Five tips to decision-making if you want to study abroad
Among the more important things we do in life is to take decisions. At a time of information overload, this can be particularly challenging. And yet, this is the time of year when students have to make up their minds on their future course of study. It is one of the most difficult and important decisions they would need to take and would, most certainly, impact them for the rest of their lives.
Trends suggest that there would be an increasing number of Indian students who would be opting for higher studies, particularly in Australia.
What are some of the key things to keep in mind?
Do your homework, but don't get bogged down: Doing your homework and basic research are important, but too much information can make decision-making difficult and even confusing. It is important to decide what subject you would like to pursue, where you would like to study, whether you meet the entry and eligibility criteria and, finally, do you have the required funds to pay for it. Given the Indian Rupee-Australian Dollar exchange rate, studying in Australia is significantly cheaper than opting for the US and the UK, which pose additional and new challenges.
Know how to apply: If you are going through an education agent, first find out which education agents have been empanelled by the university of choice. For instance, the internationally-ranked University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, has only 12 registered India-based education partners. No one else is authorised to process student applications. The list is available on the university's website. Furthermore, empanelled agents are not authorised to charge students for services they render. Such payments, or commissions, are paid by the university.
Know why you are pursuing higher studies: Simon Sinek, in his path-breaking book, "The Power of Why", emphasised the misplaced emphasis that so many place on "what" and "how" without ever knowing "why". If we know "why" we are planning on a particular course of action, other things fall in place. In terms of sequencing, "why" is where we first start. You can decide, for instance, to pursue an undergraduate course in Finance and Accounting if you are clear in your mind as to why you would like to do so. Once you know your "why", the "where" is easy.
Embrace Change: Often our parents, in particular, and sometimes even we, fear the uncertain. Living abroad, especially if it is the first time, can be challenging. Is it safe? What is the culture like? Would my son or daughter make friends? Would the studying and living culture cause problems? These are all legitimate questions and anxieties. At the same time, if the decision is to study abroad, it is important to be open to change. Some things might be similar to what we are used to but there would be big differences in several other aspects. What is particularly fascinating is that "other cultures" open up the mind to new ways of seeing and thinking -- and even behaving.
Learn with Passion: We can learn every single day but only if we are open to it. "Smell the roses" we are told and yet, we rarely do. Employability is not a quotient of how many books we have read or quotations we know by heart but how we are able to relate with our external environment. This is what employers look for because what they want are persons who can work in a team, who can take decisions and, consequently, who anticipate and solve problems without compromising on integrity and values. Great educational institutions recognise this and embed it into their pedagogy. It is what makes them stand out.
(Amit Dasgupta, a former diplomat, is the inaugural India country director for UNSW Sydney. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)