Studying in Europe: Is it for you?

I have been living in Europe for over 11 years, and very often, people want to have a consultation with me to ask me questions about studying in Europe. Typically, they consider doing their Master’s degree and want to know information on schools, costs, programs, and work opportunities after their studies. Looking forward to life starting up again after Covid-19 is more under control, it is good to plan ahead, and many of you are already planning to audition in Europe (online). I put together a list of things to consider.

As a North-American singer, the idea of going to study in a foreign land can be very seductive. The rich history, the languages, the exotic feeling of living overseas-all these aspects seem like a dream, but thinking about making a move to Europe is one thing; doing it is another. By studying in Europe, you will be setting the course for your career. Living abroad, even for a couple of years, will significantly affect your future. All the experiences you will have will contribute to your artistic life and how you see the world. You will expand your cultural horizons and develop a more global mindset. You will hone in on your people skills and independence. The everyday challenges of dealing with a completely different culture and language will help you grow in so many ways. Living in a foreign country will take you out of your comfort zone by performing daily tasks such as getting groceries and setting up your bank account. These mundane chores can become mini-adventures when you live abroad. The prestige of a foreign degree can also improve your international prospects. Most European countries invest highly in their higher education systems, which lower costs while maintaining a high-quality education standard.

Tuition:

Compared to North America, the tuition fees in Europe are very low. Some European schools don’t even have tuition fees-it is free of charge! When there is a tuition fee in most countries, they are higher for international students than the domestic student, but still generally not as high as North America’s fees. Even with this as a big plus point, there are other costs to consider. Tuition fees in Europe don’t typically cover other expenses such as student insurance, books, and other supplies.

Click here for information on tuition fees in Europe.

Living and other expenses:

In addition to the program fees, studying abroad involves considerable costs:

  • Airfare and other travel expenses: Weekends away to visit neighboring countries, trips home to see family, factor all this into your budget. It can make a significant dent in your finances.
  • Student visa: Almost everyone who holds a non- EU/EEA nationality needs a visa when they want to stay in Europe for a longer time. Students are often required to apply for a student visa (or temporary resident visa for students). With this visa, you can stay in your host country for a fixed period. Click here to find out more on visa costs.
  • Health insurance: This is a must because you don’t want to find yourself sick or injured in a foreign country without health insurance.
  • Food: Although you can always find markets in Europe that have a “no frills” assortment, checking the cost of living is very important so that you are not surpised at the prices when you get here.
  • Rent: This varies from country to country (For instance, in Amsterdam, it is quite expensive and there are not many apartments available). Click here for a helpful link on housing.
  • Internet: This is a must for your school work and communicating with your loved ones.
  • Entertainment: There is so much to see and do in a new country and in exciting cities like Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. You can catch a world-class artist performing on any given night, have a night at the opera or a live concert by your favorite band. Although there is student pricing and rush tickets, you will want to budget a big chunk of your finances for these kinds of activities. They will richly contribute to your artistic growth and are a necessery part of your training.

Scholarships:

Some schools in Europe offer scholarships, but they are not worth as much as in North America. Some scholarships may be available from your home government for students who want to study abroad. You can organize fundraising performances or crowdfunding to help out before you leave. If you think that you will want to get a side job to help cover costs, there are strict rules about that when you are on a student visa. Each country has its specific set of rules, so make sure you check what is possible before you go out and get a job. Click here for a helpful link with information.

Travel on the continent is easy:

One of the clear advantages of studying abroad is being near many of the world’s most exciting destinations thanks to cheap flights, trains and busses and short travel times. It is easy to take a train, spend a day, or make it a weekend trip, to a neighboring country, catch an opera or a concert, see some museums or soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the sites.

Building a network:

You will build a network by studying abroad, meeting people you would probably never have met at home. You will sing for people with influence in Europe. You will secure ties with professors and classmates that will undoubtedly be useful in the future. Many networking opportunities will come to you by being selected to participate in a masterclass or doing auditions. It is then your task to keep up with your network after your studies to continue to build upon them. These connections will turn out to be a valuable asset in the early days of your professional career!

Language:

Although you can easily choose to study in English, you will inevitably learn a new language through immersion. By being surrounded by a language, you will probably pick it up, but if you study the language and immerse yourself, there is an excellent opportunity to become fluent. Be sure to broaden your circle of friends and not always spend time with people who speak your native language. Most importantly, dare to speak the language, dare to make mistakes, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Part of learning a new language is all about making mistakes and learning from them. As singers, you will be so grateful that you dove into a new language; it will be an asset for the rest of your life!

Culture shock and depression

Culture shock is a real thing. It is a negative side-effect of living abroad. When you first land in your chosen country of study, there will be signs written in a very different language from English, different customs, and you will feel like you are on another planet. You will suddenly find yourself missing random things, like food that you never knew you liked so much in the first place, your bed, your friends back home. Yes, the first few months may feel like you are on an extended vacation doing some sightseeing, but then you start getting homesick, and you miss family and your culture. For instance, it is not so easy, or cheap, to fly home for Thanksgiving and so you spend it with classmates in your flat. It is fun, but you may feel an underlying feeling of homesickness. These feelings are all very normal. You may feel a little depressed, but it will pass. Keeping busy and getting to know people will make it soon feel a little bit more like “home”.

Once the “newness” of being here wears off, you may start to notice distinct cultural differences. Some you can adapt to, and others that are more difficult. Every culture is different, and although it will broaden your horizons to experience them, it doesn’t mean that you will adopt them as your own. Always remember that you are a guest in the country and it is not your job to change people around you to bend to your ways, you have to find a way to live with the cultural ways of your host country. You will also find that when you return to your home country, whether for a visit or for good, you will experience what is known as reverse culture shock, which is “the emotional and psychological distress suffered by some people when they return home after several years overseas. It can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar”. I have experience with this, especially having been in Europe for such a long time. When I return to Canada for a visit, I feel like a tourist.

If you can, I hope you do study abroad. There is so much to gain and so much to learn from doing so. However, if you are seriously considering this kind of move, please take your time, do your research. Don’t let the romantic idea get in the way of your reality. I recommend that if you choose to study abroad, take your studies very seriously. It is fun to be on a different continent, but the schools where I have worked take your commitment to your studies very seriously. Your goal is to be happy and satisfied with your learning and life experience while being a great ambassador for your home country!

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