Four myths on studying abroad

Translated by Elisavet Kechagia

Based on the original article in Greek by Σπύρος Κασάπης

It was in the late of August 2014 that I reached Boston to begin my studies, still not of age much like the thousand young Greeks who had chosen studying abroad. Be it a conscious decision or not, I left behind friends and family so as to study in the United States of America based on what proved to be a rather unrealistic view of foreign universities. There exist many myths surrounding education abroad that all those willing to pursue it are eager to believe, so let’s take a look together at the top four!

Myth number one is usually spread by every unsuspecting and proud grandparent/parent out there. Who hasn’t heard of the famous line “My grandson is studying in America” at a coffeehouse followed by a “He must have been one of the brightest students in high school” that is met with an affirmative nod of a fresh-shaved head saying “He is brilliant indeed”. Studying abroad is reserved only for the best and most studious that have either received an award, or scored 19,5 out of 20 in their final exams. Myth busted. It is true that those very “good”, even though I personally believe this distinction is not applicable to students, are more likely to be offered a scholarship by established and elite universities. However, there exist universities that provide a variety of courses addressed to students of all levels and skill sets. Another point of interest is that a foreign university degree does not necessarily equate higher knowledge, or guarantee more professional prospects than a Greek one.

Personally in junior high I was your average Joe, and again it pains me to use terms like this. Anyway, I was one of those students that were neither good nor bad and under the radar for six years, until I became noticed for my good results during the last year of high school. What does an average Joe need to make it abroad? The answer is money. Only wealthy students are able to leave, and to be frank this is simultaneously true and false. It is a lie in the case of public European universities, where education is free of charge and free of class distinctions. Unfortunately, even in 2019 and in countries like the United States, education is treated as a privilege and not a right,with many private in their majority universities functioning as enterprises where fees equate profit. This does not mean at any rate that a student facing financial difficulties will not be accepted. In other words, private universities will accept students that have potential, but if they have to choose between two students with the same chances to succeed, they will choose the one that will be more profitable.

Let’s just assume that you become accepted by the university of your dreams. Taking into consideration that the educational level is extremely high and so is the lesson difficulty, will you ever be able to stand up to its standards? If you began having second thoughts upon reading this, you are a victim of myth number three. Just as there exist easy and more challenging Greek schools and universities, so is the situation abroad. Lesson difficulty in Greek universities can be compared to that of the top universities in the USA, and that is most certainly true for technical universities. Proof to this is the fact that many Greek students choose to study at relatively easy schools abroad, since entering the same schools here in Greece would be twice as hard.

Last but not least, meet myth number four: language. I was never into foreign languages. My French was limited to “croissant” and left no other trace in my mind, and my English at the time was merely sufficient for me to watch movies without subtitles. How is it even possible to study abroad not knowing the language? The solution to this is provided by globalization, with the majority of universities in non-English speaking countries providing degrees and courses in English.

The bottom-line is that you are going to hear and read a lot of myths, truths and inaccuracies surrounding mainly studying abroad. This is to be expected in the information era, where misinformation and fake news are lurking in every corner. So be prepared: Search, ask, and learn. Knowledge has never been more free.

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