Do you want to go to university? (If you don’t know, read this post first.)
Are you wondering how best to do so?
Do you want to avoid debt and all of the mistakes students make?
Do you crave adventure? Are you desperate to move out?
Together, we’ll answer:
This is a post I wish I had read when I was 18.
Who am I to speak about this?
After high school, I went to study economic sciences for one year in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
I failed, so I went to study a bachelor in communication and media in the Netherlands three years later. During my studies, I went on exchange to France in a political science university, then studied a masters in business, then a masters in political science in a Flemish university.
I also worked as a university ambassador during the open days.
1. What to Study
This question depends on what you want to do in life.
In this regard, you don’t have many options. There are two ways to earn money:
- Entrepreneurship: you become a freelancer, create a company, or make money yourself somehow.
- Employment: You get a job in a company or for the government.
Of course, there are other types of careers like the military, politics, professional athlete, musician, etc, but I assume it doesn’t concern you if you are reading this.
While the mainstream narrative is going to tell you to “do what you like”, I don’t recommend following this without second thoughts.
Each year, millions of students go study art history, communication, or sociology because they were told to “study what they like”.
Each year, the same students become unemployed or go get a job at McDonald’s.
Because the skills they teach you in art history, communication, or sociology are not valuable.
They don’t help society solve problems.
If you hope to get a good job, you need to learn skills that help you solve problems, like law, engineering, accounting, or marketing.
Mostly, the best things to study come from the STEM field.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
People that study STEM are the highest earners because they deliver the highest value.
I am not telling you not to study sociology if this is what you like.
I am telling you that whatever you study, you will have to learn a valuable skill at some point, whether alone, or at university.
I know some people that studied computer science at uni because they liked it. Good. But then I know some people that studied computer science because they wanted to earn a lot of money.
Finally, I know some people that studied journalism, realized there was no money there, taught themselves how to code and went to work as software engineers.
Whatever you do, don’t think studying at university will make you sh*t loads of money just because.
It’s not the case.
If you study dumb topics, expect to get dumb jobs with dumb salaries.
I made the catastrophic decision to study communication, for example. Not only did I learn nothing, but I also wasted three years of my life while I could have become a software developer during that time instead.
Studying communication was one of the worst mistakes of my life.
So choose carefully.
2. Where Should You Study?
I am a value-driven guy. I always buy stuff that gives me the best ratio price/quality, and I think you should do the same.
If you can study for free in some countries, why wouldn’t you go there?
There is no point to borrow money to get a useless diploma.
This is why I recommend studying in the EU. Universities are excellent, cheap, and you can be financially independent by having a student job.
In case you don’t speak the local language, you have two choices.
1. Choose an English-taught bachelor (not recommended). More and more business and IT programs are taught in English.
2. Spend a year learning the local language then go study.
I met many Chinese in Spain and Russians in Poland that chose option 2. I also met an Italian girl in Brussels that studied in French, and a German guy in Paris that also studied in French.
I think it’s awesome. Learning a new language helps with brain plasticity and it is an achievement you can feel proud of.
After living a year in Australia to learn English, I’ve entered university in the Netherlands and studied in English, which now prevents me from “proving” I speak decent English when applying for jobs.
I am not saying that it will be easy. I am saying that it is super rewarding.
So, where should you study?
That depends on your budget and on the country you’d like to study in.
If I was 17 or 18, knowing what I know now, I would go study in Poland, Spain, Hungary, Lithuania, or Estonia. These countries are amazing, the education is cheap and high-quality, and the parties are the best.
Student jobs are easy to find, and there are many international students and Erasmus to hang out with.
I think you should fly and go visit the universities and cities before making your decision.
In 2018, I met a 29-year old Japanese surgeon that had decided to study mechanical engineering. She was flying from one city to another to visit the best universities before making her decision.
3. What About Tuition Fees?
Most places will be more expensive if you don’t have an EU passport. However, it’ll never be higher than €10 000 per year for a bachelor.
In the Netherlands for example, non-EU people paid €6000 while EU people paid €2000.
4. How Do I Finance my Studies and How to Study for Free?
If your family can’t support you, get a job.
I am not aware of any EU countries where student jobs don’t exist (except for Italy, but you don’t want to go there).
In most cases, a student job will be enough to finance your life.
Your university will also be able to help you.
In the worst-case scenario, you can always borrow money to finance food/rent while working on the side, but that probably won’t be needed as you can easily live with 1000€/month in any EU city.
I personally spend 700€/month in Brussels….
*Wow, I wrote this in 2020, before the “transitory” inflation hit the world. It has now become three times more expensive to live in Brussels, beware when reading any financial advice from this article, as it no longer applies.*
…all included, but I’m also a cheap f*ck.
Some countries propose programs where students go to school half a week and work for a company the other half (like Germany). The company pays for students’ studies and they get a small salary too.
The Bottom Line
The main takeaway of this article is that you don’t need to study in your home country.
The world is your playground. You can study anything anywhere for much cheaper than what you’d pay in Anglo-Saxon countries.
In my case, being an international student wasn’t easy every day, but I have learned a lot, met a lot of different people, and it expanded my comfort zone up to the point that by the time I was 20, I had no problems with the perspective to move anywhere in the world.
The only thing I regret was my degree and the country where I studied it, but the past is the past.
You will only be 20 once in your life.
Make sure you make the right decision.
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