensure that you make the most of your time at their university.

Why getting a student advisor is a good idea

Sable International’s study abroad service helps students from the moment they decide they want to study at an international institution, right up until they settle in their destination country.

Our study abroad student advisors will ensure your application has the best chance of success by applying to the universities with the necessary documentation provided by you. We will also assist you with applications for any pathway or foundation programmes you might need to do, help you with any entrance exam preparations, liaise with the university on your behalf, track your application and send you the receipt of your offer letter, keeping you informed every step of the way.  We will assist you in applying for your student visa and help you prepare for any interviews if one is needed.

All of this can be very overwhelming, especially if this is your first time away from home. Your study advisor will continue to assist you with all your pre-departure needs and questions. We will be on hand to make the transition as smooth as possible, including helping you get oriented in your new home. 


Sable International provides a service to anyone ready to get their degree abroad. We have direct access to the university admissions teams making it easy for you to apply and get your enrolment letter. Get in touch with us at sastudy@sableinternational.com or call us on +27 21 657 1543.

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