Life-hacks for Studying Abroad: Students Share their Advices


Alisa Pshenova is preparing to go to University of Eastern Finland on a joint degree program.

Alisa Pshenova

  1. When you send in your online application (which costs 100 euros), do remember that you have a strict deadline to meet. Though the application is really user-friendly, filling it in will require some time: you'll have to remember lots of small things like the address of your school back home.
  2. You have to send in your documents to Finland via the postal service. In Finland, these documents are first sent to a single admission committee in Helsinki. There, the documents are sorted, checked according to local regulations and then directed to the universities. I had to send copies of my passport and Specialist's diploma, translated according to a foreign standard (Transcript of records; note that in Russia it's called the addition to the diploma), my CV, a motivation letter, a recommendation from my scientific advisor and, obviously, a IELTS or a TOEFL certificate. All the above can be done quite fast, except for the English test.
  3. Be sure to get the certificate in advance. I applied for IELTS a month before the test. The cost is about 16000 rubles. One should prepare well for it: study the test itself and train, train and train. You should expect not just some general test of English, but to prepare for the structure of this particular exam. It really different for everyone: some pass it after a month of intensive self-training, others apply for a preparation course a year before taking the test.
  4. After all the documents are sent, you'd have to wait a couple of months for an answer. Be patient;
  5. One of the most pressing issues is lodging. I would've liked to recommend getting a Residence Permit. That would take a month or a month-and-a-half, and cost 300 euros if you do it online or 350 if you do at straight at the Finnish consulate in Saint Petersburg.
  6. You should get a place at the dormitory beforehand: just apply for it on the website of the company that provides student lodgings in the city. All these stages and their sequence will be explained to you by the supervisor for international exchange programs. All the information gets to you in time, and you can always get help and any necessary consultations. When you arrive, you'll be assigned to a tutor who'll help you to find your way there, register at the university, get a credit card and a student card and move in. Still, it is really important to engage in the whole process, ask questions, consult your supervisor at ITMO and the university you're going to, and to exclude any possibility of misunderstandings.

Maksim Melnik spent a year at University of Rochester on a double degree program

Maksim MelnikYou'll have to gather a lot of documents to study in the USA. Your Specialists diploma and the addition to it are to be translated, then notarized. You'll also need a TOEFL or a IELTS certificate; what's more, if your score is less than 100 for TOEFL or less than 7 for IELTS, you'll have to pass a Skype interview with somebody from the university's staff to assess your skill in English. Don't forget about recommendation letters from your professors or scientific advisors - you'll need two of them. Another important thing is the Statement of purpose, that is a small essay on why you are interested in this particular topic and want to study it in Rochester. Don't forget to mention all your scientific achievements and other relevant stuff in your CV, including where you've worked and studied, and when.

You'll also have to send in the following documents:

  1. A confirmation that you are financially able to live in the USA. The necessary sum differs from year to year, and includes the education fees, as well as the cost of lodgings provided by the university.The certificate of eligibility is a form you fill in after you've received your application's approval and is crucial for getting a student visa. After you fill the form, you attach it to the application on the website, and the international department at your university completes it with data of their own, then sends it back to you via priority mail.
  2. Proof that you've paid the education tax for foreign citizens (about $200). You'll need the proof of payment when you apply for a visa.
  3. A student visa. There is a lot to fill in, so you'd better start doing it as soon as the university approves your application. Note that it can take from 4 days to a couple of weeks for the I-20 form to arrive via the postal service.
  4. Medical insurance is mandatory. The university offers a medical insurance from its partner company, which costs $2,000, though our fellows who went to Rochester after us found a satisfactory insurance for only about $1,000. Saving money is another reason to do everything beforehand.
  5. You will also have to translate your inoculation certificate.  After you arrive at Rochester, you will have to fill in your medical record, and enclose the inoculation certificate. The list of necessary inoculations is on the university's website. If you don't have some of them, you can do them at Rochester, but your medical insurance does not necessarily cover these costs, and medical services in USA are very expensive.

An application for lodging provided by the university. Surely, you can rent accommodation independently, - you can find yourself a place using specialized websites. Yet, this is more expensive: my colleague and I paid $510 a month, whereas others paid only $315. The earlier you send your application, the more is the chance to get lodging at the university.

I'd like to give one general advice: if you want to try studying abroad, don't doubt, just give it a try. Studying there is hard indeed, but it's really worth it. I never regretted by decision, as I use the knowledge and experience I got there every day. You should appreciate the fact that the university can pay for your education abroad. Be sure to use it, and - learn to learn.

Alexandra Mayurova studied in Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (Switzerland) for six months.

Alexandra MayurovaWhether to try studying in Switzerland or not? I'd surely say - yes. The experience one can get from it largely depends on the person himself. If you have enough money, this will be a grand time; if not, your studying there will become a breathtaking adventure: you'd have to find different ways to get out of possible difficulties, stand your ground and never give up. Personally, I felt like a participant of the "Last Hero" television program: I had to survive in a country where you have to pay for almost everything.

  1. Even after filling out all documents, you might have problems with getting the student visa. You'll have to go to the Swiss embassy in Moscow to get it, the documents can be sent in only via the postal service, or submitted personally. I preferred going to Moscow, so that I could correct any possible mistakes right on the spot. It turned out that I did the right thing: I forgot to send in a copy of my high school diploma. I'll never forget how I ran around Moscow trying to find where to make a copy. So, my advice is to check everything several times, and read the requirements carefully. Do everything beforehand!
  2. You'll save money and time if you'll remember to bring 4-6 3x4 photographs for your travel documents and residence permit, as photographs cost a lot in Switzerland;
  3. You should also get an international medical insurance beforehand, as it is mandatory in Switzerland, and is cheaper to get in Russia.
  4.  You don’t always get enough information on fees and taxes you'd have to pay in another country. It's not the university's fault: informing students of taxes and fees is not one of their competencies. Thus, you will have to learn on your own mistakes or ask for advice from those who've already participated in such programs. In Switzerland, one has to pay for his residence permit - about 9600 rubles for Russian students. You'd also have to pay something for the plastic card itself, as well. I still remember the official’s reaction to my surprise: he smiled and said, that in Switzerland you have to pay for everything.
  5. Apart from the residence permit, you'd also have to pay a tax of about 30 francs every month - for your staying in Switzerland as a foreign citizen. Obviously, you have to pay for your medical insurance every month, as well. It all sums up to about 125 franks (approximately 8200 rubles) a month. I didn't expect these expenses, even though I knew about the medical insurance. Anyway, you should always have some money for unexpected circumstances – one can expect a lot of them in a foreign country.
  6. On my return home, I had problems with the curriculum and the transfer of my credits. Unfortunately, however good were your tests results in Switzerland, it will take time for the documents to get to your university, about several months - long past the end-of-the-semester exams in both universities. Thus, you have to be ready to solve these problems as soon as you get back.

Elena Enyushina studied in ESIEE Paris (France). 

Elena Enyushina
Surely, we all want everything to go smoothly. It's even better if we don't have to do anything by ourselves. But you'd better be ready to do a lot. You shouldn't worry about it - you just have to do it.

  1. You'll need one to two weeks to gather the necessary documents. If we're talking about the visa, there is no point in gathering them beforehand - they are only valid for one month. Those will be different forms from the university, account statements, etc. But gathering them is only half the battle. You'll also need to translate them for the French consulate, and notarize them.
  2. Be ready for expenses. Translating the documents will cost around a thousand rubles each. By the way, you'll also need to translate your birth certificate. It's necessary to open an account in France and to receive benefits and even some welfare payments.
  3. Living abroad is quite expensive, especially in Paris. The lodging costs are several times higher than in Russia. Once you move in, you'll have to pay not only the rent, but also a tax and the security, which will be deducted from your last month of stay. All in all, it becomes quite a large sum of money. Thus, what's really important is to start saving money beforehand and to prepare for these expenses: they'll send you the bill long before you start studying.
  4. The main potential problem you should be aware of is filling out the electronic profile on the Campus France website to get a student visa. That can take from one to two weeks, or even longer. The problem is that you'll have to enclose electronic versions of different documents in French or in English. If you don't have those, you’d have to spend time to get them, what's more, the payment for the profile can take several days to pass.

Maksim Ivanov is going to study at Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT)

Maksim Ivanov

The university I’m going to go focuses on the military field, but it is really open and accepts foreign students. The fun things start with choosing a university. As for me, I looked for a technical and/or pedagogical university, as my work has to do with educational programs. So, I'd like to share some advice on choosing "your" university.

  1. It's really important to know what you want and what you are ready to sacrifice. Persistence is what's important here. You'll most likely have to apply to several universities before you find the right one. I got a proposition to go to BIT after a month of trial and error.
  2. You'll need no less than a week to choose a university. It's a fun process, but it's also really demanding. You'll spend from two weeks to two months on gathering the necessary documents.
  3.  You'd better prepare the motivation letter and recommendations beforehand - sometimes, you'll need two of those. It'd also do you good to translate your documents in advance, as well.
  4. Consider the national peculiarities. For instance, our friends in the East like long negotiations, so be patient.

I haven't had any serious problems yet, but one still has to study everything carefully and ask questions if need arises. It's also good to plan twice the time for everything. And be sure to control everything by yourself! Good luck!