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The study abroad spectrum of your comfort zone

The thought of relocating to another country to study abroad may seem like an opportunity for new adventures for some, but for others it’s quite a scary thought. Whether you are moving abroad to study in America, Canada, London, Germany, China, Mexico or any other destination, dealing with at least a bit of culture shock and adjustment challenges is inevitable. To advance your career and get global perspective, studying abroad may not be something you can miss-out on, but if you are scared of the changes, here are some things to consider if you want to stay on safe side and feel more at home:

1. Study program: semester abroad vs. a degree

If you're having a hard time accepting the thought of committing to 3 years in a foreign country, doing a bachelors’ degree, masters’ degree or a doctorate, you might want to consider doing a semester abroad instead of a full degree. Most higher education institutes have international programs for longer and shorter periods of time which students can apply for. Using this facility in the university you study in, whether it's in your home country or not, can keep you sheltered in many ways. There's not half as much bureaucracy as when applying for a degree abroad. You do need to get accepted for the program, but since you're already studying at the university, you're half way there. Plus, in many programs there are no additional tuition fees to the ones you are already paying. By studying for a certain time period abroad, you are gaining cultural experience and gaining the benefits of the experience without dealing with many of the hardships of doing a degree abroad. Just make sure you only stay for the honeymoon phase. 

2. Destination: close vs. far

Distance does matter. As you fly further away from home, the weather changes, the food becomes foreign, the languages are less similar and the cultures differ. Choose whether you'd like to stay in your comfort zone, or expose yourself to complete new worlds. For example, living in a country where you don't speak the language that's being spoken can cause more of a culture shock than living in a country where the language is familiar to you. Don't forget that the further you move, the more expensive your flight back home will be.  If you want to stay closer to home and to go back and visit every now and then when one of your friends gets married or for a family birthday, this is something to consider. 

3. Living arrangement: dorms vs. renting an apartment

Living in a dorm on campus doesn't sounds as fun as renting out an apartment in the city center of Berlin, London, Barcelona or Mexico City, but it does save a lot of energy, time and money. If you think the search for an apartment is tedious, try searching for one abroad. In a country you haven't lived in before, you may not speak the language of, don’t know common portals to search on and are unaware of the standards and even familiar with the neighborhoods. Renting a room at university is the easy option. In many universities, the dorms are available on demand, the price is affordable and there’s no need to commute around the city catching trams, trains and buses to get to campus. Living in a dorm is one way to stay sheltered during your study abroad experience and even meet other students who chose that option too.  

4. Relocation: with a friend vs. alone

Moving abroad is a process which requires a lot of courage. Sometimes all you need to gain that courage is to do it with a friend. Relocating with a friend allows you to share the experience with someone and consult about different challenges which may appear. When studying abroad, you will meet a lot of people, and sometimes having a familiar friend who you know from home, can give a lot of confidence. 

There you have it. Four things to consider to keep your study abroad experience in your comfort zone. For more information, go to: 

Expectations vs. reality of studying abroad

Like most students longing to study abroad, you are probably also filled with high hopes, goals and expectations. Many times we find that the reality doesn't always match our expectations, but like most dreams, you need to let you imagination run free to conquer what you set out to achieve. Not to burst your bubble, but here are a few expectations international students have when setting out to study abroad and the reality of what usually ends up happening:  

1st Expectation: You’ll be a native speaker by the end of your stay.
Reality: People don’t really have the patience to wait till you finish a sentence.  

You enrolled at the best language school you could find to study German, Spanish, Swedish, Danish or French. You can already read and write and even order food in the language you are studying. You can’t wait to land in your destination and start practicing your accent on people you meet only to find out that most people you encounter speak English and prefer it too. Even when you start to small talk in a foreign language, most young people you’ll meet will switch to English since they don’t really have the patience to wait for you to finish a sentence, and they appreciate the opportunity to practice English, themselves.
Tip: Keen to practice anyways? Find a tandem interested in learning a language you are fluent in or join a language group.   

2nd Expectation: You’ll visit museums, historical sites, art galleries every day.  
Reality: You'll study all day.  

Living abroad in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Switzerland or Denmark, won't change the fact that you'll still be a student without much free time on their hands. On the contrary, it might even make your studies harder by forcing you to also deal with language barriers, culture shock, along with other challenges. Between semesters and even on the weekends you might be available to squeeze in a short trip to travel in Europe, South America, the States, or Asia (depending on where you are), but during the semester, keep in mind that you’ll need to work hard.
Tip: Try to get most of your assignments done on the weekdays so that your weekends are free to tour around the city.

3rd Expectation: You’ll acquire local friends super-fast.
Reality: You’ll need to make an effort for that

Making local friends abroad is not as easy as you might think. If you think about yourself in your home country, how many foreign friends do you have? Abroad, you’ll find it easier to become friends with other international students facing the same reality as you are. Getting into a circle of local friends will involve some effort.
Tip: Get a hobby or join a club where you’ll be able to interact with local who share the same interests as you.

4th Expectation: You’ll return home with new eyes.
Reality: You probably will. Studying abroad will expose you to new experiences which will change you forever. What you do afterwards is up to you.  

To learn more about studying abroad go to: 

7 Things you didn't know about the GMAT test

Tell me something I don’t know…
The GMAT - you heard of it, but what do you really know? We thought of 7 things you probably don’t know about the test and put them all in one place to make sure that you'll know it all. 

1. The GMAT is fundamentally different from exams you are used to.

Most tests you know, whether from high school or from your bachelor’s degree, require that you solve problems in a linear fashion: read a question, understand all the info, and add to this some knowledge you previously memorized (such as rules or formulas). All of this will give you an exact solution.
Those are most tests. The GMAT is a different story: it isn’t based, by and large, on prior knowledge. Yes, you will have to use a formula or two (like calculating the area of a triangle), but we’re talking about school-level knowledge. You already know it, and if you’ve forgotten it, it’s easy to remember.
In the GMAT, on the other hand, what is a big issue is time. This means that often, solving a question the straightforward way is not the way to go: something quicker is needed.

2. Each question can be solved more than one way.

Most GMAT questions, whether Verbal or Quantitative, can be solved using any one of three different strategies:

  • Precise – using all the information in the question so as to arrive at an exact answer on your own.
  • Alternative – using tools to select the right answer choice quickly, without necessarily figuring out the solution on your own. These can include estimation, comparing the answer choices, using number instead of variables, etc.
  • Logical – implementing a logical rule ‘from outside’ which brings you straight to the answer. Examples of this are using the logic behind causation, pricing or ratios.
These can be remembered by the acronym PAL: Precise, Alternative, Logical.

But if there are three different strategies, which do you use? This, it turns out, is the million dollar question. Which brings us to our next point…

3.            What the GMAT really tests is mind flexibility.  

Mind flexibility is the ability to quickly find the fastest way to solve each question, and apply it. This starts with identifying the optimal PAL strategy and continues with figuring out how to implement it.

You can base this in part on clues that the question gives you: does it require me to make an approximation? Does it look as if a precise calculation will take a long time? Is there a logical reason I can eliminate some answers without even fully taking in all the information?
The decision will also depend a lot on your self-knowledge: what you personally are good at when it comes to the different strategies.

4.            Optimal preparation time: 100-120 hours.

100 to 120 hours of effective studying should be enough. Optimally, this should occur in a 6-to-8-week span, but it can be spread over longer amounts of time as well. Any less time is too little, but you could go wrong the other way too: a 3-to-4-month studying routine will cause you to forget the early material by the time you’ve finished studying.
In general, more studying is correlated with higher scores. But nothing is guaranteed: what’s important is the quality, not the quantity, of the time.
5. Guessing is a good idea… sometimes.

On the exam, when running out of time, you may find yourself faced with the dilemma: guess or skip? The answer depends on the situation:

  • 1 or 2 items left in a section? Guess or leave it blank – it doesn’t matter much.
  • Verbal section with fewer than 5 question left? Guessing won’t hurt you, but it won’t help much either.
  • Quantitative? Guess! Don’t leave any questions blank here.
  • In general, feeling insecure? Leave it blank. Feeling confident? Guess.

6. Not happy? Cancel.

Immediately after the test is over, on your screen will appear a preview of your Verbal, Quantitative and Integrated Reasoning scores. You will have two minutes to decide whether to keep your score or cancel it. Keeping it means it will be reported to the schools you’re applying to. Cancelling it means it won’t be reported at all, not now or in the future when you do report other scores. Neither will schools even know that you even took the test. The only person who will know is you.
If you don’t immediately cancel, you can still do so for the next 72 hours (for a $25 fee), and for the next five years you can reinstate a cancelled score (for $50).

7. Improvement is possible… but keeps getting harder.

According to official GMAT statistics, the average re-taker improves his score by 30 points. That’s a lot, but wait: it’s just an average. Some people improve by much more, and others see their scores fall. Obviously, simply retaking won’t lead to success; you have to fix problems you had the first time. Another important thing to note is that the higher your score, the harder it is to improve: re-takers with scores of 700 and higher improve their score by only 10 points, on average.

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4 Reasons why universities need international students now

In the midst of the recent shift in political current in the United States and in the UK, the united academic community stepped forward to show their appreciation of international students. Campaigns like #WeAreInternational show the community’s support for international students in aim of encouraging them to keep applying to colleges and universities and study abroad. Maintaining a global reputation is a big part of institutions' overall motives. The value which international students bring to these institutions is paramount to their existence and here's why: 

1. Diversity = Quality 

Diversity on campus serves a dual propose – touching the lives of foreign students as well as affecting host communities. During their study abroad experience and after graduation, foreign students serve as ambassadors for the university they studied in. On the other hand, the local communities also benefit from these interactions. Local students learn about different cultures and become more tolerant to other mentalities. 

2. International students = Booming economy

NAFSA’s latest analysis shows that just last study year, the overall contribution from international students was $32.8 billion to the economy while also adding hundreds of thousands of jobs to the market.

Wherever international students go – they bring profit to the local economies.  

Take Australia for example – the third largest export revenue just last year came from international students who moved from countries like India, China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mexico and more.

International students not only help the countries’ economies but also the institutions themselves. Universities which were able to recruit international students over the years have also been able to grow and develop. International students pay higher tuition fees than local students, greatly contributing to the university’s incomes.

3. Bigger market = More (and better) competition

Providing access to prospective students all over the world rather than just within borders raises the bar for competition during the admissions phase as well as throughout the semester. This means that universities have a wider range of students to choose from, with varied strengths. This also means that the students that do get selected will work harder alongside their high-achiever colleagues.

4. Foreign students = Global reputation: 

strong correlation exists between top ranking study institutions and numbers of international students enrolled. In fact, in the process of ranking universities, a certain ranking percentage is dedicated to reviewing how successful the university is in attracting an international crowd – students, staff and faculty. 

Having the capability to recruit international students also hints, to a certain extent, about the university's facilities to handle students from varied backgrounds. It's a sign of tolerance towards foreign cultures, mentalities and a meaning to collaborate with foreign entities. It shows that the universities are willing to adapt to become flexible to students' needs.  

To learn more about how you 
can study abroad go to 

President Trump’s immigration ban - should international students be worried?

A new era has emerged in American and world geopolitics with the election of President Donald J. Trump. Many questions have arisen regarding his attitude towards foreign nationals and his US-centric approach in general. From what can be deduced from his actions since he took office, he is serious, and one of the groups that may be affected by this approach is international students, specifically from Muslim countries.

In one of his first actions as president, Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. In his order, Trump specifically mentions international students. You can hear what he said about it here:

It is important to see the source and not just rely on what was said in the media. Here is the full text of the executive order:

The banned countries included in the order are:
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Sudan
  • Libya
  • Yemen
  • Somalia

How many international students actually come from these countries?
It may be surprising to find that from the list of banned countries, Iran is the one who sends the most students to the US - 12,269 students last year, with the rest of the countries sending less than half that number. When you think about the magnitude of the problem, the students affected by the situation are less than 2% of the total number of international students in the US. However, for the students who are affected, this is potentially a very serious issue, and it is hard to tell if it will affect many more over the course of Trumps presidency.

How have universities reacted?

The government has asked universities to supply lists of students from these countries. It appears that most universities are complying, with the University of Michigan standing out as not agreeing. There has for a long time, been a requirement that US universities report the number of international students on their campuses, via the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS). It is not clear if a new requirement came out now, and how much of it is political and media noise.

It is hard to assess what will stick after the noise dies down. The leaders of several major universities have issued statements and directives that they will support students without regard to their immigration status and that they will not partner with law enforcement agencies to proactively enforce the new federal immigration regulations. Universities are working hard to understand exactly who of their students and faculty are affected by the new order.

By Magister danko (Own work),
via Wikimedia Commons

I am an international student currently in the US - what should I do?
  • Do not travel outside the US while the executive order is in effect. You may not be able to come back! Don’t risk it.
  • Be in touch with the international office at your university to understand how they can support you through this period.
  • Carefully read the executive order and its implications on you.
  • Continue to follow, as additional countries may be added to the list while others may be removed pending the review process that will end in 90-120 days.

I applied to be an international student in the US next year – what should I do?
  • If your country is not on the list, you will most likely be able to pursue your studies as planned.
  • If your country is on the list, seriously consider applying to schools in other international destinations that will accept you: Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France and others.
  • If you are a dual citizen - US and one of the countries on the list, you will most likely be accepted. Though you may be detained and questioned upon your next entry to the US. Make sure to have legal backup just in case things get complicated. 

Is the party over?

International students contribute over $30 billion to the US economy each year, and are the economic force driving the survival of many major universities, especially given the US student financial aid bubble that may soon burst. Therefore, it is not likely that this executive order will change the upward trend in internationalization of education or significantly reduce the number of students who come to the US every year. We may see a more moderate growth curve this year and next, as the fear ensues, but the US will likely remain the number one destination for international students worldwide for the foreseeable future.

This post was written by Jacob Bacon, GradTrain’s Co-Founder and CEO and reflects his analysis of the current situation. Mr. Bacon is himself an immigrant and former international student. 
Current or prospective international students should not rely solely on this analysis and should seek legal counsel for their individual case. If you want to receive further support from GradTrain regarding this issue, please visit our website at: https:///

The 7 international students you'll meet abroad

Studying abroad is an educational experience which opens opportunities to advance in one's career. It's also a great way to meet diverse people from all over the world. Here are the 7 international students you're going to meet while living abroad. 

1. The compulsive traveler - They've already been to 37 countries and are booking flights according to their layovers so that they can check 50 countries off their list before they turn 29. Studying abroad is probably the least interesting line on their resume, but if you ask them about how they climbed the Kilimanjaro, got stranded in the Brazilian rain forests, volunteered to save starving children in third world countries or survived an avalanche on the Everest they won't spare you with words. Good luck comparing your sad life to theirs.

2. The one who never left home - So physically, they did. But their mind is still at home. Whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend who they are Skyping with between classes, stalking their friends from home on Facebook, or staying in on a weekend to call their family, they are always connected. WatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger, Instagram, you name it - they're on it - 24/7. They even installed VPN to see their favorite TV show to stay updated. If you want to stay safe, never call them out on it - they'll never admit that they are just too plugged in or suffering from a chronic case of FOMO.

3. The ambassador - This international student didn't just come to study. They came to represent (the hood). They were wide aware of the broad exposure they'll get abroad to new cultures and identities and will push their agendas forward any chance they get. The observant will be able to spot a small flag on the ambassador's bag, key chain or clothes, but if you missed the early you'll probably recognize them when you say anything that relates to their country. Just don't start a political conversation with them... Thanks!

4. The newbie - They finally made it out of their homes. In fact, they made if furthest out of all the 400 people who studied with them in high school. They grew up in a town with a name you can't pronounce and after working in their parents' business they broke out into the world. Don't be surprised if they are a little nervous, it's still their first time abroad. 

5. The local - Are you dying to share the word about the hip restaurant you discovered last weekend? Don't bother. They've already been there, oh, and they know the owner too. The local was just born in the wrong country and moved to study abroad where they really belong. After all, it was their destiny and they show how assimilated they are every chance they get. They took a few language courses, and know all the local hits, they even dress like locals. You won't need a tour guide with someone like that on your side. Just make sure not to reveal their secret - yes, they've only been in the country for two weeks. 

6. The one who came to party - It's not easy coming to school hungover everyday, but we only live once and what better way is there to enjoy the time abroad by jumping from party to party. After all, memories  and experiences is what it's all about right? This student didn't do much research about the study program or university they applied to, but they did calculate the time it would take them to walk from the bar home and how much money they'd save on taking a taxi. You'll be able to recognize them pretty easily - they're the ones passing out on their tables in class.

7. The culture shocked - Moving to a foreign country and not knowing the language is not as easy as they thought. This student learned it the hard way. Their honeymoon phase was short and now they are just stuck in between being frustrated and anxious. Let's just say that things didn't really turn out the way they wanted them to. Don't worry, it's not contagious.

So which one are you? 

To get help with your application to a top universtiy in the US, Canada, Germany, France, and more, go to:

5 Ways to create a support system when applying to universities abroad

Job opportunities, personal development and interesting life experiences are a few reasons to study abroad leading prospective students to send online application forms to universities and colleges abroad. Millions of students are longing to make their dream a reality and study abroad in Germany, France, the Netherlands, the USA, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Italy, Cyprus, Ireland, Japan, Russia as well as other destinations.

Gathering information and compiling all of the materials is the first step to setting a foot in a top university campus abroad. Emotional roller coasters and overcoming many challenges is also a part of the journey, so here’s how you can create a support system to help you through the hardships.

Find a partner to ride the waves with

When Jack Johnson wrote the song “Better Together” he probably wasn’t referring to a study abroad application process, but the saying works quite well in this case too. Sending applications to universities together with a partner with the same motives in mind is easier than alone.

Here’s how it can help:
  • Information gathering, brainstorming ideas and strategizing is more effective in groups.
  • Staying on track and reminding one another of due dates and application deadlines.
  • Studying for the TOEFL test, IELTS, GMAT exam or the GRE exam.
  • Motivation.

An average of 5 million students move abroad to study every year, so there must be someone who is trying to hack how to study abroad near you.

A few ways to locate someone near you include:

  • Attending study abroad events, seminars and conferences in your city.
  • Logging on to local portals and forums to ask around.
  • Writing a post on local Facebook groups and study abroad groups.
  • Asking your friends if they know anyone – word to mouth always helps.
If you’ve already done your Bachelors’ and are interested in doing an MBA, Ph.D. or a Masters’ program, linking up with another graduate from university can also help.

If you haven’t found anyone to partner up with, don’t worry. There are more ways to get valuable help.

Get help from alumni

Getting an alumni to help out is like finding a big brother figure who was once in your shoes and can help you grow from where you are to where you want to be.  Even Albert Einstein once said that the only source of knowledge is experience – so use this valuable knowledge.

Use your role model’s technical experience to understand the criteria and bureaucratic procedures when applying. Take advantage of their professional knowledge and ask them to review your application materials. You’ll probably also have many questions about how to get funding or a scholarship for your studies or how to get an auto loan as an international student.

Don’t forget to also ask:

  • What worked for them and what didn’t for them.
  • Their emotional experience through the process. What was hard to deal with and what was harder? It’s good to know in advance to prepare for the hardships and know what to concentrate on.
  • Where they got their help?
  • The chronological order of the application process and how to relocate.

Talk to faculty members in your target universities:

International students are a valuable group not only because of the economic growth they bring to universities and the countries they stay in but also because they create diversity.

Universities around the world have an interest to recruit international students – so use it!

Who should you talk to?

There’s office for international students on almost all campuses. Contact your target university’s consultants and get all of the information which you weren’t able to find online or were unsure about. Most faculty members can be contacted by mail or phone.

Before contacting the admissions office, check the admission criteria and see whether or not you have the chance to get accepted to universities abroad.

Talk to your professors

For those of you who have already completed your first degree and are looking to complete a higher degree abroad, talking to a professor can be useful.

You’ve probably noticed that most of your professors have some sort of studying abroad experience on their resume. This means that they not only have the experience to guide, but they also have amazing contacts and networks abroad.

Approaching a professor and getting guidance might not suit everyone. It’s a bold move and really depends on your prior relationship with them. If you worked with a professor you would probably feel more comfortable to do it, but if you have just taken a class with them think about how you can approach the issue without coming off as rude or inappropriate.

Contact someone in the country you are moving to for a smooth landing

Knowing someone at the location you are moving to is incredibly helpful, whether it’s an old friend, a family member, or a second connection who you haven’t met.

People who have experienced living abroad know what it feels like to be a foreigner and are usually open to make someone else feel less culture shocked and a little more at home.

Finding someone can personally ask your friends if they know someone, or write a public post on Facebook. If you have a hobby, like boulder climbing, biking or any other group sport, contact the local communities at your destination and ask how you can connect. There are also many Facebook groups and forums for students and expats from different destinations all over the world.

Ask them about choosing the destination, finding a job, the living expenses, finding an apartment and more.  These groups will allow you to connect and learn more about your destination.

Don’t hesitate to create your own support system to help you
study abroad and achieve your dreams.

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