Mark A. Ashwill
A silver lining to Covid-19 and its impact on global higher education is that study abroad has become a “buyer’s market.” There are more high-quality, rewarding and meaningful study abroad opportunities than ever before, which the agony of choice.
Of the more than 250,000 young Vietnamese studying abroad at secondary and post-secondary levels, seven in ten are in five countries. In descending order, these are Japan (62,233, 2020), South Korea (59,876, 2020), United States (25,816, June 2021), Australia (22,823, July 2021) and Canada (~ 21,222, 2020).
The top 10 hosts are rounded out by Taiwan, mainland China, Germany, Russia and France. Other destinations with significant numbers of Vietnamese students are the UK, Finland, and New Zealand. Ireland and the Netherlands, where Vietnamese students number in the hundreds, are other promising places with considerable untapped potential.
Not surprisingly, 63 percent of all Vietnamese who study abroad are relatively close to home in East Asia. This reflects the close cultural and trade ties these countries have with Vietnam, including trade ties and the influence of popular culture. After English, the most popular foreign languages are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, skills many bring to bear in their work for public, private and non-profit entities that do business with these countries.
All of this is good news for young people and their parents who are interested in studying abroad. There is literally something for everyone in terms of location, degrees, programs, costs, and post-graduation employment opportunities.
Another good news is that many foreign institutions want and need international students because they recognize their intrinsic and tangible benefits. The first is a reference to the diversity of the student body while the second includes income from tuition fees and other examples of economic impact.
In order to attract more international students, whose numbers declined after the arrival of Covid-19 in these countries, institutions are offering various financial incentives that make it more affordable for qualified and deserving students.
Vietnamese students have a well-deserved reputation for their strong academics, dedication, and participation in extracurricular activities, including in leadership roles.
Where? That’s the question
While students do not have a strong preference and are open to different opportunities, the process of selecting a shortlist from so many attractive alternatives is both an art and a science. Each country and its education system have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Some countries are known to be some of the most welcoming to international students, while others with pro-immigration policies offer clear employment avenues after graduation. All host countries offer general and vocational education programs.
Students attend an education fair in Vietnam in 2019. Photo by Global Education Fair
Studying in the European Union gives students the golden opportunity to travel to 26 Schengen countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Several countries offer quality education at a reasonable cost. Study in Germany is free in most states (Länder), provided that students can pass the German proficiency test and gain admission to a university. The average cost of living is around $ 12,000 per year.
In Finland, international students paid between $ 4,700 and $ 21,000 in 2019-2020 for bachelor’s and master’s degree programs taught in English. Monthly living expenses for room, board, travel, insurance, etc. range from $ 800 to $ 1,000, depending on the location.
In the United States, overall costs can be much lower than average if the student can get need-based aid or merit scholarship, or if they are willing to live in a location where the cost of education is high. life is lower, for example, the Midwest or the South.
In most countries, international students can have part-time employment with certain restrictions on the number of hours per week that visa holders can work. A notable exception is the United States, which only allows on-campus employment and post-graduation employment on a student visa through the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT).
While most programs are offered in the local language, many countries have programs taught in English, which tend to be more expensive. Included in this category are binational partnerships such as Duke Kunshan University in China and side campuses such as the Asian campus of the University of Utah in Seoul (Incheon), South Korea.
Most host countries offer a range of scholarships funded by the national government and respective educational institutions, assuming students are proficient in the local language, for example Chinese, French, German, and Russian.
The United States tops the table
There were just over a million students from all over the world in the United States last year, most of them enrolled in colleges and universities across the country. This included around 25,000 from Vietnam, which ranked fourth among source countries.
Despite stiff competition from Australia, Canada, UK and other countries and some thorny and unresolved issues in the country, US higher education remains a leading global brand.
The most obvious reason, a so-called pull factor, is a world-renowned quality, especially in research, measured by rankings, academic awards, grants and contracts, but also education, depending on the institution.
Another is the size of its higher education system, which reflects the vastness of the country of which it is a part (4,690 km from New York to California and 2,863 km from Canada to Mexico by car). It comprises 50 different state (public) higher education systems and hundreds of private non-profit institutions, meaning that there is something for everyone in terms of academics, extracurricular activities, climate, cost, internship and location.
There are urban, suburban, and small college town environments to choose from. There are nearly 4,000 regionally accredited institutions (RA), the gold standard of institutional accreditation. The happy reality is that most of the country is safe, including secondary and post-secondary institutions and their communities.
A third reason is the large number and variety of scholarship opportunities, now more than ever due to the detrimental impact of Covid-19 on enrollment, both national and international. Aid programs can include both self-help (employment) and donations (scholarships and grants) offered by the most selective institutions.
Studying in the United States is one of the most expensive options in the world on paper, but can be very affordable once the discounts, needs-based aid, and merit-based scholarships have been deducted from the cost. official.
Finally, American institutions are renowned for the quality of their services to students, particularly in terms of academic and professional advice. There are many opportunities for enrichment and it is up to students to be proactive and take advantage of them.
One caveat: Studying in the United States is not for everyone. For example, if the students do not have the qualifications to win a scholarship to cover the overall cost, it may be too expensive.
While they seek a smooth transition to the world of work, whether temporarily or permanently, other countries have a clear and predictable path to achieve this goal.
However, if the students’ goal is long-term employment and, perhaps more (permanent residence and citizenship), they still have the option of working after graduation for one to three years, depending on their major, via the OPT program. Some international graduates can then upgrade to an H-1B (work) visa with the help of employers who are satisfied with their performance and willing to keep it, to name one possibility.
Students who decide the United States is for them should create a shortlist of “best-fit” institutions they would like to apply to based on accurate information, realistic expectations, and quality advice they care about. their best interests, whether from a consultant, education officer or other source of assistance. If they feel confident and empowered enough, they should definitely apply on their own.
If the United States is not suitable, for whatever reason, then students should focus on another country that welcomes Vietnamese and international students. There is a world of study abroad opportunities to choose from.
Ultimately, you, your institution and your host country and Vietnam will benefit immeasurably from this life-changing experience.
* Mark A. Ashwill, Ph.D. is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service education consultancy company established in 2009. From 2005 to 2009, he was Country Director of the Institute of International Education-Vietnam.