With the new year now upon us, 2010 already looks to be another big year for international education. As we reported in our Financial Aid Blog, 2009 saw record numbers in the USA for international students with a large 8% increase in the numbers from the previous year. With the worldwide recession and the recent tightening of air security some think that students could be discouraged from studying abroad – but we at InternationalStudent.com believe strongly that, with ongoing government initiatives, the support of the international education community and a little push from us, the overall numbers will continue to grow!
The financial scenario for international students has changed over the past two years, mainly due to the recession which has had a large impact on the availability of financial aid and international student loans. We’ll address the current loan situation below. There are also exciting new resources available to students, new technology and social networks, that were not available to students previously.
The purpose of this post is to provide students with some guidance for 2010, highlighting some changes and pointing out valuable resources to consider for the year ahead.
International Financial Aid
The good news is that loans are still available to international students in the US, and for US students studying abroad. As always, a US co-signer is required. You can apply for up to the total cost of education, minus any other aid you receive. Visit International Student Loan for more information on loans available to international students.
The bad news – interest rates and underwriting criteria have gone up (meaning you’ll pay more in interest, and you’ll need a co-signer with really good credit). Also direct to consumer loans are no longer available, meaning your school must certify the fact and the amount of your loan each year, so there is a lot less flexibility in the amount you can apply for and the speed with which you can get your loan. There was abuse in direct to consumer loans, but they worked well for international students because of their flexibility and because international students have less resources in the US to fall back on.
Scholarships and other aid are still available, although some have been cut back, so you’ll need to start early to research and apply for scholarships.
So funding an education as an international student in 2010 and beyond will require even more initiative than it has in the past, but it remains quite doable. See our 2010 international student financing overview to get started on a plan.
It could be argued that social media was the “buzz word” of 2009 – sites like Twitter and Facebook really came into the mainstream and began to be embraced by both individuals and companies from all corners of the world. For international students, sites like these are a great way to connect with fellow students – for example the International Student Facebook Fan page now has nearly 1,000 fans and you can talk to each other, start discussions, ask us questions and find other students who are in the same boat as you! These social media sites can also be used to locate things like scholarships that people post, and Twitter is a great resource for getting up to the minute relevant information. Check out our posts on Twitter for International Students and Using Twitter to find Scholarships for more information.
Keeping in Touch
For all international students, one of the most important aspects of traveling and studying around the world is keeping in touch with your friends and family – this can not only avoid problems with home sickness but also for your own safety. Traditionally the advice was to get a phone card so that you can make cheap calls from around the world, but as technology changes, things like netbooks are very cheap and mobile phones can now be taken around the world and as long as you use them correctly you can keep in touch wherever you are for little or no cost. If you can travel with a laptop or netbook, then check out our VOIP section on free Skype calling. If you do take your mobile phone, be careful not to get hit with high roaming charges which still exist when you leave your home country – you can get around this by changing out your sim card and our article on sim cards should help explain this.
With New Year’s resolutions fresh on our mind, staying healthy should be a priority for all international students. Simple things like getting enough sleep can make a tremendous difference in our outlook on the day and its challenges, and help keep a healthy balance for body, mind and spirit. The prevalence of the H1N1/ Swine Flu virus has also subsided a little bit and although it may not be as widespread as it once was, you should still do all you can to avoid infection. A great post that gives some useful help and advice on staying healthy is available titled “H1N1 not as severe as first thought”
Once again have a very happy and healthy 2010!