Last update on July 22, 2019

Why should you consider studying abroad? Take a look at just some of the universities suited to the budding expats looking for a fresh start away from home.

Many of those who venture out of their home country outside of travel begin with studying abroad. Going to a foreign university offers plenty of opportunities; not only do you get the chance to sharpen your critical thinking skills and earn a degree in the process, you’ll learn about a new culture. Exposure to an international environment is highly desired in today’s globalized workplaces, so putting your time studying abroad on your CV is an advantage.

Studying abroad can open the door to a wealth of opportunities. For the trailing spouse, those moments can be used to upgrade career skills or even prepare for a career change once a foreign assignment is over. For the expat executive, the foreign assignment may offer access to international programs that will enhance his or her career opportunities in the future. The possibilities to study abroad are endless when it comes to educational programs offered around the world; it’s important to select the right course before investing time and money. Here are some points to consider if studying abroad is your dream.

What do you want to study abroad?

To maximize the return on your investment, your selected study program needs to achieve your goal. How you define your goals is up to you; your main goal could be acquiring new skills, advancing your career, or a changing your career course.

The first and most important issue to address is what you plan to get out of it. Do you want to improve your credentials within your current field? Are you aiming to attain the right credentials to move into a new field of work? Or do you want to try something completely unrelated to your career, but in which you’ve always had an interest? Whether you’re looking at art history or econometrics, any degree that you follow is important to you; that’s the only metric that matters.

Business-oriented education

Studying abroad isn’t always cheap. That’s why many budding young professionals consider enrolling in an executive degree or an international MBA program, as it’s significantly easier to afford a degree with a few years of salaried employment under your belt.

Survey the area where you are assigned to see what opportunities there are for advanced study. Whether you are looking for an MBA or another advanced degree, it is essential that you choose a program that is accredited by a respected educational body, especially if you plan to use your credentials to gain employment abroad.

In Europe, there are many such programs, as well as information for evaluating them. It’s worth keeping in mind that Brexit may have negative consequences for those considering studying in the United Kingdom, however.

The QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings both offer information on top universities throughout the world, as well as best ranked courses.

The Economist also has a tool for comparing universities and MBAs, while Bloomberg has a page dedicated to business schools and its comparison tool includes course fees and enrollment numbers.

For the top business schools and courses, as ranked by Financial Times, click here.

The New York Times runs a special news and information section on international education.

The AMBA (Association of MBAs) holds an annual MBA fair in London at which schools from all over the world participate, as well as other networking and study-related events throughout the world. For more information, go to the Association of MBAs.

StudyPortals, supported by the European Commission, offers a complete guide for students looking to study BachelorMaster and PhD courses, or distance learning. Another comprehensive website is www.gradschools.com.

A consortium of six European business schools from across the continent also offers the MBA.

Expatica also provides country-specific guides for studying abroad, how to apply and lists of top universities:

Study time

Define how much time you can realistically devote to advancing your skill levels. Do you need a part-time program, a low residency program, or a full-time curriculum?

If your travel schedule interferes with regular class attendance or you live in a remote area, you may want to try an online program, or one that requires independent work and occasional long weekends on campus.

Course language

Check which language the course is conducted in. English-language courses and MBAs are increasingly being offered, although many courses abroad are taught in the native language of the country. This is a great way to boost language skills increasingly needed in a globalized world but you will need to be competent enough in that language to do the coursework required for a degree. Preparatory language classes are often available through universities.

Paying tuition fees

Will your company pay for further education and, if so, what limitations do accepting that money place on your career? Find out if you must commit to staying with the company for a certain number of years after attaining the degree.

If you are a trailing spouse, what kind of financial commitment must you make to your course of study and how will you pay for it? The Financial Times discusses how to finance MBA programs, but the information is valuable for anyone looking at paying for further education.

You can also look for scholarship programs. StudyPortals provides information on scholarships, and the European Commission also offers information on scholarships and Erasmus programs in Europe.

Study a language course

If language skills are what you are looking for, how do you select a program that will enhance your CV? Be certain that you choose a course that offers an examination and a certificate noting the level of proficiency you have attained.

Cultural centers and organizations, such as Dante Alighieri (Italian), Alliance Française (French), Goethe Institute (German), Cervantes Institute (Spanish) and others, are recognized around the world, as are university programs and commercial schools, such as Berlitz.

If you are going to be spending a long time in an expat assignment, choose that language to learn. However, if your time there is shorter, you may want to choose a language that will be of value to you in future assignments; Mandarin, Spanish, English are among the top languages spoken worldwide. You might also consider focusing on the language of business rather than general conversation.

Short-term educational opportunities

In the Netherlands, there are professional level courses in flower arranging, for example, which are suitable for students wishing to make a career change when they return home (for example, www.boerma.nl). Simmons College (Boston, USA) offers a two-week course in Rome in communications management, for which students receive four graduate credits transferable to other accredited institutions. Go to www.simmons.edu for more information.

If you want serious French cooking credentials, you could take a look at Cordon Bleu: www.cordonbleu.com.

Studying non-MBA courses

What programs are available for non-MBA courses of study? Many American universities offer undergraduate or graduate programs around the world, including Boston University (www.bu.edu), the University of Maryland (multiple locations)( www.ed.umuc.edu), the University of California (in London, for example), and many others.

If you want to study in Paris, for example, check with the Centre for University Programs Abroad, for the United Kingdom, try www.gradschools.com. If you’re dreaming of a master’s in creative writing, you might consider Dublin’s Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing.

Education programs in various countries

Italy
What are some of the more unusual programs out there? Consider the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, where the three-year undergraduate degree or post-graduate courses should open doors to careers in the food industry, international agencies or food journalism. Students might go to Mexico to study the making of tequila, to Parma to learn about Parmesan cheese, or to the great food and wine centers of Italy and France.

At the Trento School of Management (TSM) in Italy, there is a Master’s of art and culture management available, while the MIB School of Management offers a master’s in tourism management.

Germany
In Germany, there is rising interest in short term programs for young leaders from around the world, such as the Bucerius Summer School in Hamburg, which fills its limited slots with international and local students. There is also the new program at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin (www.hertie-school.org), which offers masters in public administration, public policy and international affairs.

France
If you want to study in France, there are numerous programs in the arts, sciences and business. For undergraduate coursework, the Centre for University Programs Abroad (CUPA) offers assistance from its offices in Paris or online.

Worldwide
Study abroad (www.studyabroad.com) is a website that covers both undergraduate and graduate programs in a variety of different countries, while www.ceebd.co.uk covers MBA programs abroad.

As writer Jo Parfitt maintains in her book, Career in Your Suitcase, an expat assignment needn’t be non-productive. There might never be a better occasion than a foreign posting to gain not only cultural insights, but added career credentials, as well. After all, if you do manage to save time in an imaginary bottle, it must be used before it evaporates.