Friday, July 12th, 2013

How to Avoid the Darker Side of International Education

International Education

An international education is expected to provide you with an international experience.

When I received my student visa for Australia on Christmas Eve in 2009, I was so delighted about going overseas that not a single day would pass without me looking at the visa label on my passport. The very thought about going down under and the long in-flight journey filled me with tremendous excitement. I couldn’t wait any longer. A month down the line and all the excitement had fizzled out.

Two days after I arrived in Australia, I was thrown headlong into a different world. I experienced the great paradox of international education. All the wonderful things I had heard about international education seemed like a fairy-tale that was being narrated to me. The educational institute at which I was enrolled for a course in Business Management did not even have a campus of its own.  Classes were conducted in hired rooms on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8am to 5pm. Students came in and went out as and when they felt like coming, conveying the impression that this was something like a ‘grocery’ store.

An international education is expected to provide you with an international experience. At my institute, however, I was among a group of foreign students in their early twenties who did not even know how to speak English. They had only one goal: to get a permanent residency visa and settle eventually in the country. I was totally shocked. The teaching was far below average; in fact, I wonder if any teaching took place. The so-called ‘professors’ did not teach anything, they just warmed the chairs and engaged in idle gossip with the students in the local language.

Much of the culpability for my disastrous international experience lies with me. In my excitement about going Down Under, I did not do the homework that every international student is expected to do. I failed to do enough research about the educational institute at which I was supposed to be studying. The website of the institute gave me the impression that I was going to the right place. It was only after I arrived at the institute that I realized that I had been deceived.

Over the course of the days that followed, I realized that there were so many other students who were in the same boat as me. Fortunately, I was able to enrol myself at a reputed university but that still meant that I had lost a precious year of my life at the dodgy institute. I do not wish my experience to be the nightmare of potential international students. I desire future students to learn and benefit from my experience. There are certain guidelines that every would-be international student needs to follow to ensure that he or she has the best international experience. Whether the country is Australia, UK or USA does not matter; the guidelines I have enumerated below hold good for all prospective international students.

Choose your agent wisely

This is the first and foremost thing that you need to keep in mind because if you falter here, you will falter everywhere. Deceptive and fraudulent agents exist everywhere – avoid them at all costs. These people just care about your money, not your well-being. They will make you a lot of assurances and promises; don’t trust them in the least. I had the misfortune of having an agent who did not know anything about the educational institute he was sending me to. Besides receiving a lump sum from the institute, he also charged me additional fees.

The choice of a reliable and trustworthy agent is an important one. I suggest that you visit as many agents as you can, evaluate their terms and conditions, and then make an informed decision for yourself. If you are smart enough, you need not even employ the services of an agent. You can visit the immigration website of your country of study, download and fill the necessary forms, and send in your application along with the requisite documents and fees to the local embassy.

Do adequate research about your institute

There are as many fraudulent agents as there are fraudulent institutes. These have one common aim – to make as much profit as possible. The website will give you the impression that this is a very prestigious institute. Do not be misled.

A lot of effort needs to be put when selecting your educational institute. If it is a university, the task is made much easier. You do not have to worry much as universities have a reputation that is built over years of excellence. But private institutes are burgeoning everywhere, and some shut down as fast as they spring up. If you have friends or relatives in the country you are intending to study, it is wise to ask them to personally visit the institute and find out about everything – the student background, the campus, the teaching, the professors, etc. If you are unable to do this, then I advise you to proceed with caution.

Compare the costs of various educational institutes

The cost of international education is very high, which is why you need to make a proper decision after comparing the fees of various universities or institutes. At times, you may even be eligible for a scholarship. Once again, a lot of homework needs to be done to evaluate if the fees you are paying are reasonable or not.

Be certain about your career goals

Another important factor you need to take into consideration is your career goals. If you wish to eventually settle in the country you are studying, you need to choose a course that will help you to get permanent residency after your course gets over. Being familiar with the immigration laws of the country is a must. There is nothing more disappointing than realizing that you cannot stay in the country after the duration of your course.

On the other hand, if you wish to return to your country, you can choose a course that will help you to get a good job in your field of expertise. To summarize this point, a MBA from a prestigious Australian university will enable you to get a good job in India, but it won’t help you to get permanent residency in Australia.

The above four points will ensure that you are on the right track, but there are other factors like accommodation, jobs, social life, etc. that need to be taken note of when making a choice for international education. Very often, in the excitement of going overseas, students fail to look at the things that really matter and then suffer dire consequences. For international education to have the impact that it needs to have on one’s career, it is imperative that the prospective student gets the basics right. It is only then that one can live the cherished dream of an international education and reap its rich dividends.

Prospective international students, are you listening?

Ryan D’Souza
Author: Ryan D’Souza
Ryan D’Souza is an international student in Melbourne, Australia. Having completed his Masters in Professional Accounting from Deakin University, he has just begun his professional career working as an accountant.
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