Study Away: The Unauthorized Guide to College Abroad

Study Away: The Unauthorized Guide to College Abroad

by Mariah Balaban, Jennifer Shields

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Now you can go to the college of your dreams and see the world—without compromising on your education (or your parent's budget). This for students by students guide gives you the inside scoop on colleges and programs around the world, with detailed profiles of the best international schools and independent reporting on what life on campus is really like. And


Now you can go to the college of your dreams and see the world—without compromising on your education (or your parent's budget). This for students by students guide gives you the inside scoop on colleges and programs around the world, with detailed profiles of the best international schools and independent reporting on what life on campus is really like. And since it covers many full undergraduate degree programs, you can decide for yourself if you’d like to complete your degree abroad or simply go for a semester or two. With this frank and accessible book you'll soon be on your way to studying art history in Paris, public health in Kinshasa, or international business in Hong Kong—whatever your major, the experience of living in a foreign country is increasingly desirable in our globalized world.

-68 schools around the world that teach in English and offer American-style degrees
-A description of each campus and its academic reputation
-Tuition rates and financial aid information
-Housing options, extracuricular activities, and support services
-Contact information and directions on how to apply
-Advice on staying healthy and staying safe

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

The authors are young women who have had the experience of studying abroad. Balaban spent her senior year in Paris; Shields graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and has spent time in Russia in special summer programs. Here in New England it is relatively common for high school students to attend Canadian colleges and universities (Canadian schools count as "abroad" in this book), and families and students enjoy the bargain prices as well as the friendly (and usually safer) campus life there. But Canada is just the beginning: there are numerous schools teaching in the English language in Ireland and the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and elsewhere. Consider: the University of Hong Kong; The American University of Rome; United States International University, Nairobi Campus (Kenya); The American College of Greece and College Year in Athens; The American University of Beirut--and these are just a taste of the many choices available, either for the entire college experience, or for a year abroad, or a semester. There are a few b/w illustrations of campuses, but perhaps most helpful are the suggestions themselves and the Web sites, so students can use their computers to "travel" the globe in search of educational possibilities. This is especially inspiring for students who are hungry to experience other cultures, other places. (How about The University of Costa Rica, Rain Forest Adventure for budding naturalists?) An interesting addition to the standard college search books. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Random House, Anchor, 319p. illus. index., Ages 15 to adult.
— Claire Rosser

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Welcome To


The Independent Guide to

College Abroad

This book was written by and for people like yourself. How do we know what you're like? Well, the very fact that you're reading this introduction proves that you're curious, the sort of person who might seek out new and challenging experiences. It also means that you're looking for information about colleges off the beaten path, and that's exactly what you'll find here.

Study Away will tell you the whats, whys, wheres, and hows of going to college outside of the United States-whether you're looking to get your degree abroad, or just to visit for a semester or two. This book was independently written. We are not affiliated with any larger interest; we have not been paid by anyone to say nice things about universities. We haven't sold any ad space, we've written this book solely for students, and we've tried to be as objective as possible.

You may be wondering why we have written such a book. It was Jenny's idea. After making the decision to leave the States to pursue her university education, she was frustrated to discover that there was a serious lack of college guidebooks on universities in other countries. Since she was lucky enough to know a little bit about where she wanted to go, it was easier for her to look (mainly on-line) for information. But what about the students who aren't even aware of what their options are?

This book will show you the many colleges and universities outside of the U.S. that teach entirely in English, many of which follow a liberal arts curriculum and offer American degrees. There are also lots of universities in English-speaking countries that welcome American and other international students. We've highlighted the best of these universities, ones that are well established and generally much cheaper than their American counterparts. We found them through exhaustive on-line searches, by poring through

hundreds of web sites and catalogs, interviewing students and

administrators, and even attending a conference for study abroad counselors.

We've done all the legwork so you don't have to. All you have to do is go to the bookstore and pick up a copy of our book. Call us trailblazers if you want to (although that seems a bit dramatic), or better yet, read our book and be one yourself.

Happy hunting!

-Mariah Balaban and Jennifer Shields


In a survey sent out to students, we posed the question, "What was your favorite aspect of going abroad?" One girl responded, "Living in Madrid, I discovered a home that was not introduced to me by my heritage, my parents, or my birth. It was solely mine. I believe that these experiences truly reflect who I am."

To us, the most important aspect of living in another country is the sense of independence that it allows you. Far from home and way past the boundaries of familiarity, you can grow in ways you may have never thought possible. As one alumnus of United States International University in Nairobi put it, "The greatest benefit of multicultural exposure is the confidence one gets to mix freely with people without shying away. It helped me to start a bank at only twenty-five."

So whether you've always dreamed of packing up and shipping out, or are even just the least bit curious about studying abroad, you should consider the following benefits of going to college in another country:

You'll learn more.

No matter what subject you're looking to get your degree in, you can benefit invaluably from an international education. Having the opportunity to live and study with students and professors from all around the world allows you to gain a truly global perspective and understanding. This is important on a personal level, but will also be very impressive to future employers or graduate schools. Another advantage to studying abroad is that the world will be your textbook. When Mariah went to Paris for part of her junior year, she took a class on the history of political power in France as seen through its capital's monuments. Reading novels and eyewitness accounts combined with walking tours and field trips allowed her to gain a much more profound understanding of the subject. When what you're learning is no longer centuries away, or in some far-off land, but immediately tangible, it allows you to really connect with your education.

It's cheaper.

Generally speaking, universities outside the States give you more for your money. Not only is tuition lower overseas, but many undergraduate degree programs last for only three years, and often offer merit- and need-based scholarships to international students. Also, if a college is accredited in the States, you can apply for the same types of federal aid packages and scholarships that you would be eligible to use if you were studying in the U.S. Some good Web sites to check out for more information on funding your education are:

You just might avoid the "college craze."

All you high school juniors and seniors out there are probably well aware of the phenomenon that journalists have dubbed the "college craze." The sleepless nights spent worrying about the SAT's, the horror of trying to sum up your life's aspirations in two pages-we remember only too well how applying to college can feel like trying to get the last lifeboat off the Titanic. So for a smart and accomplished person like yourself, why is it so insanely competitive? Let's look at some facts:

In 1998, 2,468,600 people took the SAT I. Just three years later in 2001, that number rose to 2,850,000. By the year 2015, the number of Americans enrolling in colleges and universities is expected to increase by around 1.6 million, and as American schools increase their international recruiting policies, high school students from all over the world are competing for the same limited resources. The result is serious overcrowding. In 2001, Dartmouth College accepted so many of its applicants that 60 students were left homeless. The solution? $5,000 worth of free housing was offered to any student willing to defer for a year. This is not a problem unique to small liberal arts schools. In 2001, the University of Southern California received 3,000 more applicants than it had received the year before. To deal with its lack of housing, USC placed students in less than ideal conditions, lodging them in hotels and nearby frat houses.

Although the college-age population is booming, there are certainly enough colleges to go around, so why are some schools so crowded? If a school is harder to get into, does it mean that it's better? Not necessarily. Let's look at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, as an example. Since 1995, this small school has seen a 50% increase in its applications, due largely to a beefed-up marketing campaign. This allowed Muhlenberg to turn away over 60% of its applicants (up from only 25% in 1995), while maintaining the same freshman class size. According to Adam Rogers's article "Games Colleges Play" from Newsweek's 2002 "How to Get into College" special edition, a high volume of applications, low acceptance rates, and high yields (the percentage of those accepted who actually enroll) "are the trifecta of college sex appeal." They contribute heavily to the way that student selectivity is calculated, and selectivity is the way that colleges are measured in the marketplace.

Another important "enrollment management" technique that colleges employ is Early Decision (or ED). Applying ED to a school basically means that you apply earlier than the other applicants, and if you get in, you must attend. Most universities with binding ED programs select a large percentage of the freshman class from ED applicants, leaving students from the regular applicant pool to compete for the remaining places. In his Atlantic Monthly article "The Early Decision Racket," journalist James Fellows wrote about a 1998 College Board meeting that discussed the effects of the Early Decision process. "All of them realized that binding ED programs allowed schools to feign a level of selectivity they don't really have."

So if selectivity is the unit by which colleges are measured, let's take a look at the instrument that measures them, the college ranking lists. The U.S. News and World Report's "College Issue" is probably the most well-known college ranking list, and has an enormous following. (Its 2001 edition sold 40% more copies than the magazine's regular issues.) A recent study by Cornell professors Ronald G. Ehrenberg and James Monks found that changes in a school's U.S. News and World Report ranking can affect that school's admission statistics. Although they can seem like the be-all and end-all, these rankings should be taken with a grain of salt. Last year, for example, The California Institute of Technology rose from fourth to first in its ranking, due largely to the change in the way that U.S. News and World Report calculated school spending per student. Writes Ehrenberg, "Institutes don't change in quality from year to year-that's just U.S. News changing its formula."

These rankings have little to say about the real value of a particular education, because true quality is entirely judged by the person who finds it. As James Fallows points out, "CalTech, for example, is so different from Yale that whether it is better or worse depends on an individual student's aims." Of course, there are "name and network payoffs" from attending certain top schools, but Fallows writes, "The positive effects of these networks are certainly far less than the negative effects of not attending the University of Tokyo in Japan, or one of the grande écoles in France."

Going to college in another country allows you to bypass the U.S. admissions insanity and take advantage of all the opportunities that its locale might afford-imagine the benefits of being able to study marine biology in New Zealand, or art history in Rome.

And last but not least . . .

Sometimes, something's being very different from anything you know is a good enough reason to try it. Why not apply somewhere and see what happens?


Now that you're acquainted with some of the advantages of studying abroad, you're going to need some pointers on choosing the type of international university that's right for you. Here are some questions that you'll probably want to ask:

What are the academics like?

Most of the universities listed in our book fall into a category known as "American overseas universities." Like many colleges in the States, these schools are built around a liberal arts framework, allowing you to choose your major after studying a somewhat broad curriculum for a year. Often, however, if you want to apply to a college that operates outside of the American system you have to do a lot more thinking about what you want to study right off the bat. For example, when applying to U.K. universities, you must apply directly to a course or program of study, so not only do you have to know what you want to major in, you also need to hold the appropriate credentials. Does this mean that you have to know exactly what you want to do with your life right after high school? Not necessarily. We asked a British student about this, and she told us that in the U.K., "You just get used to it being a bit rigid, and most students just wing it." On the plus side, applying outside of the U.S. system can be very rewarding, since it allows you to dive right into your field of interest, and you can often graduate in only three years.

Marjorie Nieuwenhuis, Director of College Counseling at the United Nations International School (UNIS) and author of A Parent's Guide to College Admissions, has been sending her students to universities around the world for some 14 years. One word of advice she had for American students looking to leave the States was to keep in mind that "in terms of spreading your wings and doing a million different things that you have the luxury of doing in a liberal arts program, you just don't do that in a non-American university."

Is it accredited?

Simply put, if a university or college is accredited, its academic credits are recognized by a governing body. For American universities, here and abroad, there are a few standard accrediting organizations, like the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, or the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. The issue of accreditation will probably only come up if you need to transfer your credits to another university, apply for grad school, or if an employer needs to verify that your college degree is legitimate.

But just because a university doesn't have American accreditation does not mean that its degree won't be recognized. Outside of America, universities are usually under the governance of their countries' ministries of education. (But you should be aware that "proprietary colleges," a.k.a. for-profit institutions, may not be recognized by their countries' governments and their degrees may be looked askance upon.) So who's actually doing the looking? Most major universities in the States have a department in admissions set up to assess overseas credentials. There are also a number of private businesses that contract similar services, usually to large corporations looking at job applicants.

How independent are you?

Another difference between American and non-American universities is that the latter expect a very high level of academic autonomy. Even at larger American universities where huge lectures and TAs are the norm, there is still the understanding that the professor will be monitoring your progress. This is not necessarily the case for many non-American universities. Usually, attendance at lectures is entirely up to the discretion of the student, and sometimes classes are assessed only through a midterm and a final exam. This may sound like a dream come true, but in these situations, students who are not self-motivated (or are bad at cramming) will probably find themselves falling through the cracks.

Where is it located?

Oftentimes, in non-American universities, there is not as much emphasis on the social aspects of college, the vital thing that we here in the States call "college life." This is why the location factor becomes especially important. If you are in a very small town and there is nothing to do on campus, chances are you may become bored very quickly. Try to find out as much as you can about extracurricular activities and facilities. A university with a student union will usually have student societies and organized events like parties, DJ nights, and live music. Many student unions have their own web sites, so you can check out what's going on at the school before applying.

Meet the Author

Mariah Balaban is a 25-year-old freelance writer and enthusiastic traveler. In high school she participated in educational programs in Alsace-Lorraine, Oxford, and the West Indies. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Sarah Lawrence college, and spent her senior year in Paris. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is working on a screenplay and a guidebook to Amsterdam.

Jennifer Shields is a recent graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she earned a joint Masters degree in Russian and Economics. She has spent her last two summers in Russia at Moscow State University attending an intensive Russian language program and is currently continuing her studies at the European University in St. Petersburg. Although Jennifer ended up finding the school of her dreams in St. Andrew’s, she went through a lot of difficulty searching for it. That process made her aware of the need for this book.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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