Ever thought about peeing in a cup as part of your application for a study abroad program? This article gives you an idea of how different yet similar the applications around the world can be. Of course, this is just touching the surface since many countries have their own rules. So always check which documents, or tests, you have to submit and follow these study abroad application tips.
Most universities worldwide require the majority of the items from the study abroad application checklist: Language Proficiency Test, Transcript, Confirmation of Enrollment, Letter of Motivation and Study Plan, and Letter(s) of Recommendation. Check it out if you haven’t already.
The application for student accommodation is not always part of the application itself. It depends on the country and university: some need to know your preferences well in advance (as part of the main application). In contrast, other universities ask you fairly late (after being accepted). Suppose you are successful, you will surely get to choose at some point if you’d like to stay in one of their housing options or not. The in-depth three-part student housing series might help you with that decision.
The standard application process for a study abroad program in the USA doesn’t differ much from any other country in the world. Apart from the checklist’s items, you will have to provide some proof of financial coverage (“Certificate of Financial Responsibility “). If you don’t have enough funds for the whole semester upfront, which is usually the case, somebody can support you financially throughout the semester. You might also have to submit an additional bank statement. However, most banks outside the USA can’t provide you with bank statements in US dollars because of the changing currency exchange rates. So you will most likely end up sending one in your local currency, mentioning the latest exchange rate and the corresponding value in US dollars.
After being accepted, the somewhat comprehensive part begins. First, you have to work your way through multiple online systems for the visa application and for paying certain fees. Both steps are relatively straightforward. Just be aware that the websites could kick you out after a couple of minutes of inaction. So have all your documents ready and respond right away.
Next, you have to go to an in-person interview at one of the US embassies in your country. These can take anywhere between 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. Pay close attention to the guidelines and restrictions of what you are allowed and not allowed to bring to these interviews. Phones are usually not allowed! So don’t bring your phone as there are usually no options for storing your belongings for the time of your interview. Be aware that they’ll scan and check you like at an airport, so there is no way of hiding stuff. Last time, they even took my mints. All in all, it is quite an experience.
An application for a study abroad program in Japan can easily reach 30+ pages. Besides all the above mentioned standard documents, an extensive application form is required. Amongst other things, it contains your entire(!) educational background and occupational experiences. You have to list all your family members, including their occupations and addresses. Besides that, you have to fill out an application for a certificate of eligibility for the Ministry of Justice. This is required for your visa, along with six(!) copies of standardized passport photographs.
What makes the application for a study abroad program in Japan really stand out is the comprehensive health test. Besides providing the basics like your weight, height, and blood pressure, you’re required to do many tests that all have to be certified by doctors. The hearing and vision tests can also be approved by other (health care) professionals, like optometrists or opticians. However, a medical doctor must also rate your physical condition as good, fair, or poor and point out disabilities or previous illnesses, if any. On top of that, you must get an X-ray of your chest (to check for tuberculosis or the like). The cherry on the cake is a urine test to prove any other conditions or (drug) problems you might have. Overall, I was just blown away, and so were my doctors. On the contrary, it was confusing for the Japanese that I couldn’t get all the tests done at one single doctor. If the same applies to you, explain your situation in an informal letter as part of your application. Otherwise, they might be confused why you’d submit several health certificates with different signatures.
After being accepted, getting the Japanese visa is a piece of cake: First, you wait for the Japanese university to send you the required documents to your home address. Then you would go to a nearby embassy and submit all the paperwork. Compared to the US embassy visit, this was like going to the grocery store. They asked barely any questions, and I was out of there in no time. Still, the 30+ application took a while, but it was totally worth it in the end.
After the USA and Japan, how does an application for an ERASMUS program in Europe compare to that? Unlike what you’d think, it was the only program that required a CV as part of the application. However, it would help if you always had an excellent CV at hand. Besides that, you have to submit some simple ERASMUS-specific documents – no big deal. Compared to all other programs, the most significant difference is that you always get financial support when going abroad on an ERASMUS program. There are three different categories where you’d get somewhere between 330€ (mainly eastern Europe) to 450€ (mainly Scandinavia).
Since short term programs are usually an additional income source for universities, it is way easier to “get in”. For instance, the application for a winter school at one of the most prestigious universities in Asia, Korea University in Seoul, only consisted of an academic transcript, international traveler’s insurance, and a copy of the passport. That’s a one-hour job. Read more about short term programs here.
Never underestimate the work to finish a proper application for a study abroad program. Be aware that it can be way more effort than you might think, always start early gathering all information about the required paperwork, and don’t miss the deadlines – or the cup.