Let these questions and answers guide anyone interested in going abroad for an exchange program, intensive English course or higher education degree. These questions and answers are very general and exceptions may occur depending on each applicant’s particular circumstances.
Would you like to improve your English or further your professional studies?
Having the language necessary to do a degree in an English-speaking country is a major obstacle for many. Acceptance into undergraduate, masters and PhD degrees is often determined by the applicant’s English proficiency, and competition is strong. A well-prepared applicant with proficient English has a much higher possibility of receiving scholarship in major universities all over the world than an applicant weak in his fluency. On the other hand, any level of English proficiency of an applicant for an Intensive English Language Program is accepted since the idea is to improve your language skills. Also, many exchange programs only require an interview in the target language. The primary concern is not accuracy, but the ability to understand day to day conversation and respond appropriately.
What is the English proficiency required for exchange programs or study of any kind?
Many exchange programs require only “conversational English” for admittance. Exchange programs which require one to take a test often have a beginner to pre-intermediate level of proficiency required. Intensive English coursed determine your process by your proficiency level, which means even basic learners, can apply to these courses. Undergraduate and graduate studies, however, require a much higher level of English for admittance. The more competitive the university and program determine the proficiency level necessary to be accepted. Oftentimes competitive students lacking a bit of English proficiency are invited to study English for one or more semesters in addition to their degree subjects. This provides competent and quality applicants whose only weakness is in English the opportunity to start their higher degree.
Is your idea to be working or studying?
In general, leaving your home country to work in another country is very difficult, for visa reasons, there are, however, some exchange programs which have an opportunity to work and study. This provides the person a little income and an experience beyond the classroom where one can immerse themselves in the native culture. English intensive courses are typically study only. Masters and PhD programs, where the opportunity to “work” during a degree is actually part of the scholarship or grant issued to the student, allow for a small stipend beyond covering tuition. An international graduate student, for example, could be teaching an undergraduate course in their field resulting in the university paying for any portion of their tuition while they study a Masters or PhD.
How long would you like to stay abroad?
The amount of time you are able to spend outside of your home country, away from family and friends, and absent from work or study is a big determiner of the program right for you. Exchange programs are typically anywhere from a few months to a year. Intensive English courses vary in their length, from weeks to months, but all mostly according to your budget. Undergraduate, masters and PhD programs, however, last 4 to 6 years depending on the program applied to.
Are you looking for scholarship or other financing for your study?
Generally speaking, financing like scholarship or grants is provided most for PhD and Master’s degrees. There is scholarship for undergraduate study, however it is extraordinarily competitive. Costs for applying to and going on exchange programs or studying English are primarily covered by the applicant; or are provided by organizations within Colombia. Lack of finances should not be considered an obstacle for your desire to study a degree abroad. Scholarship exists, it takes an experienced advisor to find the appropriate funding for each applicant.
What are the typical documents asked for by the different programs?
Intensive English courses typically ask applicants to fill out a standard application form, prove ability to travel (passport & visa) and financial proof in order to cover expenses. This includes the ability to cover the cost of the course as well as cost of living. Exchange programs will be similar, with some exceptions, for example if the exchange program includes living expenses or if the applicant will be working. Higher education study, including undergraduate and graduate, will require documents such as transcripts, diplomas and recommendation letters. If you are under 18 years of age, a letter of consent from a parent or guardian will also be required. All of these documents need to be translated into English.
What’s the difference among English proficiency exams?
Different proficiency exams evaluate the abilities of a language speaker (speaking, listening, reading and writing) a little differently. No exam is better than another and most programs have complete autonomy in the decision on which exam is required. Many universities will accept either the TOEFL or the iELTS, for example, as both are internationally certified exams. Other exams, often required for professionals looking for a competitive advantage in their home country, nonetheless only have reading and listening sections, whereas another will focus on the producing of the language and therefore test you on speaking and writing. This is also often the case for many exams required for exchange programs, where being able to speak and understand the language is deemed more important than reading and writing the language because of the tasks that will be done. Exams have different prices and are offered at different test locations on different dates. Pay attention to each program’s requirements to determine which exam is the most appropriate for you. (Check out English Matsuri’s handouts on the most popular exams).
What if I have a particular destination in mind?
There are so many different exchange and intensive English programs that having a destination in mind could enhance your experience, though keep in mind that the larger cities are not always the best for you. Living abroad is expensive, and bigger cities, can be more expensive, all over the world. Many factors should be taken into consideration when determining where you would like to be located abroad. If you are looking into undergraduate or graduate study, English Matsuri strongly recommends you look first into the best program for you with the most appropriate financing opportunities according to your needs, understanding that it is the quality of the program and the opportunities that program gives you which are the most important factor.
Does my level of education determine eligibility?
There are programs developed for children, high school students, young adults and professionals. Obviously with higher education, the proper degrees are necessary but exchange programs and intensive English programs are for all ages. No matter your education level the ability to travel abroad is there for you.
Is my age important?
In general, age is not a determining factor in eligibility. The international norm is that neither undergraduate nor graduate programs have age limits to apply, though some scholarships may require an applicant to be a certain age. Some exchange programs have age limits, depending on the purpose of the exchange, and “year abroad” programs like those of high school-age students obviously have age limits. Intensive English courses, however, tend to have no restrictions according to age.