11 Worst Countries to Study Abroad in 2024

In those days, if you moved to, let’s say, the U.S. to study, finding information was quite a challenge. For instance, you may have no clue how severe the winter would be in Urbana-Champaign. Nowadays, however, with just a click and a scroll, you can uncover everything from deadlines and scholarships to application processes, and interview questions, and you can even connect with your future classmates right from your home country. You can also determine if a country is worth it or not for you. So, in this post, we’ll be looking at the worst countries to study abroad, and not because they are anything terrible, but just some factors you should prepare to encounter as a student.

Worst Countries to Study Abroad

1. Norway

If you have the chance to study abroad, I’d really suggest considering it for many reasons, and Norway is a great place to be. It’s mostly university students from other countries who come here, but since the government stopped offering free education to those from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, many choose to go elsewhere. When it comes to international rankings, only a few Norwegian universities rank highly, like the University of Oslo, the University of Bergen, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. However, getting in isn’t simple. You need to reach a B2 level in Norwegian, and, even with professional courses, learning the language is tough. Even if you become slightly above B2, you’d still come across unfamiliar words and find writing in Norwegian to be slower.

Studying in Norway is still cheaper than in many parts of the USA. Student visa holders are also allowed to work here. You do need to show you have enough funds to support yourself as a student when moving here. I wrote an article about countries that allow international students to work full-time, and Norway is among them (to an extent), so you should check that out.

A significant upside is this country’s healthcare system. After residing here for 3 months, you qualify for the national health service. Just make sure to obtain travel insurance for the first 3 months, but generally, unless you need hospital care, medical costs are quite low.

2. France

Consider France for its affordability, but steer clear of pricier areas like Paris. Often, when people hear about low tuition fees, scholarships, or the chance to study for free, they lose sight of the main purpose of pursuing a Master’s degree, which is to advance towards their dream career. Studying for free won’t be much help if you end up unable to find a job after studying in France.

If you are not fluent in French and aren’t open to learning it, you could find it difficult here, despite the availability of courses taught in English.

You’d hear some concerns about security in France. However, this doesn’t mean that the country is unsafe from attacks; efforts are continuously made to prevent them. Unfortunately, there are limits to what can be done, and the government tries its best to protect all. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t deter you from going to France to study. Such threats you’d find here also exist in many places, including London, Brussels, Berlin, and beyond.

3. United Kingdom

Yes, the UK is a preferred study destination but is easily the worst place to study abroad in terms of employment ratio. Only 7% of international students land jobs with UK companies. So, I hate to disappoint, but while UK education is top-notch and you may even get a scholarship, getting a job is a whole other story. It’s tough for many to find work or even internships. It’s not as easy as it looks on paper.

You could be highly experienced in your field, know your stuff, and are quite sharp, yet you could struggle to get even a handful of callbacks in months. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the outlook is gloomy.

Since the UK’s industrial decline, most of its wealth is now centered in London. And even in London, it’s mainly the finance sector that’s booming. So, for engineers, it’s not the ideal place.

I once came across an interesting saying that if you remove London from the equation, the UK would rank as the poorest country in Western Europe. It really goes down to what you want post-graduation. If your goal is to soak in a rich educational experience, learn from a diverse group of peers (though this may not apply to all courses), expand your network, and then return to your home country to leverage all that, the UK is perfect. However, if you want to settle in the country where you study, there might be other countries that are more accommodating. It’s not that settling in the UK is impossible, but there are places where it’s easier to do so.

4. Switzerland

This list is in no particular but our number 4 worst country for international students is Switzerland. Switzerland has cheap tuition fees, and you may find scholarships for yourself. However, obtaining a work permit is difficult, and finding jobs later can be a problem. It’s hard for me to suggest Switzerland as a study destination if you are coming from outside the EU. You’ll likely spend around 2 years here, getting immersed in the culture, making friends, and building your network. But after you graduate, the chances of being able to stay and work here are slim, even with a master’s degree from a Swiss university, which doesn’t give you much of an edge.

Regarding hostility, you probably won’t encounter any within the university environment, but outside, it’s possible. Middle Easterners form a much smaller community here compared to countries such as Germany, France, or the UK.

5. Germany

Education here is free or you could say ‘cheap’ but Germany is one of the worst countries to study abroad right now. The idea of “free tuition” draws many people into this country. But let me tell you, when they say free tuition, it’s not exactly free. You end up paying with your sweat from the countless hours spent researching and understanding your courses well enough to pass the incredibly difficult exams. The sweat is also from juggling a job while stressed and lacking sleep. Tears could even come when, despite your efforts, you fail your exams, maybe more than once.

In Germany, particularly in the STEM fields, finding a job doesn’t seem to be a major issue. As for business courses, I’m not as certain.

German higher education is tough, not at all a walk in the park, especially for those who haven’t really looked into what they want to study and why. Universities may also look cheap, but when you add living expenses, you will not save as much as you would by studying in your own country (depending on your country).

I’ve also found that achieving the C1 level in German is one thing, but reading academic texts in German and communicating in an academic setting is an entirely different task.

6. USA

The US doesn’t widely promote its scholarships, but there are indeed opportunities for funding through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and graduate assistantships. Moreover, the job prospects and salaries for students in STEM and MBA fields are notably higher in the US than in many other countries. That’s why I recommend considering STEM programs in the US, and Canada too, as these countries have consistently been reliable destinations.

It looks like everyone in the US is living like millionaires, but that’s not exactly the case. Keep in mind that living in the US can be really expensive. Even though some cars may be cheaper, healthcare can be a lot more expensive. And yes, while some jobs in the STEM fields such as computer engineering, product management, data science, or in business fields like investment banking and management consulting do offer high salaries, this isn’t the case for all jobs. Outside of these areas, the average salaries in the US are generally between $60,009 to 85,000 a year. If you plan to study abroad in the US, be ready for the hard work and effort it requires.

7. Italy

You don’t necessarily need to work in Italy, and as an international student, finding a job can be tough if you are not good at Italian. Students from outside the EU have a lot of paperwork to deal with. And, don’t expect everyone to speak English, including landlords or university staff. The university administration can also be challenging, especially with a language barrier. Also, not all universities offer courses in English.

The main reason Italy is one of the worst countries to study abroad isn’t really about working conditions but rather that the pay is generally low and the really good job opportunities are scarce. Most big companies are into consulting, and the really attractive positions are highly competitive.

If you decide to go for it, try to get internships. Professors do have connections with companies and labs across Europe, and you can work on thesis projects with companies or even other universities. I’ve seen people collaborate on projects with universities in the US or the EU. Italian education tends to be very theoretical, so you’ll need to seek out practical experiences on your own.

8. Brazil

You’ll find what you are looking for in Brazil, but there’s the language barrier, which makes this place one of the worst countries to study abroad. Without Portuguese, it’ll be difficult and you could feel isolated. It’s also rare to find courses taught in English here.

Brazil’s regions are incredibly diverse, to the point where you’d feel like you are in a different country. You should consider São Paulo or the South region. Studying in Brazil is a good experience, but enrolling in a full degree program without fluent Portuguese isn’t feasible. The entrance exams are in Portuguese, and you’ll need to be fluent to compete. I recommend trying for an exchange program through your university. Otherwise, spend a couple of years learning Portuguese before your application.

9. Russia

In Russia, you’ll have a problem moving money into and out of the country, which really depends on where you live. If you are concerned about the attitude of Russians towards foreigners, it’s true that there has been an increase in hostility due to the tensions between Russia and NATO. However, it’s generally still safe for foreigners. You may encounter some overly patriotic people who express negative opinions about foreigners, but it usually doesn’t go beyond words. This is more common with European foreigners. Since Russia’s relations with the West have cooled, Russians are increasingly viewing countries to the East as allies, so you are less likely to face issues on this front.

Racism is another issue that can’t be ignored, and while it’s possible to come across as a racist person, they are becoming less common, especially in larger cities. They might insult you, but physical harm is not likely. It’s important to note that these incidents are rare, and you may never encounter them at all.

10. Saudi Arabia

At number 10, we have Saudi Arabia. Like other countries, Saudi Arabia isn’t a perfect study location. In Makkah, for example, it is difficult to study here due to restrictions on non-Muslims. It’s rare to hear about study abroad programs in Saudi Arabia, which may involve joint research or visiting professors instead.

Saudi Arabia can be tough for foreign students, especially outside major cities. For studying Arabic, Egypt or other Arabian Peninsula countries such as the UAE could be better destinations. If you are considering Saudi, look into King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah or King Saud University in Riyadh.

Cultural adaptation in Saudi Arabia includes adjusting to different shopping and dining norms, no nightlife, and a relaxed approach to time. As a foreigner, sticking to major cities reduces the risk of encountering intolerance. Make sure to register with your embassy and respect local customs. Pets, especially dogs, are not common, and veterinary services are limited.

11. Japan

Japan is one of the worst countries to study abroad because a degree in Japan is only worth it if you plan to work in Japan. If you plan to live and work in Japan post-graduation, then Japan is a good option. However, if you are planning to study in Japan only for university and then relocate elsewhere, it is even better to consider universities in the US or Europe. This is because degrees from these regions are often held in higher esteem in the West compared to a degree from a Japanese university. The quality of education will also be enhanced due to the availability of more English-speaking courses.

Conclusion

That’s really all you need to know here about some of the worst countries to study abroad. This doesn’t mean that these destinations are not worth it. It really depends on what you want, and then see if a particular country aligns a lot more with your interest.

Before settling on a country, try to thoroughly research job opportunities for international students. I always advise applicants to reach out to current students and recent alumni on LinkedIn. Ask them about their job search experience—was it easy or difficult? And importantly, don’t base your major life decisions solely on what influencers have to say about a particular country. Not even my advice should be taken without question. I urge you to conduct your own research and make informed decisions. Do not blindly follow anyone’s advice.

Read Also7 Worst Online Colleges

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