Being part of a Masters programme involves a lot more than studying, especially for internationals who move abroad. Universities realise that day-to-day matters and side activities beyond studying are also important for students. To help them settle into their new home and new lifestyle, schools make sure to provide quality student services to all programme participants. In this article, we have outlined some examples of those services that ultimately benefit every student.
For most international students who get accepted to their programme of choice, the first task on their list is common sense – finding a place to live. As someone who may be taking their first steps as an independent adult in a foreign country, having access to affordable and convenient housing is quite important. Fortunately, universities are here to help. Many international schools offer dorms and rooms on campus, which are usually much cheaper than those on the private market. However, they often provide additional information about other types of accommodation as well. For instance, the website of the University of Twente (the Netherlands) has shared the online platform for student housing in the region where internationals can apply for accommodation as well as over 25 additional sources for alternative housing for short or long stay.
Universities advise prospective students to book their accommodation as soon as possible after their spot in the programme is confirmed. Dorms and rooms provided on campus are often fewer than the students who apply for them and trying to find a place to live in only after arriving to your study destination can be a stressful experience. In addition, taking care of this aspect early on could enable you to also apply for government funding that will cover your housing expenses.
Sports and recreation
It should go without saying that recreational events and sports facilities are not only fun but also quite necessary for the well-being of students on campus. If you are particularly interested in the sports you can practise as a prospective student, check out whether the schools on your shortlist feature an on-campus gym, a swimming pool, tennis courts, or other facilities suitable for physical activity. Another important factor that should be taken into account by all reputable schools is the extent to which their sports facilities are handicap accessible.
Many universities go the extra mile by organising clubs and sports teams within the institution. For example, the American University in Bulgaria features its own AUBG Olympics event: “Held once a year in the spring, this fabulous event gives students the chance to challenge in a variety of disciplines, demonstrate their athleticism, but most of all, as with most things on campus, have loads of fun.”
Universities try to facilitate learning in every way they can, including through language courses offered on campus. Foreign languages can be studied either as part of the programme, which allows you to receive credits for taking language courses, or as an opportunity unrelated to your regular studies. At IE Business School (Spain), for instance, programme participants can improve their skills in French, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and English, but the variety can be even greater. In some cases, and depending on the programme, taking those classes may also be recommended or compulsory so as to allow international students to advance in their new language of instruction. In other cases, universities try to facilitate independent language studies for people who are eager to learn but do not have access to organised courses. The Language Zone at the University of Leeds (UK) “is open to all students at Leeds and provides learning material in more than 50 languages.” Those who are interested have access to computers, books, magazines, audio and video resources to help them learn a new language.
International student services
For foreigners, it can be especially important to properly deal with visas and documentation when arriving to their new study destination. Non-European citizens who move to a country within the European Union are usually required to apply for a student visa. Of course, the same goes for non-American citizens who wish to study in the US or Canada and so on. Depending on the particular destination, visas can have very different requirements – some are issued for a long-term period and others are short-term. In some cases, the process is fairly straightforward but in other cases, especially if the deadlines are tight, students need assistance.
This is where universities are also more than willing to help. Detailed information about visa and immigration requirements should be easily found on any university’s website. Look for useful manuals and brochures that could contain more step-by-step instructions – the International Student Survival Guide distributed online by Toulouse Business School (France) is one such example. However, students who have questions about the immigration policies or visa requirements of the country should also be able to schedule personal consultations with a university representative and get the advice they need.
So, whether you are still in the process of selecting your university or you have already set your mind on the perfect programme, keep in mind the many additional services you can count on during your studies. Do not be afraid to seek help and assistance when you need it – this will also help the school improve the quality of its student services.