What to expect when you study abroad


Studying abroad is aspirational for many English language learners.

For many, it’s their prime reason for learning English, and data shows us that an increasing number of English language learners study in English speaking countries:

No. of international students 2017-2018*
UK 458,520
Ireland 18,500
Australia 693,750
USA 1,095,299
Canada 572,415
New Zealand 50,000

*figures are approximate and come from online research

However, studying abroad can be daunting, because it’s not just about hitting the books! It involves moving away from home, living by yourself (cooking for yourself!!), making new friends in a second language, learning the local slang, getting used to a new culture, and much more. It’s a big deal, and while many people will feel prepared for this and thrive, others may struggle to adapt to all of this newness — and that’s ok too. Let me tell you about my experience as a university student in a different country!

My experience overseas

Way back before Facebook, I studied media for a semester at the University of Bordeaux and found it to be a challenging experience. Making new friends was hard work because we didn’t have many cultural references in common; as a vegetarian I struggled to find places to eat, and I felt very foolish during my classes at university because my comprehension of academic French was way lower than I thought it was. I almost felt like a beginner again.

With that being said, it all turned out well in the end and the experience stays with me as one that was difficult but positive. Looking back, I can’t believe I managed this in the days before mobile phones and social media!

What should you expect when you study abroad?

Going to study in a different country often means learning a new academic culture and understanding there will be different expectations. Studying in the UK, for example, is known to require a lot of motivation and self-management. UKCISA, describe three key trends in the UK academic culture:

  1. Independent work: students often study by themselves for long periods of time without prompting from lecturers
  2. Critical thinking: there’s a big focus on students developing critical thinking
  3. Critical approach: often more important than learning and remembering large amounts of data

This culture may be familiar to some people but may be entirely new to others.

If you’re nervous about jumping straight into the first year of a degree program, or even if you just want a taste of what to expect, a foundation year might be a good option for you.

What is it exactly?

A foundation year programme guarantees a place at a university place overseas – it’s also a great opportunity for you to improve your English language skills and help you to figure out if the subject you choose to study is really right for you.

If you decide that a foundation course is important for you, then we’re pleased to announce that you can use your Oxford Test of English certificate to access any of the courses offered by NCUK across the globe. If you decide to go for direct entry to a University, the Oxford Test of English is also recognised by a growing number of UK universities.*

Whichever route you take, we’re sure you’ll smash it!! Good luck and enjoy the many adventures ahead of you.

NCUK is a leading international higher education qualification and service provider with over 30 years’ experience. They are a consortium of universities who have provided over 35,000 international students with a pathway to study at some of the best universities in the world. They have a quality-assured global network of Delivery Partners on five continents who deliver their portfolio of qualifications to the highest academic standard.

*Please contact the university directly to check minimum score requirements.

Sarah Rogerson is Director of Assessment at Oxford University Press. She has worked in English language teaching and assessment for 20 years and is passionate about education for all and digital innovation in ELT. Sarah is really excited about the Oxford Test of English and how well it caters to the 21st-century student.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

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