Foreign degree

The duration of a foreign degree depends on the degree you choose and where you study: a Masters often takes 2 years, a PhD often 4 years. You will leave your university after your completed your earlier degree (for example, if you want to do a foreign Masters, you need to have finished your Bachelor). You will be registered at the new university, and are not a student of your university original university anymore. You have to apply for the degree at the university you want to go to, after which you wait for acceptance. After your study you will graduate from that university and will get a diploma from that university.

When do you have to start organizing your stay abroad?
1.5 year to 1 year prior to the start of the degree.

What do you need before you can go abroad?
A diploma of the degree required to start of your foreign degree (for example, to start a Masters you need your Bachelors diploma).

When will your stay abroad start?
For a Masters, at the beginning of a university year (often September). Some universities often a mid-year start (often February). However, a PhD that focuses on research only can be started at any time, in discussion with your PhD supervisor.


If you’re choosing a Masters degree abroad, you will first finish your Bachelor degree in your home country and continue your study somewhere else. The same accounts for your PhD – you will most likely have a Masters degree from your home country. However, you could also decide to study a Masters in one country, followed by a PhD in another.

Choosing to study a full degree abroad can have a lot of reasons: you are completely international minded, you don’t like living in your country anymore (maybe you’ve seen everything), you’ve experienced the foreign university briefly and it was completely your way of studying, your interests for further study have changed or the specialization field is not available at your university or in your country. Other reasons are possible as well, simply add your own.

A foreign degree has everything. You won’t only learn the local culture, the culture differences, the way people teach, study and learn, you will also learn the other country’s true mentality, the way things work. It’s like emigrating from your country and living somewhere else, and living somewhere else means experiencing everything. It will take time, and you will miss your family and friends.


Your options for choosing the university you like to go to are endless, because you will register yourself at that university. Your own university will have nothing to do with you anymore, it’s similar to choosing your university after high-school. Organising your study will be mostly done by yourself, but you can always request help from others. First of all, you need to choose where you want to go. This can be anywhere in the world, based on your previous experience, your thoughts, your opinion, the country’s view, the university’s goal, everything.

If you first choose a country and not a university, you still have multiple universities to select from. If you choose a particular university (or several universities), you have to be prepared for the possibility they will deny your application. If this happens, if they don’t accept you, you have to have a second, third, fourth choice. Create a priority list with universities you would like to go to, so that if one does not accept you, you decide to go to the second on that list. Remember: when applying, apply for all. When you apply for one only, and you receive a negative response, the deadline for application at the second might already have passed!

With every choice of university, you choose the department of specialisation. It is common to choose the department in which you’ve finished your previous degree, but it’s possible to choose another if you want to redirect your studies. Be prepared though, the university checks if you’re capable of following that particular degree, which they determine from the transcript and marks of your previous degree.

Every university has a different application deadline. If you haven’t applied when the deadline has passed, you can’t get in. Every university has different application requirements too. However, you can be sure to have to take care of the following: admission tests, language tests and references.

For some universities you have to do an admission test and/or language test. These tests are often performed at specific locations within your country, and there can be a waiting list for taking them. Make sure you register for the required tests in time, because you need the test results before the application deadline. Universities are tough about deadlines.

You also have to take care of references. You need to find professors who know you enough so they can write about you. And you have to hope they write well about you, because a good reference shows you’re a student that the next university can be proud of. As you might have learned in your Bachelor degree, professors are busy and they still are when you ask them to write a reference letter. Again, be in time and ask several professors. Also, ask if they are willing to write more than one reference letter. Because you will apply for more than one university, and you’re not only going to need them for the university application…

Which brings me to the following: you often need references for funding (scholarships) too. A university study is expensive in your own country, but it’s probably more expensive abroad. You might have gotten governmental subsidy in your own country, but you won’t get this abroad. So, you need money. There are scholarships and funds for this, and they all have their own application requirements. Studying a degree abroad is a highly selective process: universities only choose students who they think will finish and funding organization only choose students who they think need or deserve money. Finding funding is more complicated than finding universities: there’s often more students than there are scholarships available. Websites are able to assist you with funding opportunities for certain countries, and some organisations are able to help you look for other financial options.

The application deadlines for universities can be up to 9 months prior to the starting date of the study. Application deadlines for scholarships and funds are often similar. Therefore, you need to start early. If you find yourself at a moment where a new university year starts in about 3 months and you just decided you want to study your degree abroad, I’m afraid you have to wait a year. It’s a perfect time to start your process though.

So, you spent a huge amount of time filling in all those application and scholarship forms, you sent everything to their respective places, and you paid all the admission fees (applying for a university is not free), you hear about the universities that have accepted your application. Then it’s time to select the one you want to go to, and think about a visa. Because you’ll be staying in another country for quite a while, you can’t just go there without the right student visa. Luckily, the embassy of the country where you will go to will help you with that. They provide you with information on how to get a visa, requiring more forms and more requirements, one of which even can include a medical test. Of course, the visa itself is not free, but it’ll be cheaper than the university tuition fees.

If you need help with any of the steps above, the international office at both your current and prospective university can help you. But remember, you will have to do everything on your own, the international office can only guide you to the right direction.

To-do list

A short overview of what you need to do:

  • Start early, because of application deadlines. Document everything, as you can easily loose track of everything that’s necessary.
  • Choose the universities that are of interest to you. They can be in one country, or all over the world, it’s your choice.
  • Check the application deadlines and requirements for each of the universities. Prepare a package for each application, and create your own document and requirements checklist.
  • Register for the required tests and perform the tests. Make sure you’re in time to do this as waiting period can apply.
  • Find professors prepared to write reference letters for you. After you’ve asked to write them, keep in contact as you might need more letters.
  • Fill in the university application forms. Make sure you provide all other required documentation, including test results.
  • Search for funding. Don’t just focus on a single scholarship or funding source, and don’t omit loan offers. The international office of your current university and funding websites are of great help.
  • Check the application deadlines and requirements for each of the funding sources. Prepare a package for each application, and create your own document and requirements checklist.
  • Fill in the funding application forms. Make sure you provide all other required documentation, including test results.
  • Investigate the requirements for your visa. When accepted into a university and you have decided, apply for the visa (remember that also here you need plenty of documentation).
  • Find housing near the university where you’re going to study. The international office of your future university can possibly assist here.
  • Arrange everything for your long stay abroad. Possible items: local health insurance, travel insurance for the trip, shipping of personal effects.
  • Go abroad, study hard and have a unique experience.

Helpfull information

Try to get in contact with people who’ve done this before, they know exactly what obstacles you’ll face. Start early. Let the professors know exactly what you want and what your ambitions are. Spend a lot of time writing your study plan and study motivation essay: it’s the most important document in an application. Keep track of all deadlines and be on time.

Common application contents:

  • Application form
  • Reference letters from professors (often 2 or 3)
  • Study plan and motivation essay (sometimes 2 separate essays)
  • Transcript & diploma
  • Test results (admission and language test)
  • Resume / curriculum vitae
  • Financial overview
  • Copy of passport