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Master’s Degrees Overseas: A Must-Read Guide to Studying Abroad

Grad school in Germany sounds like the experience of a lifetime, but there’s so much to prepare before you set out across the pond. Will you get your visa in time? Will your financial aid cover your expenses? Will you be allowed to work when you get there? The following guide walks you through many of the messy aspects of studying abroad so you can spend less time worrying and more time on what really matters: school.

Author: Angela Myers

Editor: Staff Editor

Getting a graduate degree is a fantastic opportunity—and getting that degree while studying abroad takes the experience to the next level. By this time next year you could be in Spain, Japan, New Zealand, or the Netherlands, studying a topic you’re passionate about and maybe paying a fraction of the cost of getting your masters in the United States.

But there are many logistics to consider before flying halfway around the world for your master’s. This guide takes the mystery out of the process and provides actionable steps you can take to realize your dream of earning your master’s degree overseas. By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to zero in on the program that’s right for you and you’ll be prepared to navigate the process of applying abroad.

Wondering what international schools are out there? To get you started on your search, we’re highlighting three universities that provide high-quality education. While each university is on a different continent and in a unique campus setting, they all stand out because they provide excellent support for international students.

University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The University of Amsterdam offers over 200 master’s degrees. Not only are these programs high quality, but they’re also all taught in English. To apply to the University of Amsterdam, students must show that they have an undergraduate degree from an accredited university and that they took the GMAT. Each individual program has its own entry requirements, but the applications committee checks GMAT score, GPA, and English proficiency for all international students. You’ll also have to apply for the Netherlands’ student visa, which is good for up to five years and allows you to work 16 hours a week. Along with paying the €207 (about $210 USD) visa application fee, you’ll also have to set aside money for tuition, which varies depending on what you study. Master’s degree tuition at UVA for international students ranges from $15-20k annually though there are some master’s degrees that can be completed in 1 year.

Additionally, you will need to think about cost-of-living expenses. Amsterdam is an expensive city so you can expect to spend around €2,000 Euros (about $1,023 USD) a month for rent and basic living expenses. The University of Amsterdam is accredited by the Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatie Organisatie. The school stands out for its support services, including academic counseling, library services, and resources specifically for international students.

The University of Tokyo, Japan

Within the University of Tokyo, 15 graduate schools provide high-quality master’s degrees and PhDs across disciplines. Some degrees are taught in English and others are taught in Japanese, so it’s important to pay attention to the language of instruction when applying. For your application, you’ll need to show that you have a valid undergraduate degree and you’ll need to pass an entrance exam administered by the university. You’ll also have to apply for a student visa, which allows you to stay up to two years but does not allow you to work in Japan.

Along with paying the 282,000 yen admissions fee (about $ 2115USD), you’ll also have to pay tuition, which is 535,000 yen (about $4,017 USD) per academic year. You’ll also want to set aside money for living in Tokyo, where the average cost of living is around $1,500USD per month if you live on campus. For accreditation, the University of Tokyo is recognized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan. The school has an international support office that helps students acclimate to campus.

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

As the most renowned university in New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington offers master’s degrees in over 100 subjects. English is the native language of New Zealand, so there’s no language barrier in the classroom or around campus. To apply, students need to demonstrate research experience, show their transcripts, and meet the specific program requirements. Students must apply for a student visa, which lets you work up to 20 hours a week. Along with paying the $207 USD visa application fee, students also need to set aside about $30,000 USD to complete their master’s program depending on the field of study.

Additionally, you’ll want to set aside $1,500 USD a month to live in Wellington, New Zealand if you plan to live in campus housing. Victoria University of Wellington is accredited in New Zealand and it’s accredited by organizations in the U.S. and Europe. The university is known for providing a global education and excellent student support in the form of research grants, academic tutoring services, and resources designed specifically to help international students thrive.

Ever wonder what it would be like to study abroad in Colombia? We sat down with Ariel Sheen, who got his PhD in Innovation and Technology Management from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia. Sheen discusses his study abroad experience and shares tips about how to study abroad like a pro.

Ariel Sheen

Ariel Sheen received a PhD in Innovation and Technology Management from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellin, Colombia. His doctoral research was funded by the Colombian government, the Social Science Research Council, and George Mason University. Sheen has worked as a digital media strategist, data scientist, and business intelligence and management consultant. He has lived in Colombia, Spain, Czechia, and Hungary.

Q. Why did you decide to study abroad?

A: I applied to a program for foreign students to receive free advanced academic training in Colombia, and my application was selected. I received relocation costs, a full scholarship for my PhD studies, as well as a monthly living stipend and health insurance for my time in the program. I hadn’t really considered studying in Colombia for that long—but this seemed too good an opportunity to pass up so I quit my job and moved to Medellin.

Q. What was the most challenging part of studying abroad?

A: Navigating bureaucracy and different professional and cultural norms. While Americans may think the magical realism in Gabriel García Márquez’s 100 Years of Solitude is pure fiction, it’s not. Colombia’s system can be tricky to navigate as an outsider.

Q. How did you find housing abroad?

A: After realizing most of the companies with websites offering similar services charged nearly double the actual market price, I found housing through Facebook groups that listed apartments for rent.

Q. What do you wish someone told you before starting your degree?

I wish I’d made a greater effort to actively network with people employed at companies I want to work at in the U.S. before graduating. It would have better prepared me for landing a job in the field when I returned.

Q. Was your coursework harder or easier than you expected? What study strategies did you use to overcome challenging courses?

A: The coursework was neither harder nor easier than I expected, as I was already conversationally fluent in Spanish prior to moving to Medellin. I did not, however, have much exposure to technical engineering terms prior to the courses. I made numerous flash cards to help learn the terms and wrote small passages in a notebook using those words to make sure I absorbed the terms and their meaning.