Over two months ago, I returned to Brazil from one of the most incredible experiences of my life. At the end of 2014, I packed my bags and travelled to the UK to study a Masters in Marketing Communications at the University of Westminster, located in the heart of London. In that year, I was one of the five people who were awarded a full-fee scholarship by the university – one of the greatest achievements I’ve accomplished by far.
During one year and half, I was able to explore what it was like to live, study and work in London – what could possibly be better than that?
As many friends and acquaintances will know, the idea of studying abroad has always been a dream of mine and the key motivation to spend some time overseas. Having lived my entire life in Sao Paulo city, I yearned for a different experience since I was an undergrad student years ago. However, whether due to personal, professional or financial reasons, I saw myself gradually leaving it aside to a point where it was only an inconspicuous desire.
It was only in 2014 that I decided to take courage and make it happen. After going through a huge loss and a radical change in my life, I decided to focus and strive – this time, without giving up on the first stride.
Within two months, I rushed to submit my application to the MA course and, subsequently, the scholarship process of the university. Unlike the Chevening programme, I applied directly to the Westminster’s scholarships programme that year.
During this intense and fast-paced process, I discovered a strong willpower and determination in myself which kept me going. Looking back now, if I could say in three words what really made the difference for me, I would say: planning, outreach and confidence.
Living abroad arguably requires a thorough planning – it doesn’t matter if it is for six months, one year or more. The costs are considerable, especially if you want to move to a country with a valued currency like the UK. Besides the fixed costs such as accommodation, food and transport, you also need to consider any extra and emergency expenses which might appear later.
But wait, don’t panic just now. Spare some time to analyse your financial condition. If you lack some money, you can compensate by working at the destination country (if allowed). For example, in the UK, international students can work up to 20 hours per week during their course term time. You can’t make a fortune out of it, but it can definitely relieve your finances.
Estimate and simulate expenses. In London specifically, rent and transport are the most expensive items of one’s budget. For example, the closer your accommodation is to zones 1-2 (centre of London), the higher your rent bill will be. However, the overall expenses can be compensated by commuting less if you stay in those zones. For further guidance and tips, read more on Money Matters website.
Financial planning is also essential during the scholarship application process, as you have to evaluate the level of support you really need. If you have some money to support yourself throughout your study period, perhaps a full-fee or part-fee scholarship might be enough, rather than the full scholarship.
It’s good to remember that this latter option, which covers all costs (plane tickets, visa, and tuition fee) plus gives you a monthly allowance, is extremely competitive on a global level and offered to a limited number of students. Also, if your Westminster scholarship application is rejected, you’ll have to wait two years to try again. It may be your only shot, so be precise on this!
Alongside planning, research is key, but also reach out to people and ask questions. Don’t be shy and use all the available tools and channels.
In my case, if it weren’t for my sister who told me about the University of Westminster and its scholarship programme, I would have probably tried only the Chevening scheme, which is a much longer process. At Westminster, it took about five months from submitting my application to getting the visa –time flied!
Also, research the course well and evaluate carefully if it truly fits your career goals – after all, it is an important investment. Go beyond the rankings and the information you find on Google. If you can, contact alumni and clarify your doubts with the university’s team. I myself did that and was surprised to receive some incredible tips and advice.
When I say confidence, it’s not only about self-confidence, but also feeling confident that it will work, that there is a possibility. Feeling uncertain and anxious is completely normal, and I went through these emotions since I was an undergrad student in my early 20s.
Indeed, I was incredibly privileged for seizing the opportunity at the right time and right place and having the support from my family. But, for a long time, I made myself believe that it would be impossible to study abroad, let alone achieve a scholarship.
As many friends who dream to study abroad, I felt paralysed whenever I looked at the required procedures and documents and the international competition statistics.
My top advice: do not overthink this and, as I said in a previous post about scholarship, the first and most important step is to give it a try. Yes, there are costs involved (documentation, translations, IELTS) and it takes time, energy and patience, but don’t let it discourage or block you. At the very moment I stopped worrying myself about how it could not work out, I drove all my focus onto what really mattered, and that helped me to pull through.
In conclusion, if you asked me if studying abroad was really worth it, I would tell you the same thing I said to my friends: yes, without a single doubt! I personally don’t know anyone who’s ever travelled overseas and regretted it.
It is a unique opportunity to open your mind and learn through victories, complications, laughs, hardships and everything in between.
So what are you waiting for? 😎
Imagens via Pixabay
Original post in Portuguese at Susana’s HuffPost Brazil blog
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