A lot of Pakistani students contemplate going abroad for studies. There are many important factors to consider when you are planning to go abroad. There are many confusing choices, and a lot of decisions have to be made like which country to go to?, what to study over there?, how to get funds to finance the education?, What type of scholarships are available? and how tough the studies would be in that foreign University. In addition another factor to consider is if you will be able to get a job after graduation and live and work in that particular foreign country.
In my opinion there is another very important and often overlooked question regarding studies abroad. And that question is “when is the right time for me to go abroad?”. There are a number of stages of your academic career at which a move abroad can be made. Some students want to go after matric, some after FSc or intermediate, some after completing their undergraduate (bachelors) degree and some go after doing graduate studies. So the question is what is the best time to go abroad?
In my opinion the best time is after completing your undergraduate studies – that is after having a four year bachelors degree from Pakistan and a job experience of around 1-3 years. I ll try to explain why this is the best time:-
1. By the time you complete your bachelors you are 22 years old, and with 1-2 years of work experience you are around 24. This is an age at which you are still young (I know 16 year olds are thinking young at 24?), you have some experience of professional work, and yet you are mature enough to be able to settle and adjust in a totally alien environment. When you go abroad you get exposed to a completely different culture from Pakistan and if you are very young like 18 or so, it becomes almost impossible to maintain your identity and at the same time absorb the good things of the western culture. At 22 to 24 you can easily manage that. You can keep your values and adopt other values that are good from the west without becoming totally westernized.
2. I have seen most students who go at the age of 18 after doing their intermediate to the west, completely lose their identity. They either become totally westernized or go to the opposite end and become extremely anti west and religious which they were not when they were in Pakistan. They suffer from a complete identity crises and end up embracing one side blindly, instead of adopting the good points of both.
3. The largest number of scholarships that are available are after a bachelors degree whether they are from HEC or from a foreign source like FullBright or common wealth or Erasmus Mundus. Even if a university directly offers a scholarship it is for students who are coming for masters or PhD so that they can be appointed Teaching assistants and help in teaching a lab or course at the undergraduate level. There are very few scholarships for higher studies after doing just FSc.
4. It is much easier to get a part time job abroad during studies if you already have a bachelors degree. You have acquired certain skills that an employer might want. There skills could be programming, web site designing, graphics, electronics, writing, presentations skills, dealing with customers, marketing, knowing different software packages like word, excel, SPSS, power point etc.
5. You reading and writing skills are much improved and its easier to communicate effectively after having a university degree.
6. You are much more sure of what you want to study and what you are good at. At intermediate level you are not mature enough to understand what exactly you want to do for the rest of your life. Your priorities, interests, and aptitude change and are more closer to reality after you have done your bachelors.
7. It costs a lot less to do a 1-2 year masters than a 4 year bachelors degree from abroad. In the end its your final degree that counts towards your job and not your previous degrees. So just in terms of value for money doing an MS from abroad is much better than a bachelors. After doing your bachelors from abroad you might find that you or your parents have run out of money and you cannot afford further education.
8. Bachelors level education in Pakistan is quiet good, and basically has the same curriculum as abroad. If you do well and study hard in your bachelors you will find that you do not have much deficiencies to cover during your specialization. This is specially true for BBA, engineering, medical, Law etc.
Keeping these things in mind, I would say the best time to go abroad is after doing your bachelors from Pakistan from a good University.
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