The unknown is scary. Therefore, thorough research (like reading this article) can help. But what about parents or legal guardians? This article came into being after having talked to parents at Try True Education Abroad Forum in Kiev, Ukraine about what it means to send their child(ren) for studying abroad. However, most of the hints and ideas can be useful for families all over the globe.
The latest data shows that International student recruitment numbers have grown exponentially since the turn of the century, quadrupling to reach five million between 1990 and 2014. By 2025, this number is expected to hit eight million. In Latvia almost every 10th student is from abroad. What is it that motivates these millions of students to pack their bags and leave their families to pursue higher education abroad?
Advantages of long term or short term studies/internship abroad
No matter the length of the time spent abroad, be it one semester, one year or more, there are many noteworthy advantages: new experiences, open mindedness, increased cultural awareness, second language proficiency, global friendships and valuable connections, confidence and independence, maturity, real-world skills that are not found in classrooms, increased opportunities for finding a good job in the future (employers are seeking more and more employees with international experience).
How far would my student have to go to get that?
Depending on the student’s home country, different means of travel would be recommended. If coming from Kiev, Ukraine, on foot (not suggested) it would take 229 hours (1135 km) or 9.54 days (no sleep). By car it would be much quicker – 14 h 27 min (1202 km), but the quickest and most convenient way is by booking one of the four to seven flights a day to Riga International airport arriving in Latvia in 1 hour and 40 minutes (or less). For students coming from India it takes a wee bit longer – about 10 hours by plane, students from Uzbekistan need to travel a minimum of 6 hours by plane. Some students, like Ventspils University of Applied Sciences (VUAS) first year International Business and Export Management master student from South Africa, embarked on about 17 hour long flight from Johannesburg to Riga.
Most of the students come alone, but we have also welcomed their parents to visit or even help their child move in and settle.
It is a great opportunity, but it is dangerous! Not really…
According to the Global Peace Index Latvia ranks 35th most peaceful (the USA 128th) out of 163. International students and staff call Ventspils a harbour of peace and safe haven for living or studying. Because of the unified campus where the student hotel, cafeteria, university library, laundry room, student lounge, lecture rooms, and computer labs are under the same roof, VUAS students often times come to lectures in their slippers. Another nice bonus is that all key institutions (grocery stores, ATM machines, pharmacies and even the hospital) are within 5 min or less on foot from the university.
My child will be alone in a strange country without any local language knowledge.
Unless the student on purpose avoids university academic or administrative staff members, they will not be alone. During their first weeks in Ventspils they have various welcoming events during which they meet and mingle with other university students (both local and international).
The majority of people in Latvia speak either Russian or English (often times both), some are even able to communicate in German, French or Spanish.
Being a smaller university, the International office has an open door policy where no student is left behind in their concerns. Immediate assistance in person or remotely via WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, email … you name it, is available.
Budgeting problems (not knowing how to handle money) and it costs too much to study abroad
This is a legitimate concern and should not be taken lightly. Check out available scholarships either in your country or in Latvia, like the Latvian State Government Scholarship. VUAS students may apply for Erasmus+, Ventspils City Council, Hansa Matrix and other scholarships offered by the university.
We believe that the first year is crucial and students and, if possible, they should focus all their mental and physical energy on studying, getting to know their new home away from home and making friends. However, should they wish to work, bachelor level students are allowed to work 20 hours per week, and master level students – 40 hours per week.
That’s the end of part one, but you are welcome to click here for part two.