With the cost of UK university fees at an all time high, it is understandable that students are starting to consider their options. In an earlier blog post Students as Consumers we explored the idea that more undergraduates might be tempted by international options.
We spoke to Liza Tait-Bailey, a third year student studying in Abu Dhabi. She is originally from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and regularly documents her travelling via her self-titled blog Liza Tait-Bailey. We were keen to find out what inspired her to spread her wings...
Hey Liza! Thanks for taking the time out of your day to chat with us.
Our industry magazine #HeardInHE has been examining the incentives that students look for when deciding on a place to study. With UK higher education fees reaching an all-time high, international courses are increasingly becoming more popular. Tell us about your university…
I’m in my third year at New York University Abu Dhabi. It’s part of NYU but is a full degree-granting liberal arts college in the United Arab Emirates. It’s very new (only six years old) and has low student to professor ratios. Most of my classes have less than twenty people and are discussion based. All students study here for four years and have the option of doing up to two semesters and two J-terms (three week courses in January) abroad in the NYU global sites.
When did you first think about studying abroad?
I hadn’t considered the possibility of studying abroad until a representative of NYU Abu Dhabi gave a presentation about the school whilst I was in Sixth Form. I fell in love with the diversity of the student body and the thought of living in such a vibrant city. It opened my eyes to the opportunities outside of the UK.
What would you say were the deciding factors in your decision to study internationally? Did you have the travel bug or were you looking for something particular in a course?
I was already pretty certain that I didn’t want to go to university in the UK straight from school; I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study so I didn’t like the idea of choosing to signing up to an expensive degree in one subject. My plan was to take some time out to work and travel, as I’ve always loved to explore other cultures, and then I could decide. However when I discovered I had the option to live abroad and study in a liberal arts college, where I had the freedom to take different courses before choosing my major, I knew it was the right choice for me. I was also part of the first year of students with raised fees, and NYUAD were offering the chance to apply for a full scholarship, so that took away some of the risk of choosing an unfamiliar path.
Once you had made your mind up, was there much information available to you about studying in a different country? Was there a different process you had to follow when applying?
By the time I applied someone in the school year above me had already been admitted, so he was very helpful with my application. However even without him there was a wealth of information on the internet. Whilst the school is in Abu Dhabi it is an American college, and so I had to apply using the Common App (the American UCAS system). Generally it was just a case of writing a number of different essays, but Google was helpful in offering answers when I didn’t understand what the requirements meant for me. I was also lucky that they accepted A-levels which meant I didn’t have to do any extra qualifications, but I have British friends who have taken the SATs and there are lots of resources available for them.
Abu Dhabi is such an amazing place to study. Would you say that you decided on your degree based on the location or the course content?
For me it was the international nature of the student body (out of 880 students there are 113 nationalities represented) and the option to study a varied course content, but I liked the fact it was in Abu Dhabi too! I have learnt so much from the people around me since I arrived. Rather than UK or US centric we use case-studies from around the world, and I gain a unique perspective from my friends and professors about the countries that they are from. In my classes we are as likely to discuss situations in anywhere from China to Costa Rica!
You’ve had lots of opportunities to travel to different places throughout your university experience. Tell us about where you’ve been…
The travel opportunities are beyond belief. In my first year I took a three week course in New York, studying Social Media and Political Participation. We had meetings with representatives from Facebook and Twitter and our projects culminated in individually interviewing the staff of Congress members on their social media campaigns. In my second year I took a trip to Nepal for my politics class, and then spent the spring semester in Paris learning French. I’m now in my third year: in the fall I had a class trip to Kazakhstan to learn about public policy, and visited Greece to present a proposal for a refugee program I had been part of designing. I’m just about to visit India for another politics class, and then next semester I’m spending in Ghana. Oh, and last summer I lived and interned in New York for two months, thanks to funding provided by the school! That’s not to mention the trips I’ve taken by myself, making use of living in such exciting parts of the world. It’s indescribable how much I have learnt from these experiences.
Aside from family, what do you miss the most about the UK when you are away?
Tea, although I always make sure to bring a box of PG tips with me where ever I go! In all seriousness there’s not too much that I miss beyond the people back home. Sometimes it’s been hard having such different experiences from my friends but I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now.
And finally, what advice would you give to anybody thinking about studying abroad?
Do as much research as you can - the universities prefer that you genuinely know what you’re signing up for and you want to make sure that you what you’re applying for is right for you. When I was considering NYUAD I found blogs and even YouTube videos about the institution, and it was only three years old. But above all be brave and take a chance: studying abroad can be a daunting experience but in my experience it’s definitely worth taking the leap.
Thanks so much Liza for sharing your story!
In Part 2 of this blog series we will be chatting to an international student who has chosen to study their degree in the UK. Coming soon.
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