"Of all the joint ventures in which we might engage, the most productive, in my view, is educational exchange." Senator J William Fulbright
Thought about studying overseas? If so you are 'on trend'. In 2011-12 over 9,000 UK students headed to the US. This number is part of a growing trend of British students who see an advantage in studying abroad. And the US, for obvious reasons: they speak English, the have the best ranked universities in the world, is the most popular destination. At the US-UK Fulbright Commission, a not-for-profit organisation that administers the prestigious Fulbright scholarships and promotes educational exchange between the US and the UK, we know there are many motivations for students to study abroad, not just in the US, but around the world.
An international study experience affords students the chance to travel and broaden their worldview. Living abroad and immersing yourself is a new culture can completely change your perspective not only on global events but everyday life. Students in the States are also able to take advantage of the long summer holidays afforded by the US academic calendar and explore the diverse geography (it spans six time zones!) and different communities.
Students may also want to pursue studying abroad in order to experience a different campus culture. US universities are known for their vibrant campuses and endless opportunities to get involved in clubs and have world class sports facilities.
They may also want to get a taste for a different type of educational system. For example, students cite the flexibility to explore their academic interests as another reason why they attracted to the US. The liberal arts curriculum allows students to take classes from a variety of subjects during their first year, before specialising in their major field of study. Students who already know what they want to study can complete a double major, degrees in two academic fields often completed within the normal four years of study. This would be quite a different academic experience compared to the degree structure in the UK.
Students may also choose to do a degree abroad due to the funding opportunities. Case in point, in the States many students are able to help fund their studies through scholarships from US universities and external funding bodies. At the postgraduate level many students are able to fund their studies through university assistantships, and of course there are scholarships schemes such as the Fulbright Awards.
Our Fulbright scholarships are offered to British students for postgraduate study in the US in any subject and at any university. Together with all the added enrichment opportunities, a Fulbright scholarship is a life-changing experience and one of the most highly valued and sought after merit based awards in the world. In addition we jointly run the Sutton Trust US Programme, open to state-educated young people, to enthuse them about studying in the US as an undergraduate; to help them though the US university application process and to access scholarship funding. (Applications for 2014 will open in November.)
For those who grasp the opportunity, studying and working abroad can make a student stand out in the job market when they return to the UK. There is nothing like seeing your country from another's perspective. Understanding another country and culture in depth and being able to see their point of view is another valuable skill. Study abroad allows students to internationalise and strengthen their CV’s. According to a November 2012 British Council survey, one of the main non-academic drivers for UK students considering study abroad is to increase their employment prospects.
Whether a student engages in a short-term study abroad experience, summer programme or completes a full degree abroad, they will be able to reap the benefits of an international experience.
While the idea of studying abroad is exciting, facing a new educational system in a new country can be a daunting task to many families. As the official government recognised source of US study in the UK, the Commission is charged with the mission of helping British students and schools understand the US educational offerings as well as the admissions process. In a few weeks we will be hosting our annual USA College Day event (27 and 28 September). This US undergraduate university fair is the largest of its kind in the UK. It is a great opportunity for students to investigate study in the US.
Studying abroad, either in in the US or another country, can be a life-changing experience. These exchanges also help to realise Senator Fulbright’s vision of a world interconnected through education. For, as he saw it, through these means we can “bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”
The Independent is media partner to the Fulbright Awards. For more information about studying in the US, and on the awards, visit www.fulbright.org.uk