If you are from a South Asian country, chances are that you’ve already encountered this question or heard dozens of comments from your distant relatives on what is the best choice. Let me tell you right now that none of those people know what they are talking about. Why? Because they have never been to any of the countries.
When I graduated from high school 5 years ago, this was one of the biggest questions that I was faced with. I knew I wanted to go abroad, but where? Fast forward to now – I’m a graduate from a German university and work at one of the world’s leading talent investing firm in Berlin. Was it a great decision? Fuck yes!
Let’s dive in and let me show you a system that will make a decision super easy for you.
First and foremost, you should really ask yourself why are you looking to study in one of the particular countries above. I am personally a big fan of why’s because 95% of the people walk into the process of decision making without being honest with themselves and end up on the wrong track.
- Is it because you want to have a degree from a world-renowned university so that you can earn more during your job? In this case, your primary metric to consider would be university rankings and reputation – especially if you got out of a private school.
- Is it because you want to get a PR and settle after you study in your desired country? Maybe you graduated from a university back home and after a couple years of job, you’ve come to the conclusion that life is always going to be the same unless you move abroad and all your problems will disappear. Your primary metric here is immigration laws.
- Is it simply because you want to live a quality life – a better life – than what you are living right now? The above two options do not apply to you and you are sincerely looking to move abroad and live the life you’ve watched in Hollywood movies growing up. In this case, money, degree, and PR are secondary concerns for you. You don’t care as long as you wake up breathing freedom and happiness.
- You want all 3 of the above (don’t we all?)
We are not all the same and we all want different things in life – and that is okay. But what you want will, in effect, really limit your options of which country you should move to. Be honest with yourself – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be Harvey Spector with a degree from Harvard and wearing $10,000 suits.
Naturally, because I’m in love with Germany – this read might be a little biased.
Category 1: The dreams of a Harvard degree
If you fall in the first category, it’s very simple – Go to QS world rankings and drool over the thought of studying at a world-class university, 80% of which are located in either the US or UK. The thought of studying at an Ivy league should turn you on. Then use that drooling as an impulse to write the most competitive application to secure an admission. For this scenario, it’s common knowledge and clear that the US and UK lead the board when it comes to reputable universities that host 100 years of history and tradition. The tradition of college and competitiveness in these countries is legit. Also, it’s no doubt that you can use your degree as a springboard to land jobs at top tier companies – please know that this does not mean your job application will become easy with your university name on it.
However, if your credentials only allow you to fantasize about such a life and will not practically land you in one of the highly named universities maybe you should reconsider. I’m not being pessimistic and I’m not discouraging you, rather I’m being a realist and telling you what you can do to make the most out of your situation. More importantly, if you want to go to a high ranked university based solely on the fact that you believe your life will become easy once you graduate from that university i.e. you will get a great job, it’s clearly just a fantasy – just like you thought that life will get easy once you secure good grades in middle school.
This is just one of many invisible scripts:
“I don’t have a good-paying job because I’m only an undergraduate but if I go to x university for my masters, I’ll land a great job because most jobs want master degrees”
The sooner we abandon these scripts; the easier things are going to be.
Debunking the idea of Rankings & Competitive Programs
The current world – your schools, your teachers, your family, your peers – all have you convinced that if you go to a great university you will be successful in life. It’s embedded in our minds from a very early age on. Get good grades, apply to top universities, graduate summa cum laude and you’re set. First of all, that is absolutely not true and secondly, what about those people who are ambitious, have the talent, but for some reason, they cannot secure an admission in the world’s top 50? Are they not going to experience an amazing life? Of course, they are.
If you’ve been in a competitive school environment the last 5 years of your life, I don’t blame you for having this thought process of better ranking = better life but I want you to know the realities of life before being pushed out into the world – I wish someone told me this.
Let me tell you one rule, that over the course of the last 5 years I have understood very well.
Unless you’re doing Medicine, Law or an equally specialized discipline, your university degree plays very little role in paying your bills & shaping your career
Like most of us oblivious of all this reality, when I graduated high school, I did what practically most of the people do – go to QS world rankings website and whichever country has the most universities in the top 50, that’s where I will go. Of course, I was ambitious and had good grades and wanted to do great in life (I still do). I understand the position most students come from because, in my mind, it was simple because studying at a top 50 university, of course, guarantees an outstanding education, better job prospects and let’s not forget – a great salary, Right? Partly.
That’s what the world has taught us, that’s what the convention is – so it must be true. What if I told you that it’s not? What if university rankings didn’t matter? What if the metric you need to consider has never crossed your mind before?
The metric I’m talking about is diversity. I did not study at Harvard or a top tier world-renowned university but I studied at a great university and I studied like no one else. I went and took classes that I did not need to make me the only student who graduated with a weird combination of Biochemistry & International Business. I made friends from all over the world when I didn’t have to that gave me access to such valuable connections in the job market. Now I am known as the guy who made his way into a VC firm with a biochemistry degree.
Coming back to the main point – do not chase rankings, chase diversity. So, if you belong to category 1, go all in for the top but do not jump into the game with wrong assumptions.
Category 2: Making a Life Abroad
If you’re category 2, you probably do not care about universities and rankings. Of course, you still want a good education but your primary goal is to settle in a foreign country.
The countries that will allow you to do this are Australia & Canada – there’s no question about it. Your primary metric should be immigration laws and both of these countries host welcoming and lenient laws. Of course, I am not an expert in immigration and make sure to do your due diligence if you choose to apply but rather I am here to classify the options for you.
Putting these two countries in your crosshairs if you want to settle abroad is the smartest option to do – and luckily for you, if you still want a “high quality” education to come with your dreams of settling abroad, these places host great universities and there are tons of experts on the internet that can help you fulfill this dream of yours.
Having a passport from either of these countries will allow you to travel most of the world visa-free and provide you with the freedom that you have been longing for years with your not-so-great passport.
Category 3: Get me my morning coffee and let me breathe
This is my favorite category because I fall into it. Before I tell you what country to choose for the best quality of life, here’s what my values and principles are:
- I don’t care about getting a PR/citizenship as fast as possible – as long as I have the freedom to do what I want, I’m happy.
- I don’t care about graduating from a top tier university – I know I can compete for the same job and make the same amount of money as a top tier university graduate (and I have).
- I value the quality of life more than anything – this includes weather conditions, healthcare systems, tax systems, etc.
If you stack up the 5 countries in the title and rate them according to the following, here’s which country takes the lead by miles:
Let’s break it down for you!
As compared to all of the countries that I mentioned above, Germany has free education. I don’t care if some people might go into technicalities and point out that it’s technically not free but any country in this century offering education for 1/10th of the money that you would need to pay at all the other countries has my respect.
If you want to argue about rankings and the quality of education, Germany keeps it simple. If you graduate from TUM (one of the best universities in Germany) or a small university from a small town, there is no difference. Yes – Germany has a level playing field for all players and the German job market does not discriminate on the basis of your university reputation because all German universities provide the same quality of education. However, campus life and exposure might differ.
Fun fact: If 40% of the graduates stay in the country for 5 years after graduation, Germany recovers its costs they incur offering free education.
Quality of Life
One can argue that Germany has 82 million people in its tiny land when compared to Australia that has 24 million people in the enormous space of land that it has. Well dumbo – if you still think that size matters, you really need to step up your game.
Germany has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, 4 seasons, a stable government, more paid holidays, an excellent tax system that benefits you every day, a cheaper cost of living, better roads, better cars, and better beer. Not to mention the geographical location – it is perfectly located on the map with the US across the ocean on one side, Asia on the other and an amalgamation of amazing cultures within two hours of flights. Not convinced yet?
I can go on and on but I think I’ve made it pretty clear why I would choose Germany over other countries any time of the year.
Disclaimer: Don’t expect miracles – Germany takes its time when it comes to giving you full citizenship. However, at the same time, Germany also provides you with lots of opportunities to stay in the country and work – you get an 18-month job-seeking visa extension right after your graduation. This is fair and also knowing Germany is in dire need of skilled workers, I believe any person who really wants to make it in Germany, can make it in Germany.
What I also can definitely tell you is this:
If you’re asking the question, is it worth spending 6-7 years in a country before being the owner of their passport, then the answer is simple, you are most likely in the wrong category.
I can already hear some of you want to shout through this read.
“But… but what do we about the immense language barrier? We don’t speak German, is it not going to be hard for us?
This is true, language is going to be a barrier for any non-German speaker living in Germany but there are two ways to look at it:
- You can dwell on how life is going to be very uncomfortable without knowing German and learning it is going to so much extra effort that you rather go to an English speaking country and spend a fortune for your degree.
- This puts you in a position where learning German for you is very convenient – everyone here speaks German and you would be forced to do so. You will have to say “Guten Tag” & “Tschüss” whether you like it or not but if you put on the convenient learning lens, you will be able to speak a foreign language of which I do not need to explain you the benefits of.
I urge you to strongly focus on your why, once you start doing this you will realize how you can easily categorize and systemize your life. This is not just for universities, let’s say you want to join the gym; that’s good but ask yourself why? Is it because you want to lose bodyweight or is it because you want to look like Hulk? In either case, you will have a totally different approach and that is the beauty of clarifying the why’s before jumping into any decision, let alone a major one like moving to a different country.