Beyond the usual: Lesser-known destinations for studying abroad
Studying abroad is a prospect most Bangladeshi students dream of. After all, it provides a chance to explore the world, step outside their comfort zones, obtain an international degree, and experience new cultures that promise to aid them immensely in their academic pursuit and professional careers.
While destinations like the United Kingdom, USA, Canada, and Australia are the more popular choices, there is a plethora of lesser-known study abroad destinations.
One of the major factors when it comes to picking the "perfect" university and country is the cost of tuition fees and accommodation. This is a factor that especially concerns parents as they are investing a significant amount on their children's futures. Countries closer to our own can offer a wide range of multidisciplinary academic programs and an enriching cultural experience at a fraction of the cost.
Ahmed Labib Daiyan, a fourth-year student at the College of Asia Pacific Studies, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, testifies, "When looking into universities abroad, I wanted to avoid popular destinations due to the Bangladeshi saturation in those areas as well as how astronomical the costs could get. I chose Japan because it offered a couple of scholarship opportunities to explore, whereas many popular destinations such as Canada and the US could not be affordable even with a scholarship. My interest and fascination with Japanese culture also played a huge role in my decision."
"For me, Hungary was the first choice, as it offers some of the best student-friendly opportunities and has an excellent quality of education, with a multicultural experience, and numerous part-time work opportunities. The Stipendium Hungaricum Scholarship, which I am a recipient of, is one of the many fully-funded scholarships offered by the government for aspiring students in Hungary," adds Syeda Mahjabin Tabasssum (Rafa), who is currently pursuing a B.Sc in Agricultural Engineering at the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (MATE).
Moving to a new country and leaving the comfort of your home is a daunting feat – one that can be made less stressful by choosing a country closer to Bangladesh. Countries like Malaysia and Singapore provide the perfect balance of familiarity whilst also being comparatively more affordable than other options in the West.
"My main priority was finding a university that was flexible and close to home so it would be easy to travel back and forth. Not only was Malaysia more accessible and affordable, but there was also less paperwork for the application process. The environment is also extremely student-friendly," shares Anika Rodoshi, who recently completed a Bachelor's degree in Professional Communication from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Malaysia.
On the other hand, MD. Yusha Rumman, who will be studying Chemical Engineering at Taylor's University, Malaysia from September 2023, shares, "Because I chose the Malaysian branch of Taylor's University, my tuition fees will be one-third of what it would be at the Australian branch. The plane fare is also comparatively low and since it's close to Bangladesh, my parents can visit me anytime. Malaysia is a Muslim country, so I don't have to worry about haram and halal food. But one downside is that international students aren't allowed to work part-time alongside their studies and it's very hard to get a scholarship or other aid."
Similarly, Hadiul Islam Navid applied to the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University as they offer a full-ride scholarship with a yearly stipend, and plane tickets to visit his family three times a year. Another compelling factor was the study-away semesters at NYU's other campuses where students get the chance to study in a different country for one semester and get the best of both worlds.
"The diverse community at NYUAD, comprising students from 120 countries, aligns with my aspiration to become a global leader. On a personal level, the sense of belonging within the university community holds great importance to me. The prospect of socialising and competing with exceptional students from around the world filled me with excitement. It is not about the country but rather the students and the university culture." adds Navid, who is currently a third-year student majoring in Business and Organization Society, and minoring in Applied Math and Legal Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Even within the more popular choices, there are countries that are less expensive and offer a warm and friendly atmosphere that might appeal to students.
Shams Mohammed Shami, a second-year Software Development and Digital Design student at Edinburgh University shares his experience, "Even though Scotland is under the UK and follows all their rules and regulations, the situation for students is a bit better, specifically when it comes to living conditions and finding good work compared to other parts of the UK."
Beyond the popular study-abroad destinations lies a world of untapped potential waiting to be explored by students seeking a unique and transformative educational experience.
Sara Kabir is a graduate from North South University.