With Ayalde offering more and more international experiences, our students now have more contact with peers from other countries. This leads to them considering options for their future which they may not have thought about previously. Our students are becoming more open-minded and receptive to globalisation and even to the need of having to go abroad to widen their horizons. Each year, more and more students are looking at the possibility of studying at universities abroad, and this year is no exception. Here is an interview with four 2nd Bachillerato students who considered spending the next few years outside of Spain.
Maria Fernandez, Maria Eza, Laura Smith and Sofia Tarela
1. Why and when did you decide to apply to foreign universities?
ME: I decided I wanted to study abroad at the start of this school year. When I was younger I lived in the UK and attended school there for some time, and loved everything about it! Also, I knew there were great universities in the UK and my friends there encouraged me to apply, so I didn’t think twice about it!
MF: Honestly, since I was very young I have always wanted to study in the US, because I think there are endless opportunities plus a very enriching experience. At first, I was not taken seriously. Nevertheless, after discussing this matter with my parents, at the beginning of the 1st year of Bachillerato I started the application process.
LS: I decided I wanted to apply to foreign universities at the end of summer, around September, because a few friends were going back to uni in England and I really liked the idea of going to university abroad. I talked to my parents about it and they fully supported me, so I started the application process in October.
ST: I was in 1st of Bachillerato when I decided I wanted to apply to universities abroad. When I was younger I lived in England for 2 years and I thought it was an incredible experience, not only because you start to master another language, but also because you make many new friends and become independent. So, I talked to my parents about applying to universities abroad and they were definitely up for it.
2. Which country did you want to go to university in? Why?
ME: My first choice was the UK, not only because of the memory I have of my life there (a great one), but also because England has some great universities, some of them internationally known. Also, knowing some people there always helps!
MF: My goal was to study in the US because university life there is so different from here. In the US, apart from academic classes, you have hundreds of clubs and activities you can join. You have the perfect combination of academic and practical aspects, which I believe is the key to success.
LS: I wanted to study in England because its education system is more dynamic, enriching and practical than in Spain. On top of that, the country itself and the university life there appeals to me. Also, universities in the UK are very international and some of them are very prestigious in different fields.
ST: I wanted to study in Holland, specifically in the Hague, because of the amazing university they have to study law and also because the International Court of Justice is there too. I also thought about applying to universities in England, but after considering it for a while, I decided I wanted to try a different country.
3. Which universities / degrees have you applied to? Why those?
ME: I have always had a big interest in everything related to mathematics or physics, but I also believe nowadays business is the key to being a valuable asset to any organisation. I applied to five degrees in different universities as I believed they gathered my interests best. I applied to: Warwick University- Engineering Business Management, Imperial College London- Mathematics with Statistics for Finance, University of Exeter- Engineering Business Management, Durham University- Industrial Engineering with a placement year, London School of Economics- Mathematics, Statistics and Business.
MF: In my case, I have applied to six universities: Stanford University, New York University (NYU), Boston University, Ohio State University, American University and Auburn University. Besides, I have applied to the University of Deusto in Bilbao. In all these universities, I have applied to International Business. Back in September, I wanted to study something related to engineering, however, thanks to Model United Nations (MUN) I completely changed my mind and realized that International Business was what truly interested me.
LS: I have applied to the University of Exeter (Business and Management with industrial experience), the University of Warwick (International Management), the University of Edinburgh (International Business), the University of Bath (International Management) and King’s College London (International Management). I have always had an interest in business, management and I wanted to add to my degree an international perspective, as well as having the opportunity of doing an additional year abroad.
ST: I think I have always had a big interest in everything related to international affairs and diplomacy, so I applied to the University of Applied Sciences in the Hague to study international law. I also applied to the University of Navarra here in Spain.
4. Was the application process difficult? What did you need to do?
ME: I didn’t find the application process difficult at all, in the UK everything works through the platform UCAS. You are able to apply to a maximum of five degrees and they notify you whenever there’s been an update to your application. It could be that one of your choices has made a decision or you’ve received an invitation to an interview. The only part of the process I found a bit hard was the Personal Statement, this is what they look at the most and therefore the most important.
MF: Admittedly, the US application process is quite long and a bit complicated. In 1st of Bachiller, you have to start preparing for the SAT, which is the equivalent of the Spanish “Selectividad”. Depending on the degree you are interested in, there are also other exams, called the SAT Subject Tests, which focus on specific areas related to the chosen degree, such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology… Moreover, you need to prepare for the Toefl English exam, which is similar to a C1 level of English. After passing these exams, you have to start working on your application through the Common App or Coalition App (I used the first one). There you need to give your personal information regarding your family, extracurricular activities, awards, sports, marks, and basically anything else that you have done during high school. Next, you need four letters of recommendation, one from your counselor, another one from an extracurricular activity and the other two from your teachers. Finally, you must be prepared to write a great number of essays. There is the main essay which all colleges you apply to receive, and then you have to write specific essays from each university you apply to. Approximately, I had to write more than 30 essays.
LS: Personally the application process wasn’t difficult, the instructions are very clear, but if not, there are thousands of videos on YouTube which can help you. You have to apply through the platform UCAS. There they ask for your personal information, school grades, a reference letter from a teacher and a personal statement, which in my opinion is the most tedious part of the application.
ST: The application process was quite simple in my opinion. Same as in England, you have to apply through a platform called OSIRIS and there you select your universities and degrees of preference. Once you have done this, you have to upload all your personal information, documents and certificates.
5. What offers did you receive? Any conditions that you have to meet?
ME: I received four offers out of the five universities I applied to, these are Warwick University, University of Exeter, Imperial College London and Durham University. In general these offers are conditional to me finishing with a 9 or 10 in Maths, 9 in Physics and 9 overall in Bachiller. Also, in all of them you need a certified high English level and at Imperial I have to pass Cambridge Step Papers 2 and 3.
MF: I have received four offers out of the six universities I applied to, these are Ohio State University, Boston University, American University and Auburn University. The usual condition is maintaining a good academic level as you have to send your final official transcript and, in Spain’s case, the final mark of “Selectividad”.
LS: I received four offers out of the five universities I applied to. I got conditional offers from Edinburgh University, Warwick University and University of Bath. In general the conditions I have to meet in order to get in are a minimum mark of 9 in Bachiller, 8.5 or more in maths and proving a proficiency level in English (CPE exam in my case). I also received an unconditional offer from the University of Exeter.
ST: About a week later after completing my application, I got accepted into the university, which I was very excited about. The only condition I have to meet is to finish 2nd of Bachillerato.
6. Which university/degree are you finally going to choose and why?
ME: Through UCAS you’re able to choose two of the offers you receive so that if you don’t meet the conditions of your first choice you still have a chance of getting into your second. I put Imperial College as my first choice and Warwick University as my second. They’re both great universities and I am sure that if I’m not able to meet the conditions to get into Imperial I will be very happy at Warwick.
MF: After considering all my options, I have decided to stay in Bilbao and attend the University of Deusto. Although I really wanted to study abroad, due to the pandemic and other circumstances I will stay in Spain for now. When the pandemic ends, I hope I can attend university in the US as an exchange student.
LS: All of the universities I applied to are well-regarded and it was a very hard choice to make. In the end I have decided to put Warwick University as my firm choice and Edinburgh University as my insurance.
ST: After a thorough consideration I decided I wanted to attend the University of Navarra and study international law here. It was a very hard decision, because each university gives me different opportunities: However, the University of Navarra is ranked as one the best universities in Spain and it also has the international perspective that I was looking for. I also know many people who go there to university and they say it meets every expectation.
7. What are you most looking forward to by studying abroad?
ME: Absolutely everything, from getting to know new people, to living abroad, joining societies and being able to learn about the things I find interesting. Also, the English educational system is very different from the one here, there are lectures, seminars and a more personal style of work. I am sure this different perspective of learning added to the fact that I will have to communicate in English, will come very handy in the future.
MF: Although I am not going to study in the US, I am really excited about college! I am really looking forward to meeting new people, joining clubs, discovering new interests, seminars, becoming a more mature person, and social events. Nevertheless, I hope I can study my Masters abroad!
LS: Everything! Making new friends, becoming independent, joining societies, discovering new things, nightlife, freshers week… even lectures and seminars! I just hope that by September Covid-19 restrictions will be more lenient.
ST: Although, I am not going to study abroad in the end, I am really hoping to do an exchange year and also study my master abroad, which is something I am really looking forward to.
8. Do you have any concerns / worries about studying abroad?
ME: Maybe how Covid will affect my life there, it would be very annoying to start the first year online or not being able to enjoy university to the fullest!
LS: To be honest, not really.
9. Any advice that you can offer to other students considering studying abroad?
ME: I would definitely encourage anyone thinking about studying abroad, it’s a great opportunity. Just make sure to do a lot of research and talk to different people to choose the right degree and the right accommodation, it will be your new home for the next few years!
MF: If you want to study in the US, start preparing early! Taking it into account since 3rd of ESO is highly recommended, as you would be able to start joining extracurricular activities which will boost your possibilities of being admitted!
LS: In my opinion if you are given the opportunity to study abroad, do it! Studying abroad is a life-changing experience for many, it opens your eyes to different ways of life and it really brings out your independent nature. Nevertheless, you want to do your research well, as you don’t want to find yourself living in a place you don’t like or studying a degree you don’t fancy.
ST: I would definitely encourage anyone who wants to study abroad to do it. I honestly had one of the best experiences of my life when I went to school in England. Just make sure it is really what you want to do, because it is the place you will call home for at least four years.