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The Mayhem! guide to studying abroad

After a few terms of hanging around the same bars, clubs and pubs – even the same old library, it’s easy to become bored with the same old crowd and surroundings, day after day. So, if time and course permits, or if you’re looking for a post-grad challenge, why not spread those wings while you can and grab your passport for a spell studying abroad – and by that I don’t mean in Scotland!

Ahh, Florence. Pronounced ‘flo-rent-zhee-ah’ if you want to sound cultured. The jewel of Italian culture, an artistic icon of a city with spires and domes  to make Oxford weep. Beautiful foods, wines, scenery and people – Italians have a knack of making you feel and look inadequate The University of Florence can trace its origins back to 1321 with Civil Law, Literature and Medicine among the original disciplines taught. The main faculties at the university today are Agriculture; Arts; Economics; Education; Law; Engineering; Mathematics; Physical and Natural Sciences; Medicine and Surgery; Pharmacy, and Political Science.

Though whether or not you’d actually do any studying, what with all that clubbing, eating and drinking to get done is another matter

The most laid back city in Europe? Probably. Teeming with culture and history there’s no better place to go for a veritable feast of new and extremely pleasurable experiences for both the physical body and the mind – usually both at once!

Amsterdam has two research universities, the Universiteit van Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit.  Both offer a wide variety of study disciplines, many of which are taught in English. Amsterdam also has schools that provide vocational training known as Hogescholen, which not only offer BA/BSc degrees as well as post-grad opportunities.

Especially relevant today with the ever rising costs of higher education – and with US universities positively fighting among themselves to lure the cream of British school leavers and undergraduates, there may be no better time to study in the Colonies. One perceived benefit of the US system is that you don’t have to declare your major until the end of your second year of study – and, even then, you can still opt to take some additional subjects.

And it needn’t be financially impossible to study there either. Harvard regards itself as a global university, attracting the best and brightest from across the world and, crucially, extending its intake beyond affluent America. Since 2002, it has instituted a ‘needs blind’ recruitment policy – in other words, if you’re accepted on academic grounds, the university will commit to paying whatever it takes to get you there – so no debts when you graduate! Students opting to study in the US also cite the much greater flexibility of their system as another attraction. Economics students, for example, can opt to take peripheral classes in such disciplines as  humanities and languages.

As with all things, it’s always important to remember that the world doesn’t begin and end in your own backyard. Students from all over the world have been attending UK universities for longer than anyone can remember. What do they know about studying abroad that we don’t? Certainly, much as we’d like to think so, it isn’t because our colleges and universities are academically superior – maybe, just maybe, it’s because of the challenge of the change and the opportunity to step out and away from predictable routine.

By Edward Couzens-Lake