North America is a very popular destination for students who want to study abroad for a semester. Canada and the US have many high quality universities. Students taking a semester in the USA or Canada not only improve their language skills, but also broaden their horizons by getting to know other cultures, establishing international contacts, and learning to stand on their own two feet. Attending a semester in North America also offers many advantages for professional life: a stay abroad looks great on your CV and is often appreciated by future employers. However, be aware that a semester abroad requires a lot of preparation. In this article we will list some important aspects that should not be forgotten.
Brush up on the language
Most universities and colleges require a certain level of language proficiency. This makes sense, as students must be able to understand and participate in high-level lectures and classes. Some courses require a language exam. For example, the TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a test used worldwide and recognised by most universities and can therefore be used as proof of language proficiency. Don’t assume that just because you’re from an English speaking country (like the UK) that you will automatically pass the test. It can be wise to brush up on your grammar skills before taking the test. Furthermore, students planning to spend a semester in Canada should be aware that in some parts of Canada French is the predominant language. It is therefore advisable to check language level requirements in good time and, if necessary, take a language course to refresh their knowledge.
Visa or other travel authorisation?
In order to study in the U.S., a visa must be applied for. The ESTA, which can be applied for online, is only suitable for holidays and business trips and cannot be used for a study or internship in the USA. Instead, a special student visa is required (category F or M). Please note that a student visa requires you to visit the U.S. embassy or consulate for an interview. Processing an application for a student visa may take some time. So apply for the visa on time! More information about the different visas for the USA can be found here.
To travel to Canada to study there, either an eTA (electronic travel authorisation) or a study permit, a type of student visa, must be applied for. An eTA can easily be applied for online in a few minutes, while applying for a student visa is much more complicated and takes longer. Fingerprints are often required. Moreover, a study permit is much more expensive than an eTA. Whether you can travel with an eTA or whether you need a study permit depends on the length of your stay in Canada. Students who plan to stay longer than 6 months in Canada need a study permit. If your stay in Canada is less than 6 months, you can generally just use an eTA. Since a semester abroad generally does not exceed 6 months, the eTA is usually sufficient.
Unfortunately, a semester abroad often comes with high costs. Think of the flight, the visa (or travel authorisation), tuition fees and rent. The cost of living in North America strongly depends on the exact location, but is often higher than in the United Kingdom or Ireland. Sometimes, you can save some money by living with a host family (homestay). There are also several scholarships that foreign students can apply for. However, take into account the application deadlines, so that all the necessary documents for a scholarship are collected in time. Once in the USA or Canada, students generally want to make the most of the time they have and not only study, but also get to know the country. It is therefore advisable to include excursion costs in the budget.