Studying abroad in 2023: Here's what you should consider

  • group of students
Published on 2023-01-25 at 10:00 by Asaël Häzaq
The new year has brought back moving abroad plans. Many students are having their revenge on the pandemic. Borders are now wide open, and the troubles caused by COVID don't seem to be affecting plans to study abroad anymore. So, what are the best places to study in 2023? How to prepare for your trip in the current international context? Here are some tips.

The return of international student mobility

Following 2020, a year marked by lockdowns, and 2021, a year when borders were reopened, 2022 confirmed the return to normalcy. Student visas are being issued again, internships are being fulfilled, and international students are back. Even the United Kingdom, plagued by Brexit and its consequences (exit from the ERASMUS+ program, etc.), has managed to maintain its good standing with international students. In 2020-2021, the country welcomed 605,130 international students in university courses, fulfilling its target of 600,000 new enrollments. Over the same period, France welcomed 302,900 international students. These are good statistics given the current context, and these numbers are expected to keep rising this year. To attract international talent, universities are competing with student scholarships and recognized programs. However, while the health crisis is now a thing of the past in many countries, the economic crisis negatively impacts expatriation projects.

Overseas studies threatened by many crises

At the end of 2022, the health crisis made a comeback within a tense socio-economic situation. How to consider studying abroad in such times of crisis? 

The health crisis in China

While the COVID peak seemed to have been reached in many parts of the world, China has not stopped counting deaths. The end of the Chinese zero-Covid policy triggered a vertiginous increase in the number of contaminations. According to doctors and specialists, this was due to poor planning by the Chinese government. Under pressure, China, which had decided not to communicate any more figures, admitted 60,000 deaths since last month. The World Health Organization (WHO) is asking for more details. Consequently, some countries have decided to reinstate border controls. PCR tests are back.

How will this affect international students? Since the summer of 2022, China has been gradually reopening its borders to international students. In November, studies in China were once again available for nationals of some 40 countries (Rwanda, United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, Mexico, France, Turkey, Qatar, Sweden, etc.). However, despite the outbreak, no travel ban has been issued. Instead, eligible persons will be required to present a negative PCR test. As the situation may change, the authorities advise students to check the official information regularly. 

Inflation and declining purchasing power

Over the past few years, the cost of living in countries like the United States, Canada, Morocco, France, and Australia has been at a record high, with figures ranging from 5 to 10 percent and peaks above 10 percent in Spain and Poland. For millions of international students, inflation comes as an additional burden, especially after the health crisis and lockdowns had deprived them of work and deeply eroded their resources. Many establishments, especially those that hired large numbers of international students, have closed or reduced their activity since COVID. This means that there are fewer small jobs now, less income sources, and more precariousness. With the reopening of the borders and the end of restrictions, students were able to return to their odd jobs. But here again, job insecurity is looming.

In Australia, international students are not giving up. At the end of 2021, Australia reopened its borders and reached out to international students. Their visa fees are to be refunded, and their work hours quota will be waived until June 2023. But inside this gift hides a wolf. Faced with a severe labor shortage, Australian businesses need workers. International students are an easily employable workforce, and some are already pointing out the perverse effects of the measure. For them, it would be better to increase wages rather than accumulate hours in precarious jobs, which, in the end, will result in less time for studies. 

The same observation is shared elsewhere in the world. The rising cost of living added to housing problems, malnutrition, stress, anxiety, and job burnout, makes it quite difficult to study, especially overseas. Many international students find themselves in a very precarious situation. Scholarships, when available, are a good complement but are not always enough. Where some universities offer additional aid, governments regularly promise solutions to the crisis. But when it comes to international students, these solutions seem irrelevant as they are too often limited to locals.

Which are the best destinations to study abroad?

According to's 2023 rankings (from a survey of international students), the UK is the best country to study in (86.97%). It leads Australia by a narrow margin (85.86%). The United States is 3rd (83.04%). Canada, the leading expat destination, is 4th (77.14%). France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain are next. South Korea closes the top 10 (66.72%). 

One may be surprised by the UK's ranking, considering Brexit. But the government has invested heavily to maintain its position as a stronghold of student mobility. Moreover, the survey does not take into account the socio-economic and political context of the country. Instead, it focuses on the quality of education, career opportunities and culture of the country. The United Kingdom has many universities with a worldwide reputation. This is enough to convince thousands of international students to try their luck. And should anyone need more incentives, it is worth noting that some universities have reserved special scholarships for international students, depending on their country of origin. 

South Korea confirms its place as the new Eldorado for international students. The Korean government is reaping the benefits of its soft power. Designed more than 30 years ago, the Hallyu (Korean wave) has since been spreading the culture of the Land of the Morning Calm through all possible channels: TV series, cinema, music, fashion, beauty, gastronomy, and so on, with all the success we are currently witnessing. International students are new ambassadors of South Korea, praising the quality of its education and its art of living.

More tips for studying abroad

Choosing a university, applying for a visa, living in a foreign country... In any case, moving abroad to study requires a fair amount of organization. Here are some practical tips to help you to prepare for your trip and live your new life abroad.

Is it necessary to learn your host country's language?

If you are only leaving for a few weeks or months to try out student life abroad, you can be satisfied with learning survival vocabulary, which is a basic kit of useful expressions for asking for directions, toilets, or the subway stop. However, this will not allow you to integrate with locals. If you are moving for a longer period or if you plan to travel there again, learning the language is essential. In fact, learning the language should be the priority as soon as you start planning your move. Learning the language will allow you to make friends, live like a local, practice activities with locals, and be autonomous. Many universities offer language courses for international students. You can also choose to attend a language school in your host country.

What is the age requirement for a student visa?

People often think that the student visa is only meant for young people. However, unlike the Working Holiday Visa (often available for students aged between 18 and 30 years old, or even 35 for some countries), the student visa has no age limit. You can therefore apply for one even after the age of 30. 

How to find a university abroad and obtain a visa?

No need to be suspenseful here! Plan well in advance! Getting a student visa takes several months. If you start too late, you will not have the required documents to travel at the right time. Do not improvise! If you are a student, check to see if your university has partnerships with institutions abroad. In any case, target the universities according to the courses they offer and your preferred field of study. Contact your future university, check your eligibility, and send the requested documents. The university will issue your Certificate of Eligibility (CoE), which is an essential document for your student visa application. Then go to your embassy with the CoE and other documents required for your visa application. These formalities can take up to 6 months. 

How to make friends abroad?

There are many ways to socialize abroad: university clubs, sports clubs, leisure clubs, parties, social media, etc. Paradoxically, making friends can be a challenge. All you need to do is be yourself and stay confident. If you are shy, introverted, or reserved, starting with a small group can help you feel more comfortable. If possible, do the activities you used to do, or discover new ones. This is one of the best ways to build strong relationships with locals and other foreigners. It's also a way to fit in.

Useful links:

Study in South Korea

Study in China

Study in Germany

Study in US