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Does Your Study Destination Have Educational Synergy?

Does Your Study Destination Have Educational Synergy? main image

“Studying abroad shouldn’t be seen as a long vacation!” This, at least, is the argument being put forward by the University of Oslo, which recently wrote to the Norwegian government to protest against expensive study-abroad programs being marketed like extended package holidays.

The university’s rector, Ole Petter Ottersen, stated that there should be “real synergy between place and education”. By this, he basically means students should choose a  destination based on educational, rather than recreational, factors (ie. the quality of the teaching, not the beaches).

“Pah!” you may well think. “If I happen to fancy studying at a university which is close to the beach and gets a decent amount of sun, then so what?” If, on the other hand, you think Ottersen’s got a point, then how can you go about achieving this “synergy between place and education”? Here are some suggestions:

University specialization

One obvious starting point is to ensure there’s ‘synergy’ between your own interests and those of the university in question. Check the details of the course being offered to see what topics you’re likely to study, and how it’s structured. If you’re not excited by what’s on offer, then no matter how good the beaches/mountains/bars are, this probably isn’t the right place for you! You could also check the QS World University Rankings by Subject, to get an idea of the university’s global reputation for your subject area.

Local resources

If you’ve ticked the first box and found a course to tickle your intellectual taste buds, the next step may be to find out what resources that will be available to you. Depending on your subject, this could mean checking out the library resources or lab equipment – but it could also involve considering the local surrounds. For example, if you’re studying environmental sciences, you might be interested to see what kind of habitats are available nearby. If you’re taking media studies, law or economics, you might want to research the availaibility of internships in your sector. Or if you’re studying sociology, human geography or politics, you may be short-listing areas where the local situation reflects your own interests. Get the idea? (Incidentally, if you can show you’ve spent some time thinking about this kind of thing, admissions tutors are likely to be impressed!)

Broader culture

Finally, you might want to take a broader view of how the local culture is likely to enrich your learning experience. This could be very obvious – for instance, if you’re studying Spanish, then immersion in a Spanish-speaking destination is likely to help. On the other hand, it may just be that you’ve got an idea of the kind of setting in which you’re most likely to thrive. Maybe you know you’ll study better in a smaller, more relaxed city, than in a huge, overcrowded metropolis. Or maybe you really do get better grades when you’re able to relax once a week by hitting the surf. 

Indeed, Ottersen isn’t saying you shouldn’t choose a place you like the sound of – obviously if you’re happy and having a good time, you’ll probably do better academically anyway. His point is rather that factors such as wave rideability shouldn’t provide the MAIN reason for choosing a study destination. But we all knew that, right?

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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