Prague: Universities & Colleges for International Students

prague universities, prague study, study in prague, study in english in prague, czech universities, czech colleges, prague colleges, prague universities in english, prague universities, studying in czech republic in english, study in czech republic for international students Before visiting Prague universities for Beyond the States, our international travel destinations were determined by an interesting food scene or visiting family overseas. Those criteria prevented me from getting to Prague in the Czech Republic earlier, a fact I truly regret. Prague is seriously one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to study abroad – even in the dead of winter. One thing that I liked about it is that you could see and appreciate the architecture throughout the city without going into the touristy areas.

Prague Castle is worth checking out, but what I really enjoyed was the Museum of Miniatures that I learned about in the Atlas Obscura. This is actually a small room that has micro miniatures which you view through mprague universities, prague study, study in prague, study in english in prague, czech universities, czech colleges, prague colleges, prague universities in english, prague universities, studying in czech republic in english, study in czech republic for international students icroscopes. I’m already a sucker for miniatures so I was all about this! Micro-miniaturist Anatolij Konenko created the collection which includes a caravan inside the eye of a needle, a flea with tiny horseshoes and a replica of Swan Lake on a poppy seed-a poppy seed!! There is also a sailboat on a mosquito wing, golden horseshoes on a flea, and the Lord’s Prayer written on a hair. If only they had a small gift shop…

Prague felt very livable to me. One factor I look at when assessing livability is the accessibility of modern day conveniences. I’ve stayed in some cities where I have walked endlessly just to find a place to buy bandaids. Supermarkets, convenience stores, and drug stores were easily found in all the neighborhoods I visited in Prague. Other services, like places to exercise or nail salons, were also easy to get to. The city is fairly compact and walkable, but also with good public transportation. I felt safe everywhere I visited throughout the city and learned that the Czech Republic is actually the 6th safest country in the world just ahead of Switzerland and far ahead of the US which ranks 103rd out of 162.

As I noted in our last blog, I do wish I had paid more attention to current events in high school, particularly those that related to the Cold War (1947-1991). The owners of my Airbnb were a hip young couple in their 30s. Matej picked me up from the airport and during the drive back told me about his own memories of the time. His dad was in a band and had to flee the country in the 80s, as he was going to be imprisoned for playing Led Zeppelin songs. Matej remembers waiting in long lines for simple things like toilet paper to be rationed. He also recalled the excitement through the country after the largely peaceful Velvet Revolution, the period of upheaval and transition, that took place from November 17 to December 29, 1989.

Anglo-American University: Affordable with Small Class Size

prague universities, prague study, study in prague, study in english in prague, czech universities, czech colleges, prague colleges, prague universities in english, prague universities, studying in czech republic in english, study in czech republic for international students One of the Prague universities I want to tell you about is Anglo-American University. As in Poland, private schools only came into existence after the end of the Cold War. Though AAU is a fairly young school, in terms of Prague universities, founded in 1990, it is the oldest private institution of higher education in the Czech Republic. There are a number of schools throughout Europe that are accredited by US agencies and they use that as a way to charge American-sized tuition. One of the many benefits of college in Europe is the affordability, so I tend not to give those schools much attention. Anglo-American University interested me as all of their programs are English conducted, they tout an American style of teaching, and they have WASC accreditation, an agency that also accredits schools like Stanford University. Despite all of that, their tuition is incredibly reasonable at under 4,500 euros (currency conversion) per year – making AAU a Prague university value!

The facilities at AAU are incredible. They recently moved to a location in a great part of the city near the Prague Castle. It’s a historic building that they renovated for school use. I can’t even begin to tell you how beautiful it is, so it’s worth checking out here. Be sure to look at the computer lab!

AAU has seven bachelor’s degree programs (all of their programs are conducted in English). Like most schools in Europe, students apply to an actual program but since there are a lot of electives students can generally do an internal transfer to switch programs after the first year. AAU prides itself on small class size (max of 25 students), interactive group work and class discussions. The small student body does not mean that students have a limited choice of classes. Over 200 courses are generally offered each semester. Some of the classes sound really cool as well. Isn’t it a great time in our world to take a Psychology of Aggression course? There is also a class about NATO in which different NATO representatives give virtual lectures throughout the semester.

The small student body allows students and professors to get to know each other and professors are accessible to students inside and outside of class. The small school size presents less potential social issues than in the US. While there are a number of ways to get involved socially at AAU, staying in a student residence opens up your opportunity to experience student life in Prague as a whole.

Charles: A Prague University with Liberal Arts

On the other end of the school size spectrum in Prague universities is Charles University. Charles University is enormous with locations all around Prague. Charles University was founded in 1348, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. There are 52,000 students at the school and the school is globally ranked. Liberal Arts programs appeal to a lot of US students partly because it’s what we are familiar with and partly because many students don’t know what they want to study when applying to college. Most of the liberal arts options are in the Netherlands, which have a 4 AP requirement, so I was interested in learning about the option offered at Charles University.

The Liberal Arts program at Charles University is fairly new. It started in 2012 and has about 45 students per class. Though it is called Liberal Arts, after learning about it, I think it’s more similar to the integrated programs like the Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) or Philosophy, Politics, Law & Economics (PPLE) programs offered at many schools. Of course, integrated programs are also a great option for students who aren’t sure what they want to study or can’t decide on just a single area of study. During the first year, students take introductory courses in European History, Anthropology, Economics, Psychology, and Sociology. They also have four different small seminars and choices for electives. Electives account for more than a third of the required credits, so it is here that students can focus on their areas of interest within the disciplines.

Comprehensive exams account for 40 of the 180 total credits. These are not formal classes, but independent work that is done through the semester (during the 2nd and 3rd year) preparing for the exam. Students are required to take comprehensive exams in four different subjects. For each of these, they choose a set number of books to read off of a list (usually they choose 12). They then give a presentation and have an oral exam about the reading they did. Needless to say, this requires that the student is independent with good time management and study skills. The programs end with a bachelor’s thesis, another opportunity for the student to focus on their specific area of interest.

This department is about 20 minutes on the metro from the city center, in a less picturesque area of Prague. Large universities sometimes concern me as getting through bureaucratic levels in one’s own language can be a headache enough without throwing language barriers in the mix. However, students take the majority of their classes within the department and the International Students Office and Student Administration Office within the department can meet most of the students’ needs.

Summary of Prague Universities

If you’re interested in studying in the Czech Republic in English, there are 45 English conducted bachelor’s programs in the country, 32 of which are at Prague universities. The average tuition in the Czech Republic is just €4,260 (convert to $). Prague universities provide great options for students who want to take advantage of the affordable tuition of Eastern Europe while living in a livable and beautiful city. I have to tell you, I’m actually glad that I’m not a big fan of the heavy meat-based Czech foods otherwise I would have had trouble leaving!

Student Update: Jared Thriving at KU Leuven

We recently gave you an update on how Theo is doing at Leiden University College. Today I have an update on Jared (first blog, second blog) the student from Chapel Hill we worked with who is now attending KU Leuven in Brussels, Belgium.

brux-2 Jared’s family had a crazy summer before he left for school. In addition to getting Jared ready for college in Europe, they were also in the process of relocating from Chapel Hill to Wilmington, NC. Jared’s mom was starting a new job so Jared’s dad, Dave, went with Jared to settle him in. Now I have to say, though many Tom would probably struggle in a similar situation, I know Dave personally and he is super organized. Even with the presence of a focused and on task dad, Jared noted that the first week was exhausting with running around taking care of residency requirements, school documents, and settling in to his apartment.

Jared is living in a brand new student residence right in the middle of Brussels. The residence provides options for single rooms with shared kitchens/common areas or studio apartments. Since Jared’s family is saving so much money on tuition (at only 1,250 Euros per year), he was able to talk them into paying for a studio apartment option (housing in this residence ranges from 450-675 Euros per month). Jared’s room came with a fridge, bed frame, and desk so he also had to spend the first week buying a mattress, bedding, and seating. Thank goodness for Ikea!

Though there have been some issues with building management not being responsive (to issues like internet problems and such), Jared has no regrets about choosing this residence for his first year. The majority of the 75 students in the residence are first year students at various schools in the city and about a dozen of them are in the same program at Leuven as Jared. These factors made it easy for Jared to make friends from other schools and gives him friends from his own program to study with as well. Jared makes dinner for himself most nights (something his mother was worried about him handling), mostly prepared and frozen foods but sometimes a group of students in the residence cook for each other. Jared thinks that paying a bit more for a residence that was new and in a safe part of town was a great idea for his first year, despite some of the problems. He will have more options his second year since he will know about more alternatives, have a feel for the city, and be able to make arrangements while he is there.

Jared’s classmates and friends from the residence are from a variety of countries around the world and he has enjoyed meeting people with diverse backgrounds and learning about their cultures. He plans to travel to Spain with some friends from his residence who are from Mallorca and has already travelled to Luxembourg and around Belgium. Of course, he also enjoys hanging out and going to parties!

268px-belgium_provinces_regions_striped Jared misses his friends and family, but hasn’t been hit with overwhelming homesickness. His older sister came to visit over Thanksgiving and then he will go home for two weeks over Christmas. His biggest challenge has been around learning the languages in Brussels. Belgium has different language areas. In the northern region, Flanders, people speak Flemish, a dialect of Dutch. In the southern region called Wallonia, people speak French. Brussels, the capitol is in Flanders (orange on the map), but the city is pretty much evenly split between those who speak French and Flemish (much like Dutch) which increases the difficulty of learning either of those languages.

Jared’s first year includes classes on accounting, financial institutions and markets, management, research methods, statistics, math for business economics, managerial economics, philosophy, psychology, law and foreign language. Of course, these are not all taken at once. Jared is taking eight classes, three of which are math-based courses this semester, which require a good amount of out of class study time. His lecture classes are in subjects like philosophy and require less time out of class for him since he had taken two years of world history, Jared is also taking a project class in which small groups of students organize an event for charity and carry it out by the end of March. Though he notes that it is the most challenging class he has, he appreciates that he is learning skills around marking, sponsorship, insurance, general accounting, and event management in a practical, hands on way. There are generally around 20 students in each of his classes except for his lecture classes which have all 200 students from his program. Here’s one key difference from college in the US: all of Jared’s books costs less than brux $200!

I was a bit worried that Jared’s transition would not be as seamless as Theo’s was. Not only does KU Leuven not have the residential component that Leiden University College has, but Jared’s campus is in Brussels while the main campus is a short train ride away in Leuven. Jared’s experience really speaks to a difference I often point out, which is that student life is often not confined to the school, but is more an experience of being a student in the town of wherever you may be. I’m so happy for Jared and we will continue to follow his experiences.

Holidays for an International College Student

Thanksgiving can be a bit hard for first year students in Europe. It’s just like any other day with classes and student sometimes are a bit homesick by this time. Many American students gather with other international students and school staff to celebrate holidays from home that aren’t recognized by their school country. Some international student offices even arrange such celebrations. When my kids go to college in Europe, I plan to fly over and spend time over Thanksgiving weekend together-either in the town of their school or a quick nearby getaway. Fortunately, Christmas break is right around the corner and most American students do go home for the break, since schools have at least a two week break around this time.

Students can benefit from experiencing different holidays and festival traditions that they would not otherwise be exposed to. Travel expert Rick Steves has an extensive list of holidays and festivals by country. Here are a few of our favorites.

christmasmarketjena Christmas Markets

Christmas in Europe centers on an Advent market that, in most cases, has filled the square before the cathedral each December for hundreds of years. Many markets start on the Friday before Advent, which is four Sundays before Christmas Eve; most end on December 24, especially in Germanic countries, where Christmas Eve is set aside for trimming the tree at home. Here’s a really great article to help identify the best ones from our friends at Dispatches Europe.

If you’re having trouble getting in the yuletide spirit or you’re not the shopping type, there’s always the legendary Christmas Beer Festival in Essen, Belgium. This festival features 178 different beers, including some of the best beers in the world, in a celebration of the diversity of Belgian beer culture.

images-15 Carnival

According to Wikipedia, “Carnival is a pre-Lent season of festivities Carnival typically involves a public celebration and/or parade combining some elements of a circus, masks, and a public street party.” Carnival is celebrated in New Orleans as Mardi Gras. You may have already heard of Carnival in Venice with its masks and elaborate costumes. Venice is perfectly nice, but if you’re looking for a similar festival with a less touristy vibe, check out Croatia. Established in 1982, Rijeka, Croatia holds the country’s largest carnival festival of parades and costumes. the 2017 Carnival runs from January 17 until March 1, so there’s ample opportunity to check this out on a break or as a weekend trip.

Midsummer’s Eve

In Sweden, Midsummer’s Eve is one of the most important days of the year, rivaling Christmas with its festive spirit and traditions. Traditionally, Midsummer was celebrated on June 24, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, but the holiday has its roots in a pre-Christian summer solstice festival. In 1952, the Swedish Parliament decided that Midsummer should always be celebrated on a weekend. As a result, the observance of Midsummer now varies between June 20 and 26. Midsummer Eve activities include folk dancing in traditional costumes around the Maypole and games for all ages. At some point, festival goers enjoy a meal of herring with new potatoes and a glass of schnapps visit RISH RICHES HTTPS://PARIURICASINO.RO.

 

Prague Pride

orlando-830x365 There are many pride festivals across Europe. The biggest one in Central/Eastern Europe, Prague Pride, happens in August in the capitol of the Czech Republic. 40,000 people gathered together to celebrate equal right to love. Although they sometimes look like carnivals, gay pride parades are an opportunity to show that all citizens should have the same rights in our society. The 2016 edition of Prague Pride included a memorial service for the victims of the Orlando, Florida, night club massacre where 49 people were killed at a gay night club.

 

 

Reason for Hope in a Time of Change

Last week was a rough one for a number of us. Many people have concerns about what the next four years will hold. There have been increased reports of violence and acts of bigotry across the country. In trump our own progressive enclave in North Carolina (not an oxymoron), a Latina woman who was walking her kids to school was followed by a pick up truck whose occupants were taunting them that they would soon be deported. There are also concerns for our LGBT community and what the new political climate means for their rights and their safety following the election. Of course, there are broader concerns as well about how this election will affect our country. These concerns were evidenced by the crash of the Canadian immigration site as the election results came in on Tuesday.

While logistically it is hard for many of us who are saddled with jobs, families, and homes to pick up and move to another country, college bound students have the choice to leave the country for the next few year to study overseas. Many of you have told us that the election results have been the deciding factor when considering whether to pursue college in the US or Europe. Certainly, the map of how millennials voted indicates that this is not the direction the younger generation favors.

The benefits to studying in Europe are huge, even without considering the political climate here. We’ve talked about the incredibly affordable tuition and transparent admissions processes, as those are quite obvious benefits. Another benefit to note is the exposure students gain to people who are different from them. In this spread out country, many of us who don’t live in urban areas are often surrounded by people who are similar to us in appearance, background and beliefs. My son’s history teacher used the election as an opportunity to teach the class about echo chambers. Particularly on social media, we see a lot of our own opinions reflected by others and often “unfriend” or at least “mute” those who have conflicting views. As a result, we tend to think our own perspectives are more dominant and accepted than they are in reality.

I know that there are large numbers of people who voted differently than I did who are not inherently “bad people” and had some other reason for their vote than to support bigotry and chauvinism. I’m guilty of not truly understanding their plight. I’m also guilty of not understanding the impacts of the refugee situation or the experience of the refugees themselves. I don’t know what it’s like to be “randomly” chosen for a search at the airport due to the color of my skin or last name. While we don’t have to experience these things first hand, interacting with people who have different experiences and different view points helps us have a much broader and more accurate world view.

When Americans go to college in Europe they are introduced to people of all different backgrounds. College education in Europe is for everyone, not primarily for the wealthy or elite, and the English twain-meme11 conducted programs draw students from around the globe. What better way to understand the effects the death of the president of Thailand than to learn about it from your Thai classmate? By gaining this world view, college students can come back to the US and advocate for change where it is needed. Their experience as global citizens will help inform the dialog going forward. They can help put us back on the right track in much more meaningful ways than if they continue to live where they have always lived surrounded by others just like them. I can’t tell you how happy I am that we all have this option!

Are You New Here?

Not surprisingly, we have had a huge number of new members and newsletter subscribers over the last week. I thought it might be helpful to point out where to find information and to announce some upcoming news from Beyond the States.

Monthly Webinars

Each month we hold a webinar with a live Q&A at the end. In these webinars, we dive into a specific topic such as the admissions process or what majors are available in Europe. You can sign up for upcoming webinars and access our past webinars and information sessions here.

Latest News

Our BTS in the News Page has all the recent articles about going to college in Europe, along with media coverage of Beyond the States.

Timing

This is a pretty important one-people often ask me if it is too early or too late to explore the option of college in Europe. The answer is “neither”. This piece discussed how BTS can help at different stages in the process.

Our Blogs

We are still working out the best way to search our blog. You can go through the categories or type in search terms in the sidebar. Type “Firsthand” in the search box to pull up the blogs related to college visits.

The Map

This map shows the number of English conducted programs in each country and the average tuition of these programs.

Why We Don’t List UK Schools

766px-london_big_ben_phone_box Our original reason for not listing UK schools was our focus on non anglophone countries. In these countries, it is often more difficult to figure out what programs are in English, if any other language skills are required and other such details. Our focus was to make the options in continental Europe easier to find and understand for US students. I had also heard from many administrators that UK students made up a large part of their English conducted program student body, due to problems with the systems in the UK.

We have had a number of families inquire as to whether we would list UK schools in the future. I really thought hard about it and spent some time researching the idea. Though we don’t have an official mission statement, our passion at Beyond the States is to provide American families with solutions to the problems we face in the US, be it the cost, expectations for admissions, undergraduate experience, or employment issues after graduation. Below are the reasons I think that UK schools don’t fit with our focus and why we won’t be listing them.

Costs as Much as the US

According to a recent HSBC report, the average tuition in the UK for international students is $19,291. Clearly, this cost is on par with the US. Outside of Switzerland (whose average tuition is artificially high due to the large number of programs conducted by American universities), this is significantly higher than any other country in Europe which charge just $7,245 on average. Further, the UK’s three year residency requirement prevents students who have an EU passport but have spent high school in the US from receiving the lower EU tuition rates.

Similar Admissions Process

One of my issues with the US admissions process is that students are set up to never achieve enough. If they have perfect SAT scores, another applicant might as well, so they need to then have more AP classes. Someone else has perfect SATs and higher AP’s, so students seek to impress through an additional area as well. The admissions process has often appropriately been compared to a treadmill or a rat race. UK admissions decisions are made in similar ways through a point system in which things like AP courses receive more points than others-very similar to the flawed process we have in place in the US. I really like the focus many schools in continental Europe have on the “fit” of the student to the program and program to student. The administrators I have spoken with emphasize that applicants should personalize their motivation letter to the school and program they are applying to as opposed to using the same letter for each school. This is not possible (and thus not emphasized) in UK programs. Applicants use a common application and cannot send different essays to the different schools they apply to.

Fewer Post College Opportunities Due to Brexit

The UK used to have a very generous post study visa residency period for international students. Graduates were allowed up to two years to find a job. They have recently reduced the period to just four months after graduation. If a student hasn’t found a job in the UK after four months, they’re required to leave the country. The EU adopted new regulations that provide graduates with a minimum of nine months post study visa and allow students to work a minimum of 15 hours per week while they are students. Further, the impact of Brexit will take the next two years to unfold, which means that there will be international students in the midst of their study when they find out if/how they will be impacted. I think waiting to see the impact is a better idea.

eur_eng_map Language is Less of a Barrier than You Think

Language is often the reason American students first think of the UK when considering studying in Europe, but English is widely spoken in continental Europe. Our database contains the English proficiency of each country, as surveyed by EF Education First. I’ll also note my own experiences with it on my school visits. I was blown away by the amount of English spoken in many of the countries I have visited – not just when people were talking to me but in the conversations I overheard on the trains, in the markets and around the schools. The UK is a fascinating place and I understand the appeal. Many programs we have listed require or allow for a semester abroad. Perhaps that would be a better way to get the gain the benefits of continental Europe’s superior education system while being exposed to life in the UK?

 

Homeschooler’s Guide to College in Europe

Ths_images-1 he face of homeschool has changed a lot over the years. Only 36% are doing so for religious/moral reasons and more and more families are homeschooling due to their dissatisfaction with the education system in this country. We get a lot of interest from these families, who realize that college in Europe is a way to continue to opt out of the problems with the higher education system.We get a lot of inquiries about how being homeschooled factors into the admission process in Europe. While homeschooling is on the rise in Europe, there are some countries in which is it illegal (Germany and Sweden) and others where the regulations make it difficult to pursue (Switzerland). This week, I would like to share my thoughts on how to deal with some of the obstacles you may face as a homeschooler.

There are some countries (mentioned above) in which a homeschool diploma would not be recognized due to the laws they have around homeschooling. Other countries require an accredited diploma and some require applicants to have their transcripts/diplomas nostrified. This generally involves a trip to the Secretary of State’s office or, sometimes, the embassy. Often, when dealing with governmental bureaucratic layers, milfster.org the answer you get to your questions may vary depending on the person you talk to. Thus, I highly recommend that homeschoolers work with agencies that allow you to homeschool and provide accredited diplomas and transcripts for your work.

One of our members moved to Europe in the last years. They are digital nomads and have chosen to homeschool using Oak Meadow distance learning. Their daughter lists Oak Meadow as her school and will graduate with accredited transcripts and a diploma.

Another one of our members told us about a few less costly options. She is looking into places like Clonlara. These schools validate the credits and, after the graduation requirements have been met, issue an accredited diploma.

A few countries (Norway, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark) have extra requirements for all American applicants. Applicants either need a certain number of college credits, 3-4 AP scores of 3+, or an IB 3_ring_binder diploma. First of all, if you choose not to go this route, there are still plenty of options! Though Norway, Italy and Denmark would not be feasible, the universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands do not have the AP requirements and there are still an abundance of choices throughout the rest of Europe as well.

Good news about AP tests-you do not have to take the AP course to take the AP test. Many homeschool students are receiving a rigorous education at home and would easily pass the AP tests. Further, since the number of AP scores required is specified, an advantage is not given when a student takes more than required. Italy requires American students without an IB to take AP Italian as one of the tests they submit. This is an option that is closed to many American students, since Italian is not an offering at many schools, not to mention AP Italian. If you are a homeschool student taking Italian though, you can take the AP test and then be eligible to apply (assuming you have taken the other AP tests as well).

Many homeschool students take courses at local colleges as part of their high school curriculum. If you accumulate a year’s worth of college credit, you do not need the AP scores. It is important to note that most colleges require that these credits are issued by a 4 year college, not a school that can only issue associate’s degrees.

Are there extra hoops you will have to jump through as a homeschool applicant? Yes. However I absolutely recommend it, as I think many homeschool students have the qualities needed to succeed as a student in Europe and could thrive in this environment.

Firsthand Report from Theo in The Hague

We’ve told you about one of the students we worked with last year in our previous blogs. Theo impressed me from the start and I have really enjoyed our interactions. He is attending Leiden University College The Hague, the honors liberal arts program connected to Leiden University in the Netherlands. I recently checked in with Theo to see how his transition has been going.

University colleges in the Netherlands have a required residential component (1-3 years depending on the school). As I’ve mentioned previously, student housing at Leiden University College is nicer than any apartment I had until I was in my 30’s (of course, my former career as a social worker certainly limited my options). The school and its housing is a modern high rise right next to the train station in the center of The Hague. The lobby includes a vertical garden to represent the sustainability theme. Classrooms are on the first few floors and the dorm rooms are on the top floors. All rooms are fully furnished and curtained with their own facilities (kitchen and bathroom with toilet). The rooms are huge and are more like a studio apartment than a US style dorm room. Some units are shared with another student, but most are singles. The floor to ceiling windows overlook The Hague. Rent is €565 (about $672) per month for a studio.

I asked Theo about the logistics of his move in. The only things he brought with him were clothes, books, and odds and ends. He bought everything else locally. His parents stayed in town for a few days and helped scout out thrift store furniture for his room. Theo also noted that there is an Ikea store in a neighboring town and a few students organized group trips to stock up there. Having knowledge of the state of shared bathrooms in many dorms or student apartments, Theo is super happy about having a bathroom all to himself! He also loves having a kitchen. He discovered over the summer that he really enjoys cooking, so he has been using the kitchen for meals beyond the ramen and frozen pizzas I subsisted on at the same age. He has had fun experimenting with random new ingredients and his Dutch friends have helped him navigate the grocery stores.

Theo is also enjoying life in the Hague. He describes it as fascinating, beautiful and vibrant and has enjoyed wandering the streets exploring the city. He also loves the Central Park-esque park that is right outside the school’s front door. He uses it as a calm retreat from the urban setting. There were two orientation sessions during the first weeks of school. One was for Leiden University College students and the other was for all Leiden University students in The Hague. He found them both to be informative and entertaining and helped him understand the program, school, and city.

The social transition has been easy for Theo. He had been corresponding with another student online who he met in person his first day. The orientation programs also helped him meet other students. Theo reports that the social scene is whatever you want it to be. Some students explore the clubs in town or have “borrels” (which he told me is the Dutch term for a party/get-together with beer). Theo enjoys a more mellow scene, hanging out with much smaller groups of people. Theo describes himself as somewhat introverted, he enjoys his time alone but has not isolated himself and has been making friends and joined clubs that have helped him make friends with similar interests. He also told me that there hasn’t been any cultural awkwardness that he anticipated “just regular awkwardness” (did I mention how much I enjoy his insights?). He did say that there are a good number of jokes made at America’s expense, but that they are not in a mean way or said as a judgement towards him as an American. He’s met eight other American students, but notes that there could be more. Since classes are conducted in English, it’s hard to determine where someone is from.

Theo’s description of his academic life is so great, that I’m including it verbatim:
“I am currently taking History of Philosophy, History of Science, Academic Writing (which is actually a course about Greek identities under the Roman Empire), and Global Challenges: Peace & Justice. Each class is made up of twenty or so kids, and are all discussion based. Once a week there is a big lecture for P&J, but the Global Challenges classes are the only classes that do that, to my knowledge. All of these classes are mandatory for first years. Study time is largely dependent on how bad a procrastinator one is, but in general it can be described as feasible yet challenging. It also involves a lot of writing. I found all of my books for free, except my academic writing book, which cost fifty bucks.
Classes start at different times every day, so I may wake up any time between 7:30 (Wednesdays) to 11:00 (Tuesdays). I have one class every day for two hours, plus an additional two hour lecture for P&J on Moleiden angled ndays. That may seem like a little but we receive enough of a workload to necessitate at least two hours of out of class work every day, or seven hours twice a week, if one is so inclined.
Overall, it has been a wonderful experience so far, and I am excited to continue to explore The Hague, and to participate in such rigorous classes. I recommend this school highly for anyone who wants to be challenged, who loves discussion, and wants to deal with practical issues facing the world.”

I am so excited for Theo and look forward to continuing to follow him through his college career!

Five Ways to Improve Your Cultural Diversity Prior to College in Europe

Lumpia
Lumpia

I feel so fortunate that my childhood in provided me exposure to all different sorts of cultures, backgrounds and religions. Experiencing many different versions of “normal” is an important part of developing a global perspective. For me, this included seeing the Hindu Shrine at Shrunali’s house , arranging Friday night sleepover plans to accommodate Tammy’s family’s shabbat, and not having any idea what Martin’s family was talking about since they all spoke German at home. And let me tell you how lucky you were if you got to sit near Floremy at lunch! She was likely to trade her lumpia for your fluffernutter. We were able to talk and joke about our cultural difference and I believe that it gave me a greater curiosity about the world and not just an acceptance of, but an appreciation for of any sort of differences.

Studying in Europe provides students with exposure to people with all sorts of background and experiences. English-conducted programs draw students from around the world-not just anglophone kids round table countries. It is likely that your roommates and classmates will will be from other countries. The students I have spoken with really value this diversity. They’ve talked about how mealtime turns into a multicultural event, how the classroom discussion truly provide a global perspective, and how the opportunity for travel increases, since they now have contacts (read-free places to stay) in these different places. Though many in the US almost seem afraid to talk about cultural differences, it is a common topic there with friendly joking about it as well. I was hanging out with some students in Finland who were all friends. One of them was Latvian and his friend told me (in front of the Latvian student), “If you really want to make him mad, just say he’s from Russia”. Of course, this was good-natured joking and the Latvian student also laughed while making a joke about how at least none of his family member’s own a fanny pack.

I’ve said before that, in order to be successful as a student in Europe, students need to have cultural curiosity and openness. I recognize that most Americans are not exposed to cultural diversity on a regular basis. How can those students develop the traits needed for success abroad? Here are some suggestions:

1. Try Different Foods: When I was pregnant with Sam, Tom and I were at an Indian restaurant where a family with 2 young daughters was sitting near us. The youngest, who was probably around 3 years old was grumbling about the appearance of one of the dishes. The older sister, probably around 5 years old, sweetly reminded her, “If you want to travel the world, you have to try different foods!” Tom and I thought that was the coolest thing ever and made it our mission to implement that policy with our own kids. Try out different foods as a family. If you don’t live in an area with good ethnic restaurants, get some cookbooks from countries of interest and try a recipe yourself. You’d be surprised how many obscure ingredients can be bought on Amazon.
2. Seek out cultural festivals in your area. This is a great way to experience food and traditions of other cultures. These are often listed in the local paper. anne-frank-house-for-blog
3. Use the internet, books, and TV. I was recently re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank in preparation for a trip to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I was shocked at how many issues/thoughts/complaints my own 12-year-old American daughter has in common with a 13-year-old German/Dutch girl in hiding from the Nazi’s in the 1940’s. You may be surprised at how many commonalities you have with people who initially seem very different. On a lighter note, I love watching House Hunters International before travel to get an idea of what life is like.
4. Don’t worry sports fans! Just because college sports aren’t like they are here, doesn’t mean you will miss out. Basketball is the most popular sport in many countries, soccer (don’t forget to call it football!) is, of course, huge in many areas, and ice hockey is the most popular sport in Scandinavia. If you can’t find European teams on one of the hundred sports channels, check it out online.
5. Airbnb: Discovering airbnb changed the way I travel. Not only is it much cheaper than hotels, but now I stay in residential areas when I travel. This gives a real feel how one would live in the country, as opposed to how one would be a tourist in the country. When I visit schools in Eastern Europe this winter, I am excited to try a site I recently found that offers meals made up of regional specialties cooked by and eaten with locals.

The benefits of earning a degree in Europe are numerous. In addition to the financial savings, this option can provide students with critical thinking skills, global experiences, language skills and greater job prospects. I truly believe this is a fantastic option for students who feel limited by aspects of U.S. higher education possibilities.

Your High School May Not Want You to Know About College in Europe

Two years ago, we had no idea that college in Europe was a possibility for our kids. This knowledge has absolutely changed our lives (outside from the creation of Beyond the States). I no longer worry about how we will pay for college; Sam, age 15, is able to limit the number of AP courses he takes and focus on areas of interest for him; and I’m really excited about the prospects. One of the reasons we started Beyond the States was to let other parents and students know about these options. Even if you don’t end up going the European route, it’s nice to know that you have looked at your alternatives and are making a choice based on the needs, strengths, preferences of your family and your student.
As a parent, I would hope that my kids would get exposure to the various alternatives through high school. I know that counselors are often over- worked and would not expect them to seek all this information out on their own, but I would hope that if they had the opportunity to present kids with options in a way that is free and within a structure they already use, that they would. Sadly, this is not always the case.
We are spending some time this fall visiting high schools and doing free information nights. High schools have different ways to accommodate visits about colleges and we have been enthusiatically welcomed by about 60% of the schools we have contacted. What blows me away is the response from the other 40%! Some have legitimate district-wide policies that prevent a visit, because we are not a non-profit. Ironically, private US universities do have non profit status-interestingcollege perspective on that here. What I find even more crazy are the schools that have told us some variation of “We don’t think our students would be interested in that…” Really? None of your 1,500 students will struggle with tuition in the US? None are interested in limiting their number of AP courses? None would love the opportunity to explore Europe? I find the acceptance of the status quo baffling. Few would say that there aren’t issues with US higher education (cost, admissions processes, quality of undergraduate experience). Most would agree that at least one of them is a legitimate issue. So why aren’t they letting their students know that there are options that provide solutions?
Ok, I’m done with my rant now and will get off my soapbox. The reason I’m telling you this is so that you can help us spread the word. We have a lot of opportunities for parents and students to receive free information. We have blogs, Facebook posts, webinars, school visits, and parent information nights. More information about all of these is below. If you live in an area we are visiting and your school isn’t listed, let your counselor know. They can contact me directly and I’ll be happy to schedule it. If you or your teen attends one of the schools listed, check Naviance or shoot me an email and I’ll let you know when I’ll be there. I’d love to meet you! If you know students or parents who might be interested in one of our local events, please share this information. (If you’re not in one of these areas, don’t despair! Just sign up for one of our webinars.) images-13

Chicago

Chicago is my hometown and I miss it tremendously! Though visiting in the fall always makes me want to move back, I have two upcoming visits. This week I am in town for just a few days making visits to Oak Park-River Forest High School, St. Ignatius College Prep, and participating in the college fair at the British International School. I’ll be back mid October (to see Hamilton!) and visit more schools. We’re already on the schedule for Lincoln Park High School and Trinity School and have more availability this week. I’ll be scheduling an information night for this week as well. Details should be on our website next week.

Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill

This is where we live, so we have two parent nights schedule in this area. We will be in Chapel Hill the evening of October 5th and Raleigh on October 6th. One of the students we helped (Jared, Part 1) is a Chapel Hill High School graduate and is now studying in Europe with a tuition of under $1,000 a year!

DC Area

I have two trips planned here (one the end of September and the other the 1st week of November) so that I can visit Montgomery County schools as well as those in Northern Virginia. School visits are already scheduled at Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Walter Johnson High School, Winston Churchill High School, and George Mason High School. We have evening information sessions scheduled in Bethesda, MD on 9/28, Germantown, MD on 9/29 and Falls Church, VA on 10/30. You can sign up for one of these sessions here.

Richmond

I’ll be at Maggie Walker Governor’s School on October 14th.

Webinars

Webinar-640x360-290x250 Our next webinar is on Sunday the 18th at 1:30 pm. I’ll be covering the program choices in Europe as well as the academic differences. On October 9th our webinar will go over the various admissions processes and requirements and on November 13th I will present on student life and housing.
All of the information sessions and webinars are free, but do require registration. We are still scheduling visits, so be sure to let us know if you live in one of the above areas and would like us to visit your school.

 

New Memberships Are Here!

college-ahead We’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about the best way to serve our members. We realize that people have different needs ways of interacting with our content. We feel strongly about serving multiple groups within our community. We know some are self-starters or are just beginning their investigation. We also realize that once you decide to go to college in Europe, there are many things to work out. We’ve seen clients benefit from a “higher touch” level of service as they get closer to leaving. We’ve also used information gathered from how our current members are using our services, so that there is something for everyone. You can find the details about what each package includes as well as pricing on our membership page, but I want to take a little time to discuss some of the highlights as well as to give our suggestions on how to use the different packages.

The first thing I want to note is that each package (except Independent Study) includes a customized list of “good fit” programs. When you join at the Honor Roll level and higher, you will receive a questionnaire that asks about interests, qualifications, personality, preferences and such. Based on this information, I provide you with a short list of programs I think you should check out. How many programs depends on how specific your requirements are. Since the database has more than 1,500 options, this can help answer the questions “Where do I start”?

Additionally, two of our packages also include a number of professional service hours. Note that this is not broken down into a number of sessions because it is completely personalized to your needs and situation. Some members benefit most from several short calls. Some benefit more from email contact. Others prefer to use the time for me to dig deeper to find answers to more specific information than is found on our database. When you join, you identify what you would like to use the services to achieve and we customize the service hours to best meet those needs.

Membership Levels

The Independent Study level is great for people who are just starting their research. Perhaps you have kids who are in 9th grade or younger and just want to get an idea of what is out there. It’s also suitable for students and families who are highly motivated and comfortable with unfamiliar processes. If you’re completely new to this idea, you may want to take advantage of our 6 month option (link). Like all our memberships, this renews unless you cancel it. In addition to database access, Independent Study members can join our Monthly Q&A calls to get answers to questions that come up. Of course, you always have the option of starting here and upgrading to a higher level, if you need more personalized guidance.

The Honor Roll is a step up from Independent Study and provides a good starting point for students and their families with the addition of the list of good fit programs. As mentioned above, the Honor Roll level includes a list of good fit schools along with the one year of database access and the monthly Q&A calls.

The Salutatorian level is my favorite. Along with the year of database access, monthly Q&A calls, and the customized list of good fit programs, it includes 3 hours of personalized services. The Honor Roll level is great for students who want to be able to process. This level enables students to receive answers about their individual situations, get feedback about the schools they are considering, develop a plan for the admissions and receive assistance with the application/motivation letter. Like the other levels, additional hours can be purchased on an as needed basis.

Timing of Memberships

I would suggest doing the Independent Study level during the freshman year to get an idea of what is out there and whether or not you want to keep your options open for the countries that require American students to have some advanced qualifications (like a certain number of AP courses). Sophomore year I would advise the Honor Roll level, as it’s a good tigraduation me to have a bit more structured way to consider the choices and process. Depending on the students motivation and independence, I would suggest the Honor Roll or Salutatorian Level for junior year. Some students just want a starting place, others need a system for the year that they can put in place with tweaks and check-ins as the year goes on.

From time to time we hear from people who are older than the traditional student age asking if they college in Europe is a possibility for them. The answer is “Yes”. Some schools even have student residences that accommodate families. You may have a few more hoops to jump through related to getting visas, but it’s definitely possible. Once you determine the schools you are interested in, you can look at the visa information for those particular countries.

We’re excited to bring these levels that simplify the choices and provide an option for everyone. We are committed to providing value to our members and think our new packages reflect that commitment. We look forward to working with you!