How to enroll in undergraduate studies at a European university and win: the experience of a Russian student who has managed to study in Finland, Austria and Bulgaria

Choosing a university for many is not an easy task. Stay or go abroad? I chose the second and did not regret it for a second.

He entered the Finnish Polytechnic at IT, at the moment he completed the third year of undergraduate studies. After two exchange programs in Austria and Bulgaria, a lot of knowledge has accumulated about the education system in Europe and how the guys from the CIS countries get there. First, I will share how I chose a university. And then, subjectively, I will tell you what factors should be considered when choosing a university.



How I chose Lapland University of Applied Sciences


At the end of the tenth grade, he passed the international IELTS English exam, just in case. A good result prompted me to urgently look for a way to maintain knowledge of the language at the level.

Initially, I wanted to go to the UK. But the undergraduate system implied an additional year of study at the A-level. I didn’t want to lose a year, because a year of study is a lot of money. In the end, I considered only the countries in the European Union, as they are closer to home than the United States or Asian countries. 

It seemed to me that traveling to any country in the EU is very simple, because English is the key to all doors. And, probably, this phrase is applicable in travel and business, but not in education. At some point, he stopped looking for undergraduate studies in Spain, France, Italy and Germany, since without knowing the local language there is nothing to do there.

The applicant is not very different from the student. Freebie above all. There were only two countries with free English instruction: Finland and Sweden.

But Sweden at that time was already slowly starting to close free programs. I was afraid that, having entered there, I might find myself in a twofold situation, when the initially free program unexpectedly turns out to be paid. So I chose Finland.

The admission process was simple, I will not focus on it. Basic requirements - IELTS + test for knowledge of mathematics and physics, which was conducted in St. Petersburg + motivation letter. The process is described on the website admissions.fi, so I just invite you to study it.

A huge plus on admission was that a diploma of secondary education at the time of admission was not required. Thus, I was able to enter the university a month before graduating from school and start the school year in September.

How to approach the issue of choosing a university in the EU


You can go to a prestigious university. You can emigrate to the country of your dreams. You can choose a university only as a starting point for travel. By the way, traveling will really become very simple if the country is in the Schengen area.

I advise you to consider several things when choosing a university:

University rating

Top law firms and investment banks hire fresh graduates only from prestigious universities. So everyone should start with a QS rating, as the best brains go there. The main thing to remember is that there are many wonderful places in the world that are not in this rating.

Tongue

If you know the official language of a country, you have much more opportunities in this country. You can go to a language school near the university if you urgently need a good language. Someone pulls up the knowledge of German in Austria from B1 to C1 per semester, someone pumps English in Bulgaria from zero to B2 in two semesters.
 
Quality training

You can learn about the quality of the taught disciplines by contacting local students via Facebook. If a university is pleasant, but has minor weaknesses in specific areas, then some knowledge can always be obtained through various free online courses from the same universities from the QS rating. I have not seen a better introduction to programming than the Introduction to Computer Science course at edx.com. I also advise you to look at courses on coursera.org for a general introduction. 

Cost

No need to strive to look for a university without tuition: in the end, it can be more expensive than in a university with paid tuition. Always consider all possible expenses. Services like Numbeo can help you figure out which cities are cheaper. 

Do not forget to estimate the cost of transport to the university, the cost of a visa, insurance and accommodation. Everywhere can be pitfalls. For example, if you find a cheap room and still go home for the summer, then you still have to pay for the room. 

You can try to lower the cost of training if you receive a grant. There are many grants in the EU, but there are even more willing to receive them, so we carefully study the information on grants on the websites of universities of interest to you. 

Work

If you don’t pull training on your resources, there is an option to find an opportunity to earn extra money. Someone works as a waiter or a guide, someone teaches languages. Many students from the countries of the Balkan region leave for the summer under the Work and Travel program in the USA and return by autumn from $ 3,000- $ 5,000 in the account. Programmers successfully freelance. Remember that in a small town the cost of living may be lower, but it will be more difficult to find work there. Also, some universities have agreements with companies, in which it is strongly recommended to have an internship.

Networking

For me, studying at a university is, first and foremost, an opportunity to get acquainted with as many talented people as possible, with whom you can communicate and work after graduation. So it’s very useful to understand in advance what kind of people it will be useful for you to work with in the future. In this sense, going to Germany and talking with the Germans, if you are going to work in the USA then, may not be the best idea. 

Opportunities of a European university

Almost any university in the EU supports the Erasmus + program, according to which I managed to go for an exchange to Austria and Bulgaria. At the same time, all participants in the program are provided with grants for life and flight, which dramatically reduces costs.

In universities, the culture of university clubs can be highly developed. So, at American University in Bulgaria, I was in a wonderful documentary club. As part of the club, several directors were interviewed and traveled to Greece for a film festival.  

Of the more useful clubs, there is InnoBarentsLab in Lapland UAS, where students help small businesses develop in the Barents Region. 

Finally, a couple of life hacks

:
Lifehack for schoolchildren

Abroad, almost no one knows about the exam, so focus on the average score, if you decide to act. A high average mark in a diploma and knowledge of the language are necessary requirements for admission, and in some cases even sufficient.

Lifehack for students

  • If you are already a student at a Russian university and are studying abroad, you can often convert grades in matching subjects. This will at least reduce the burden in the university, and maybe it will allow you to finish the university early. 
  • If for 1-2 years in the Russian Federation at the baccalaureate you have unlearned for one five, then the UK can enter without an A-level.

All problems are solved. The specific processes of admission to the university are different from each other. But they are designed so that you can study and live there. Three whales that will help you get to the desired university and stay there are knowledge of the language, hard work and resourcefulness. 

Write a motivation letter first of all for yourself. Understand why you need a university, and then look for those universities that will help you achieve this goal. If there are entrance exams, be cunning, find examples of previous exams and prepare for them.

Good luck 

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