Yaw is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Management of Built Environment at Politecnico di Milano. He found the programme and enrolled via Studyportals. We asked Yaw about his experience of searching and applying to a university abroad.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?
I am Yaw Osei Sampaney Agyei 25 years of age and I am from Ghana.
Where are/were you studying and what programme? What degree and how long is your programme?
I’m enrolled in a two-year Master's in Management of Built Environment at Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) in Italy.
Why did you want to study abroad?
My whole educational life has been in my home country, Ghana and I felt that I needed a change in order to experience and acquire the necessary skills and to learn internationally accepted ways of going about the day-to-day activities in my chosen field i.e. Construction.
Deciding for a university
What were your main priorities when choosing your university and your programme (e.g. academics, accommodation, university services & facilities, personal & professional development, city & culture, cost & funding, practicalities, social life)?
Funding was my main priority before settling on POLIMI and my programme. Next in the hierarchy of importance was accommodation and then services that will enhance teaching and learning. From the course contents of the programme, I have no doubt, my professional life will be enhanced after graduating from POLIMI.
Was this your first study choice? What other universities did you consider? What was the main reason of your final choice?
I got offers from Loughborough University, University of Westminster and Sheffield Hallam University, all in the UK. I rejected all of them due to financial constraints. I also was not successful accessing any of their funding options.
Did you know from the start that you wanted to study in that particular country and city? Why did you choose for this particular location?
My preferred location of study was the UK but like I said earlier I varied my choice when I realized the financial burden will be too heavy to bare.
How did Studyportals help you in your decision process?
If I remember correctly, it was through Studyportals that I discovered and applied to my first UK school.
Did you take a language test (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS) when applying for the programme? If yes, which one did you choose, why and how was your experience with it?
I took the IELTS. My decision was based on how simple and easy the IELTS application process was. A friend recommended IELTS to me because my schedule at that time was not flexible enough for me to sit for a preparatory class before taking an English proficiency test. To cut long story short, most people can prepare to take IELTS on their own if they have the necessary practice materials available.
What would be your advice for students from your country that consider to study abroad?
A lot of energy and money goes into applying for a school abroad. Obtaining academic transcripts involves money and takes time to have it ready even when applied for well in advance. Applicants literally have to be on the necks of their referees to have their recommendation letters ready on time.
I did not face much difficulties with my referee but a friend of mine was refused admission to a university outside abroad because his referee did not make his letter of recommendation ready when it was needed. It is also worth noting that schools abroad require at least one reference/ recommendation letter from an academic tutor or lecturer and it is incumbent on students who have ambitions of studying abroad to avail themselves well to their tutors/lecturers and build personal rapports and discuss future academic plans with them.
In so doing, students will not have a tough time obtaining recommendation letters from them. Many schools require non-native English language speakers to take a proficiency test and I recommend IELTS.
How did you finance your stay abroad and what financial advice would you give to future students?
I am a self-financed student (I would give anything to be on scholarship). To future students who would love to study in Italy; the tuition in Italy is manageable compared to schools elsewhere the cost of accommodation is on the high side in Milan. Students should brace themselves if they do not get into university accommodation. Also, students should have at least €6,000 to spare and have a trusted family member or a friend resident in Italy. Why €6,000 and why a trusted friend or family?
The Embassy of Italy in Ghana required all students (when I was applying for study visa) to transfer €5,380 into an account (credito rotativo) in Italy. Unfortunately, no bank in Italy will open an account for a person who is not resident in Italy or physically present in Italy. That is where the services of a trusted friend or family member is most needed. One hurdle I went through was my family in Italy finding a bank who will even do what the embassy required.
Took me about 5 weeks to get the account opened even with banks that opened the said account for other students in less than three days. The embassy does not care how the account is opened. They only require a letter from the bank stating the account has been opened. So the lesson I got from the whole visa application process is, no visa for students who can afford the tuition and €5,380 if they do not have a trusted friend or family in Italy.
Why would you (not) recommend this particular city / university? How would you rate your experience on a scale from zero to ten (0 – It was a total disaster, 10 – I had the time of my life)?
So far, so good. The transportation system in Milan is great even though I do not take the bus or the subway to school (my apartment is about 6 minutes’ walk from school). The people here are nice although only a handful can express themselves in English. At this moment, I will give my experience here a 5.
Is there anything that you would do differently if you could do it over again?
Even though my programme is taught in English, getting little things done here can be a hurdle since a few people speak English. I would have gone for Italian language class back home before starting school in Italy. I got admission to POLIMI late 2014 and started school in October 2015. That would have been the time to get well acquainted with the Italian Language. My school offers free Italian class for absolute beginners so I will be able to communicate in Italian in no time.