Is studying abroad worth it?

Do you need a degree to land a good job in today's world?

As important as the decision of what career you’re going to be pursuing, the decision of what college or university to get your higher education from is one that’s on almost every student’s mind. All of us want to study from the best institutions in the world, but we are all painfully aware of the cost of education abroad. To give you a comparison, the average semester fee for a university in the US is around $10,000 (that’s about Rs 15,00,000 for half a year) compared to only Rs 1,50,000 here in Pakistan. The difference is truly staggering and prompts many of us to ask the question: “Is studying abroad really worth it?”. Well, yes but also no. Confused? Let me explain.

The advantages of pursuing a foreign degree

While our education system has improved steadily over the recent years, so much so that our institutions have started getting recognized around the world, we still have a long way to go if we’re to reach the standards that some of the great universities abroad have set. Our curriculum, teaching methods and reference materials are sorely outdated and lacking and proper revitalization needs to take place before we can proceed. So, those who make an argument for foreign studies being far more advanced and technical in nature are more or less correct. You will learn a lot more from a foreign reputable institute.

The other greatest argument for pursuing a foreign is the exposure. Now you may have heard this repeated ad nauseum and may have started to think “exposure” is just an overrated feature of foreign studies, but it bears merit to restress that exposure is very important, dare I say even more important than the higher quality of education. The people you’ll meet when studying abroad, the connections you’ll make, the doors that’ll open for you just by being in another country are far too important opportunities for you just to hand-wave them as overrated. After all, it’s not what you know but who you know that counts.

So, if studying abroad is so great, why isn’t everyone trying their best to do it?

The other side of the argument

There are A LOT of hurdles to receiving foreign education and not one of them is easy to overcome. The cost (tuition, travel, accommodation, food, books) alone is enough to make studying nothing more than a pipe dream for some people. Aside from the cost of studies, getting a visa to study abroad is also a huge barrier. Getting into a foreign university doesn’t guarantee a visa and many people learn this the hard way. And once you actually make it, adjusting to life abroad is another hurdle you’ll have to overcome, from finding a place to live, to procuring a source of halal food, to coping with the feeling of loneliness and homesickness. But surely all this pain must be worth the returns in the end, right? Well, not always. As tragic as it is, a degree from a foreign university doesn’t always translate into a greater career, and while it is true that employers in Pakistan do value a foreign degree over a local one, the difference in salary isn’t one that justifies the cost of procuring a foreign degree. In fact, more and more employers both in Pakistan and around the world are beginning to prefer skills and job experience over your degree, meaning it may not even matter if you do have a foreign degree. So, a studying abroad is totally worth it, except that it isn’t? What gives?

What your approach should be

Having the opportunity to study abroad is both a privilege and an honor, and if your parents can afford to send you abroad you should definitely avail the opportunity. That being said, if you are planning to study abroad then you need to make sure you make the absolute most of it. Try and get into the most reputable institute you can, opting only for the best in your field of choice so that you get the best possible education you can. Research employment opportunities in the country you’re trying to get a degree in; if you’re going to study abroad, you might as well try and go one step further and get a good job there too. However, don’t get disheartened if you can’t get into your college of choice in a foreign country. There are a lot of great institutions here at home and you can still have a very good career studying in Pakistan. Focus on your studies here and try to get as good grades as you can. At the same time, try and study outside the core syllabus as much as you can, looking up online resources that are available to you free of cost. Take online courses to build your skills and try and get as much work experience as you can, whether it be through freelancing or internships.
Whether you study abroad or decide to pursue your degree here in Pakistan, the bottom line is to work hard no matter where you go and gain as much skills related to your career as you can. For hard work and determination are really the only keys to true success.