Studying abroad

How to choose the right university for your studies abroad?

There are some benefits of studying abroad that I believe apply for any university – meeting people from many different countries, living on your own, exploring different cultures, experiencing a different educational system etc. 

However, when deciding between 2, 5 or 10 options we are considering, we have to think about some more fine-grained factors. 

In this article I try to summarize the most important questions I asked myself before choosing the university for my master studies. Assuming you have a list of universities where you want to apply or where you got accepted, answering the questions for each of the categories below can give you a clear view on your preferences and help you make this important decision.

Personal goals

We all have our “WHY” for wanting to do studies abroad, but sometimes it can be hard to be aware of it and verbalize it. What can help is imagining how our life would look like in our future studies, because through those visualizations it becomes clearer what our priorities are and to which criteria we are giving the greatest importance.

Any university we choose will have a big impact on our personality, however there might be choices that are more aligned with the traits we want to develop and habits that we want to gain or quit.


  • What are the main reasons why you want to do your studies abroad?
  • How do you envision one day of your studies looking like? What about one week? One month?
  • What are your first thoughts when you are visualizing your life abroad? Are you in a lecture, in a bar, on campus, in the city? Are you doing experiments, biking, partying? Are you talking in a big group or are you deeply focused on your project?

Professional goals

An important aspect is that the university program we are considering is aligned with our interests. Otherwise, we could just do an internship, find a job or do some volunteering abroad, without making it a part of our studies. 

For many students, perceiving some program as “the best opportunity in a professional sense” is the determining factor for deciding between universities.


  • What do you want to do in life? 
  • How important is an academic degree for your future career?
  • Do you want to pursue an academic career in your field?
  • How important is the prestige/international rank of the university for you?
  • How easy is it for you to get the same knowledge outside of the university?
  • Is the university well connected with the industry?
  • Do you already know with high certainty in which field you want to specialize? If so, does the university have an adequate curriculum?

Friends & Family

Studying abroad is about new experiences and meeting new people, however we should still find a way to keep meaningful connections with our closest ones from our home country. 

There might be many reasons why we want to be closer or further from home, and considering them when choosing your university will help us set our expectations. And proper expectations in this aspect will help us cope with nostalgia with more ease later on.


  • Do you know anyone who is currently studying/ living in the same country/town? 
  • Is having someone from your old friends/cousins close by important for you?
  • How often do you want to go back to your home country?
  • Are you planning on staying in a long-distance relationship?
  • Is it possible for your family/friends to visit you during your stay?


Knowing the local language might not be a requirement for your university program, but it will definitely help you immerse into the local community faster.

You can check my tips for mastering the local language here.


  • Do you speak the local language? If not, how willing are you to learn it?
  • Is the program 100% in English? Do you have some courses that need to be taken in the local language?
  • How international is the city where you go? Do local people speak English?
  • Is mastering the local language important for your future career?
  • How comfortable are you with going to a country whose language you don’t speak?

Financial constraints

We can divide the financial aspect in two parts: first is determining how much money we need and second is how we can get or earn that money. 

Living costs differ from country to country, and you will have to do research for all the universities that you shortlisted. Below you can find some costs that you will probably have for any university:

Initial costs: Tuition fees, Visa, Deposit for accommodation

Monthly fixed costs: Accommodation, medical insurance, phone bill, monthly transport

Monthly variable: Food, study materials, leisure, travel


  • What are the average living costs for this country/city?
  • Are there any scholarships for which you might be eligible?
  • Are there any scholarships from your country that you can get for your studies abroad (regardless of the country where you go to study)?  These can be government scholarships, private funds or even companies that will sponsor your academic education.
  • What are the working options for foreign students in that country? Do you have any visa-constraints for working in that country? Are there many part-time jobs for students?
  • Are there any paid positions for student assistants/teaching assistants in the university?


If you are passionate about travelling, these ambitions are also connected with your university choice. For instance, if you want to travel often, your weekly workload should be lower, preferably with not too many ongoing tests, midterms, hand-ins during the semester and mandatory in-person sessions.


  • How important is travelling for you for your experience of studying abroad?
  • Do you want to travel inside the country you are studying in or more internationally?
  • How connected is the place of your university with the other cities/airports?
  • What are the average prices for the trains/busses/planes in the country?
  • How often do you want to travel during the semester? 
  • Do you prefer to have more holidays at the end of the year and travel only after your exams?
  • Are there remote learning options?


At my bachelor’s university we always said  “The studies are not just about the number of exams you passed”. It is also a time to build our network, explore our passions, be active in the community  and engage in extracurricular activities that will help us build our character, make friends. 


  • Are you in particular interested in some sports activities/societies/volunteer groups? 
  • Which student associations exist in the university?
  • How much time does your curriculum leave for extracurricular activities?
  • Are there events for which the university is famous for?
  • How is the social scene in the town? Do you prefer living in a smaller or bigger city?


In the end, you will have to decide for only one university and it is definitely one of the decisions that will shape your future. What gives me confidence when making important decisions like this, is if I’ve analyzed it from many different aspects and taken into account multiple factors. I hope that answering these questions will help you understand what are your priorities in terms of studying abroad and bring you closer to choosing the ideal program for you.

Which of the categories above is your priority when choosing the university abroad?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *