StudyLink logoHome
Students on a university campus

Deciding to study abroad: The first steps

The first steps

Deciding to study abroad is a great first step in your higher education journey. International study can be fantastic for your future, you get to experience different cultures, meet new people, access a wider range of education providers, and make a significant addition to your CV/resume, which could be helpful for getting a job. However, it can also be a daunting decision. Where should I study? Can I afford it? How do I apply? All of these questions and more are very common, and there are people out there who can help you to answer them!

You may have an idea of what kind of things you want to know about studying abroad, but if you are struggling to know where to start, here are a few things you might want to explore:

  • Which country should I study abroad in and why – which country do you think would suit your needs the best? Consider the cost of education and living, the quality of education in that country, and the distance from your family and friends. Do you want to stay close to home or are you looking for adventure further afield?
  • Which course should I study abroad and why – what is your current academic background, do you meet the general admission requirements? Have you thought about what kind of career you would like to have and what kind of course would fit with this? How long do you want to study for? Some countries offer four year courses, where the equivalent in a different country might be 3 years.
  • When do you want to start your studies – how much time do you have left in formal education? How long will the application and acceptance process take? Have you factored in time to gather documents and apply for your visa if you need one?
  • How much does studying abroad cost – this does not only apply to the tuition fees. You need to consider application fees, visa fees, accommodation and living expenses, health insurance and entertainment as a few examples.
  • How will I fund my international education – are you a strong candidate who might qualify for a scholarship? Does your government offer any bursaries or financial support? Is this choice financially feasible for your family either independently or with a student loan?

There are several steps you can take before making a decision about where in the world you want to study. Below you will find some helpful tips that might help kickstart the process and make you feel more confident in your decision.

Thinking about studying abroad but not sure where you can study? Take a look at our country directories for more information.

Talk to people who have studied abroad

If you know anyone who has studied abroad, speak to them and see if they can give you any insight into their experience. They will be well placed to give you information about international study that you can only gain by actually doing it. Try and think about everything you might want to know about the experience and write some questions down so you don’t forget. Don’t be afraid to ask trivial questions as well as the big practical ones. This is an important decision, so it pays to be informed.

If you don’t know anyone personally who has studied abroad, make use of the internet if you can. There will be plenty of people out there who are willing to speak about their experiences, both good and bad.

Remember when you are speaking to people about their experience, their opinions are very subjective. What they did or did not enjoy may be different for everyone. Use this information to help make the best decision for you, but don’t let it completely influence your decision.

Talk to your school or college

Your school or college should be able to provide you with information and support when making decisions about your higher education, whether you are staying local or travelling across the world. If you have a guidance counsellor or tutor, tell them that you are interested in studying abroad, and they might be able to help you with your research. 

Even if a staff member at your school or college cannot personally help you with your decision, they are likely to be able to put you in touch with a person or organisation that can provide you with the advice and support that you need.

Want to study abroad but can’t decide on what to study? Our subject directories can provide more information about different study areas that you might be interested in.

Research online

If you are able to, utilise your internet access. The online world is full of people with more knowledge than you could ever imagine. There will be pages and pages of information out there, and you might find the answers to your questions. There are many websites out there (such as StudyLink) that allow you to seek out information about different countries, institutions and course types. Being able to compare courses without having to search all over the internet and go to several different websites can be really helpful. Make use of these resources as much as possible.

You can use StudyLink to find out information about all different elements of international study. We have sections dedicated to international study destinations, different subject areas and what they encompass, university articles, useful advice, pathway courses and distance learning. As well as this we have a comprehensive course search so you can save a shortlist of courses you are interested in.

Looking at studying abroad but have questions about how to fund your studies as an international student? Check out our article about funding and scholarships for international students for more information.

Talk to your parents or family members

One of the main elements that people see as a barrier between themselves and studying abroad is money. People assume that studying abroad will be too expensive and they will never be able to afford it.

Whilst studying abroad can be relatively costly, there are many ways to make it possible for you to get this great experience. Talking to your parents or family can help you to understand what is reasonable for you when it comes to international study. If you or your family are not in a position to simply pay for studying abroad, there are options to make it more accessible. These can range from getting a scholarship to choosing to study in a country where you are able to work alongside your studies to support yourself. Remember that not all countries require international students to pay significantly higher fees, and factor your financial situation into your decision.

Talk to recruitment agencies

Talking to recruitment agencies can give you a really good idea of what studying abroad can be like, as well as understanding the process of applying to your university and any formalities that come along with it, such as applying for a visa. Recruitment agents will have spoken to a wide range of prospective students, so will have experience with what works for different people. They will also have contacts in the international higher education sector, so might have a point of view that you wouldn’t have as a prospective student.

Considering studying abroad but require more guidance on gaining a visa as an international student? Our international study visas article can provide you with useful information.

Contact the international office

If you find an institution that you are interested in, find out if they have an international office you can get in touch with. The international team will be specifically employed to deal with international students and the many different queries you might have. They will be able to answer any questions you may have about their institution, as well as provide you with more general advice and information.

The international office can usually support incoming students with their admission process, making tasks like applying for a visa or finding accommodation smoother and less complicated. They may also be able to put you in contact with staff members of the faculty you are interested in, which can give you really great insight into what your course would really be like.

Remember that ultimately this decision is yours, and that all of these tips above should only be used to help you make the best decision for yourself. Take your time deciding, there’s no rush.

For more advice and guidance about studying abroad as an international student, check out our International Study Advice directory, where you will find more helpful articles that can help you to make a confident and informed decision when it comes to international higher education.

International Study Advice

Search for courses now

International study advice

Read our key advice article to help you make the best decision for your education and start your International study adventure.

Person holding a compass
How to choose the ideal study destination for you

In this article we look at how to approach choosing where in the world you would like to study.

World map on a blackboard
Deciding to study abroad: The first steps

Read StudyLink's suggestions on your first steps when deciding where to study abroad, with helpful tips to make your decision easier.

Students reading a book
English Language Testing for International Students

Find out more about English language tests, your options and what is required as an overseas student.

Lady holding bank notes
How much does it really cost to study abroad in 2024? take a detailed look into the costs of studying abroad and all the aspects that you should budget for when embarking on your studies.

A visa document
10 Common Student Visa Question

We answer 10 common questions about applying for a student visa to help make your visa application quick and easy.

A visa document and a world map
International Study Visas

Find out more about international student visas for studying abroad, as well as how, where and when to apply for yours.

A piggy bank with coins
Funding and Scholarships for International Students

Find out more about funding and scholarships for international students, and what financial assistance might be available to you.

Person selecting a book from a shelf
How to choose the right course for you

How to choose a course that fits you? Check our top tips on choosing which course is best for you to help you make an informed decision.

See more international study advice

Sign up to

Sign up to, the home of quality study abroad advice.

Sign up now
Students with books and test tubes
Search for courses