Why study abroad? This is a question that will strike you when you consider the steep cost of studying abroad. (By “abroad” we mean countries such as Australia, the US and the UK where students usually go for further studies.) If you are a self-financing student, you will try to figure out if it is worth the expense involved. Another question that will be uppermost on your mind is whether you can get the same level of education in India and have the luxury of living amongst family, friends and familiar surroundings. These questions are not simple to answer. Much depends on what subjects you wish to study abroad, and at which institution. But if your choices are made well, one can say with confidence that a period of studying abroad does help.
Quality of education:
It is generally true that the quality of education is likely to be uniformly good in countries such as the US, the UK and Australia. This unfortunately is not the case in India. Except for a few institutions such as the IIMs and the IITs, or some top-notch medical and science institutes, the quality of education is rather poor in India. This is particularly true in terms of infrastructure, such as the library facilities and laboratory equipment. As such, the competition for entrance to the IITs and the IIMs is very intense. In this scenario, studying abroad makes sense for you receive the same quality of education at some of the lesser-known universities abroad. However, if you make it to one of the top-notch institutions abroad, you get the very best in terms of the level of teaching and other facilities.
Matter of prestige:
A second consideration is that in India it has always been considered a matter of prestige and privilege to study abroad. This opinion is based on the impression that one comes back home with a sound education from abroad. So, when you return with a foreign degree you are far better placed in terms of job prospects and market value.
Worth the expense:
We need to consider whether it is worth the expense involved. The main question is, does the education pay for itself in the long run by way of returns? That is, can you recover the amount spent by virtue of the advantages of having a foreign degree? This depends on what you study there. If you do an MBA, for instance, you are most likely to get a lucrative corporate job, where you will be able to recover your expenses within a few years. However, if you finance yourself to study subjects that do not lead to high-salaried jobs, such as history or sociology, recovering the costs will be virtually impossible. Thus, in certain fields and professions, the returns are worth the investment in education and if you are funding yourself, either fully or partly, you should look carefully at the balance sheet.
The other way to study abroad is on a scholarship or with some financial aid (not a loan), and this is by far the best way to go about it. For those who cannot afford to pay their way through, this is the only way. Needless to say, this combines the advantages of an education abroad with freedom from the considerations of an investment, so you need only consider the returns that will eventually accrue. For this, however, you have to make much more effort, for scholarships are few and far between.
Breadth of exposure:
One learns a lot by staying in another country. Exposure to foreign cultures is something that many of us look forward to quite naturally, and it does help in broadening one's horizon and increasing one's adaptability to other cultures. But one gains in several other ways too. In particular, one learns about different attitudes to work, and that is very enlightening. Things get done much more efficiently in the western nations than they do here, and to see how that happens can inspire ideas for improvements at home.
Set against all this is the fact that one has to stay away for a long time from home, family and friends. But, however, acutely you may miss them while you're abroad, the knowledge that you're there only temporarily and will eventually come back does a lot in lessening the feeling. In short, it is certainly worthwhile to study abroad, and if the advantages outweigh the costs, it's an option that is very attractive in many ways.
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