Study Abroad: Is it Worth it?
| August 20,2010 11:46 am IST
My experience of education in the UK makes me ask the question: Is it really worth spending so much money and studying abroad with the thought of securing a bright future?"
Having done the GCE 'O' levels and 'A' levels from Thailand, I decided to do my BBA and MBA from the UK as I thought it would be highly recognised in India, if I ever wanted to come back. Otherwise, I believed I would be able to get a good job and settle in the UK.
There seemed to be a bright future ahead of me, and as I was a very good student, my dreams soared.
Having achieved distinction, that is 2:1, in both my undergraduate and post-graduate studies, and being amongst the top students, I started applying for jobs in the UK. After filling the never-ending application forms and sending them off to organisations, I was hopeful that something would click.
If you fancy yourself as a globe-trotting executive, it makes sense to start as you mean to go on and hop on a plane to a business school. You can absorb a range of cultural experiences while gaining your MBA - what is more, it can be cheaper than studying at home.
Steve Little, a Briton who recently graduated from Tuck Business School in the US, took some classes in the US and the UK before deciding where to apply. "The energy in the classroom is just at a higher level in the US. You got a real feeling that anything was possible; there is a buzz that I just didn't get in the UK."
US business schools also have a "can do" attitude towards helping students financially. "Once they have accepted you, they really want you and will do what it takes to get you to come," he says.Most US schools offer financial assistance programmes - loans with favourable interest rates and payment terms. Little was given $40,000 in the first year and $44,000 in the second year of studying at Tuck.
An unforeseen advantage to taking out a loan like this, he says, is that it helps foreign students establish a credit rating in the US, which is invaluable if you plan to stay in the country. Without the two years' credit history, the loan will build, you won't get a credit card or mortgage, Little says.
There are other opportunities also of financing stay abroad. Ten-week internships between the first and second year of study are common and can add $10,000 - $20,000 to the piggy bank. Many schools also offer the chance to take on some tutoring work in the second year; this l can net about $15 - $22 an hour.
Other things to bear in mind when considering studying abroad are the cost of living in the country where you are headed and using your assets back home to raise funds - renting out property, for instance.
There are also plenty of scholarships aimed at British students who want to study away from home - some are school-specific, such as the Kennedy Memorial Trust (www.kentrust.demon.co.uk) for those who want to study at Harvard or MIT, or Louise Franck Scholarships at INSEAD (www.insead.edu). It is a good idea to check individual school websites.
Other monetary aid schemes are country-specific, such as the US-UK Fulbright scholarships (www.fulbright.co.uk) or BUNAC Educational Scholarships (www.bunac.org/uk/awards). But some are available to any British student who wants postgraduate experience abroad, such as The Leverhulme Trust's Study Abroad Studentships (www.leverhulme.org.uk). All that goes to show that money doesn't have to be a barrier to signing up for an MBA abroad.
However, when I started receiving rejections for my applications, I became slightly demotivated. Still, I continued sending out more applications, not only for my desired career in business consulting, but otherwise also. To my surprise, I was not called for a single interview.
This year, more than 100,000 professionals of all ages will embark on MBA programmes at business schools across the world and a growing proportion will elect to study, not in their home country but overseas. In India, despite the development of major schools, such as IIMs and ASB, the tradition of studying abroad, particularly in the USA or Europe, is widely accepted, but if you are considering a move overseas.
This made me slightly suspicious as there was nothing in my academic record which could disqualify me from going at least for a first interview. On discussing this with some of my European friends, who were at least being called for interviews, and colleagues of my Dad, I learnt that I and other non-European friends were all being rejected due to the disadvantage of us not having permits to work in the UK. Organisations wanted applicants residing in Europe as they did not want the further expense of making work permits, etc.
As there was nothing I could do with regard to getting a work permit and my visa was expiring, I decided to come back to India to my parents and work here. This was also exciting for me as I was of the opinion, like many other students who complete their education abroad,that Indian and multinational organisations will recognise the degree well, more so as it was not only a BBA but also an MBA from the UK.
However, it did not take more than a month for this belief to break and, with it, the dream of joining a good multinational organisation on my own credentials.
The scenario in India was no better as most MNCs choose to recruit MBAs via campus recruitment from the top universities in India like IIMs, XLRI, etc., I applied to them all but they never responded.
Canadian universities are the cheapest among the UK, the USA, and Australia. The Commonwealth scholarship is one source of funding for Canadian universities at the post-graduate level, but is restricted to a very limited number of students of exceedingly high intellectual promise who live in Commonwealth countries.
As I needed a job - not wanting to sit at home after completing my education - I applied to all types of organisations, big and small, and gave my CV to many recruitment agencies. However, this was again without much luck, as the job market was down.
For instance, the salaries being provided were ridiculously low and disappointing as they did not even cover the expenses of my education. An MBA from, say, IIMs or XLRI in India has a starting salary of about Rs 4 Lakhs+ per annum.
Still, being an MBA and considering my education in the UK a disadvantage, I decided to bring down my salary expectations to Rs. 2 Lakhs per annum. I was offered Rs. 1 .2 Lakhs by one organisation where I was able to get an interview.
I am sure that I am not the only one who has had such an experience. I have advised my friends in India and my brother who is at present studying in the UK against studying abroad. I am not in favour of it as there is great difficulty in getting a job. Do you think it's worth the cost?