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Don't Study in the US (or, How to Make an Informed Choice): Part 1

For a whole academic year on this blog we have talked about what it’s like to study in the U.S. and how to make it happen, giving tips on everything from getting financial aid to acclimating to American society. But let’s be clear – our goal is not to say that studying in the U.S. is your only option, or that it’s the right choice for everyone.

In this series of posts, we'll explore the pros and cons of studying in the U.S., and talk to students who studied abroad and who stayed at home to learn how they made their choices.

Seeking Opportunity

Arwa Shahzad and Amna Tariq Shah are two educated, well-spoken young women from Pakistan. And, uniquely for this blog, they have both received their education exclusively in Pakistan.

At 17, Arwa is just beginning her higher education at Punjab College in Gujranwala, Pakistan. She says education is vital to her own future and the future of her country.

I won't lie about the education system in my country. The richer gets the better. You don't see every single kid going to school; not every kid reading the same book. More than 75% of the population is deprived of proper food, shelter and employment - they don't have time to think about educating their kids. The best they can do is to send them to inexpensive government schools where all they learn is how to bunk school to escape the regular beating.

Foreign universities offer a broader range of educational courses, allowing students a greater spectrum to choose from which enables them to pick just the perfect field of their interest, allowing them to advance in it proficiently.

Arwa received her high school education at Beaconhouse, a private school. She’s currently studying pre-medicine and hopes to get a medical degree with an advanced specialization.

Amna is 27-years-old and pursuing an advanced degree in English literature and applied linguistics at Peshawar University.

“Good education is the backbone of a good life – it is as important as breathing is for any living beings,” she says. “It facilitates you to live with respect in society and enjoy appreciation; have a good lifestyle; and it also provides an opportunity to improve the social flaws existing in your society.”

Like Arwa, Amna says that education overseas is perceived as more valuable in Pakistan. Some of her friends have studied abroad, seeking better educational opportunities:
They made that decision because we, in Pakistan, believe that the standard of education in countries like Australia, USA or UK is much better than ours, so it’s always regarded as a good choice if we have the option available. Also because when foreign graduates come back to Pakistan, they seem to have better job opportunities because of their advanced and rich level of education.

Finding Obstacles

Amna does not plan to follow her friends in studying overseas. She’s considered it, she says, “but I cannot bear the expenses so I never actually took any practical steps.”

Arwa hopes to study abroad at some point. For now, though, she says her parents will not allow her to leave the country for education:
If I consider the opinion and the decision of my family, they won't let me go. I'm being practical. Gender discrimination is still a factor. Although female education is being promoted very rapidly, parents don't like to risk sending their daughters overseas to study…. As far as I am concerned, I hope to get graduated from Pakistan. I think my parents will probably allow me when I'm old enough to continue higher education from overseas because they will think of me capable enough to make a decision such as this wisely by then.

But, admits Arwa, for some students staying at home may be a better option.

For many careers, an education in Pakistan is just as effective, and cheaper, Arwa says. And the educational curriculum more directly prepares students for their chosen careers than an American liberal arts education might.
But those who stay in Pakistan and complete their education here find it easier monetarily as well as pedagogically. The careers we normally chose are accomplished under supervision of sincere institutional management here too. We don't have every fourth individual studying music or choosing fields such as atomic engineering, space sciences etc; subjects whose higher education is better taught in developed countries such as the US. so unless students find the study of a specific subject unsatisfactory and insufficient here, they rarely decide to go abroad.

In our next post, we'll look more in depth at reasons you may choose not to study overseas, and how to decide if it's the right option for you. Stay tuned!

Are you studying in the U.S. or hoping to? Share your stories and experiences with the Student Union's readers to help other students. Email