Studying abroad – what does it take? Where do I start from? What are the things to consider before making my decision of which school to go to? How about the financial responsibilities? What’s a major?
Okay, enough of these questions right? I know as you see these questions rolling, it feels like I’m reading your mind. Maybe. Perhaps the best possible explanation as to how I am able to pull out similar questions to those on your mind is because I’ve gone through this season myself. This was over five years ago in 2009. Meanwhile, I know there are many more questions on your mind. However, with the few ones listed above, I think you get what I was driving at.
I can relate to you and I have an idea what’s on your mind. That’s why I’m writing this series, to possibly ease off your stress load as you decide whether to pursue your dream of studying abroad or not, how to begin the process and what you need to know about financial assistance programs, especially for international students, which school to choose, and so on. Let’s see if I can answer some of these questions in this three-series posts.
Having being in the United States for over 5 years now, I’ve come to acquire some interesting information about studying abroad. I never thought I’d be sharing the information I’m about to share with you on a platform like this. Although at so many times on several occasions, I’ve helped a lot of people by providing them with valuable information on this particular topic of studying abroad. However, this is a huge step for me, to put these information into writing.
Meanwhile, this post is one of a three-piece series as stated earlier. To begin with, in this first post, the introductory part, I want to share my story of how I found myself in the United States. In doing this, I hope to encourage you by showing you that you do not have to be the son or daughter of a millionaire to study abroad. Hopefully, this can help awaken your dream and hope once again to study abroad.
During my final year in Secondary School, we had a guest speaker who came to speak to the senior students about a program called the SAT Collegeboard Admission Program. As you must already know, whenever a guest speaker comes in, we pay closer attention to the information they give. So I gave this young man my full attention. He was able to convince most of the senior students that there’s a possibility to go abroad to study in the university. After his speech, he gave each student who was interested a handout, which I took home and gave to my daddy.
My daddy was big on education. He always told me and my siblings that education is the greatest gift he could ever give to us. He’d say that education is a pathway to independence. And among my siblings, I especially love school! I hardly missed a class. Even whenever I was sick, I’ll still go to school. In fact, I’ve been sent back home a couple of times. So presenting this to my daddy was only ideal for me.
So my daddy took the handout and asked me a thousand different questions (obviously I’m exaggerating), which I couldn’t answer, so he asked me to give the special guest a call to see what way to go forward. I did and after a week or so, we were at his office discussing about the program. I believe the cost for the program has since changed from what it was when I enrolled. Meanwhile, out of the one hundred plus students in my senior class, only about 15 enrolled. Before the end of the program many dropped out. I can still remember that it was only I and another student who took the SAT exam back in 2008. Out of the four universities that I applied to, which included Buffalo University in New York and Sam Houston State University in Texas (I really wanted to go to this one), I was accepted into three of them and two offered me scholarships. In fact, one offered to pay 75% of my tuition. However, my daddy could not meet the remaining financial requirements. So my hope of studying abroad was stalled for a while.
During this moment of stalling, I was already applying to another University in Nigeria. It was a brand new school and I was preparing to take my entrance examination to get into the medical program. About few weeks to the exam, my daddy called me into his room and asked “Son, so what’s the latest update about the SAT thing you did?” That was quite unexpected, but my daddy wouldn’t have called me into his room in that manner unless he had already thought hard about it. So I answered, “Some of the universities offered me scholarships, but you said you couldn’t meet up with the balance. And that was the last discussion we had.” I was not expecting his response. He said, “So does that mean the money I paid for the SAT program will go to waste? First thing tomorrow morning, place a call to your SAT tutor, we need to know the next step forward.”
Another thing you need to know about my daddy is that he was a banker for over 30 years, and when it comes to money, he doesn’t joke with it. So when he made that statement, I knew inside of me that he was going to go all out this time around.
The next morning I placed the call. Few days later we met my tutor and enrolled for a second program, the TOEFL program. Which, by the way, you don’t have to take. I learned this after I got to the USA. In fact, depending on the college of your choice, you may not need to take the SAT exam before leaving your country. I will explain these in my next post. Several weeks later, I took the exam and I did well. During our discussion about the TOEFL program, my tutor told us about another college that was one of the cheapest in the USA. So my daddy went for it.
Anyway, I was connected with one of the enrollment advisors at the college and he was such an amazing man. He explained things to me in details, understanding that I was from a different nation. He made it so easy for me to open up to him about everything I needed and what I had available at that moment. I guess people become super-friendly when they want your money (seriously). However, his was not a phony gesture. That was actually the culture of the school, as I later came to experience it first hand when I got to the school.
Meanwhile, throughout the process of going to the school, I had to raise some significant amount of money, which was fairly hard to do. If I had known what I do know now, it would have been so much easier on me and especially on my amazing daddy! Getting all the documents, applying for my visa interview, getting my visa, purchasing my flight ticket and making my way to the USA took about two weeks. In fact, three days before I flew into the USA, I was not so sure if I would be able to make it to my school on time. But everything happened so fast. Here I am 5 years later.
Now let me tell you what I want you to learn from the story I’ve just shared, which of course, I had to cut out a lot of information to reduce the length for the sake of the post.
1. Studying Abroad is Now Easier Than Before. Therefore, you don’t have to stress yourself out to figure how to go about it. Don’t stress much, instead, ask questions. The more right questions you ask, the more likely you are to get helpful answers.
2. Start Planning Ahead of Time. When you know you would like to study abroad, begin your preparation nothing less than a year before the end of your senior year in secondary school. You would realize that time goes by so fast during your final year. So it’s better you give yourself a reasonable amount of time ahead, to get all the necessary information you need, meet important requirements that need to be met and get your documents ready to go.
3. Search for a School and Program. There are a lot of people who would rip you off and ask you to pay more than necessary for some funny programs. That’s why I would strongly suggest that you do your research first. Research and decide which schools you are interested in and what program you want to study. Depending on the requirements for each school and program, you would be able to determine which SAT program to take, whether or not you need to take the TOEFL, etc.
4. Many Scholarships are Available for International Students. I’m not sure I’ve heard of any school that doesn’t offer scholarship to international students. You may find a couple, but I promise you that 9 out of 10 offer some form of financial assistance program to international students. There are many options out there, athletic scholarships, merit based scholarships, etc. Once again do you research. I will talk more about this in the next post.
5. Have a Financial Plan. This is very important. Let’s take the USA for example. If you want to come to the USA to study, you better have a financial plan in place. At least something substantial for the first year. The United States’ government does not want to take care of your financial problems. That would costs them a lot. Sure enough, they want to help you financially, but they cannot be your primary sponsor. So make sure you put this in mind as you pursue your dream further.
6. You Don’t Have to be a Millionaire. Although you need to realize that you are the primary financial provider for your education and not the government of the country you are going to, yet there are many scholarship opportunities that are available to help you significantly. You could get a full ride scholarship, partial scholarship, athletic scholarship, and so on. So don’t throw off your dreams of studying abroad because of insufficient funding.
In conclusion, the other student with whom I took the SAT exam, we both left our country the same year, 2009. I came to the United States and he went to Ukraine. Presently he’s finishing up his medical program, and I am here sharing my experience with you! Dreams do come true. However sometimes you need to get informed and be diligent in putting in some work. At the end of the day, the benefit is very much worth the work you put into it. So after reading my story, I hope I’ve been able encourage you enough and awaken your dream of studying abroad.