This year, QS started an insight project into the motivations of prospective international students. The first few places we’ve travelled to have all been in Europe and just last week we went truly global – having taken a 12 hour flight to Mexico City.
Mexico City is notorious for having some of the busiest international education fairs, as is Bogota, so that was our destination number two. Naturally, visiting only two out of 20 countries in the region doesn’t give us the authority to speak for the whole of Latin America, but it did provide us with a very interesting taster. We further suspect our findings might be somewhat reflective of the Latin American spirit, as Colombian and Mexican students seemed to have one thing in common – they both feel really strongly about improving their respective countries.
Interacting with students from these countries was indeed eye-opening, as we just hadn’t expected them to be so different from European students.
As you can see from the report we published based on our European research, the main motivation driving European students to study abroad is to improve their employment prospects. In fact, European students prioritise their careers so much, that they are happy to work in almost any country and have no particular desire to return to their home country after graduating.
Students we spoke to in Latin America however, have almost unanimously emphasized the fact that they want to study abroad because they believe the quality of education is often better abroad. They want to learn from different cultures, in order to bring that knowledge home and use it to challenge the status quo back in Latin America. They want to be the pioneers of new and exciting projects in their countries – be it starting new businesses to create work for the locals, bringing new advancements into the healthcare system or introducing new forms of art.
As Sebastian from Bogota shared:
‘’ The main motivation to study in Spain is the international focus and I believe the quality of education is better. I would like to get back however because those that can afford studying abroad must return here to develop Colombia.’’
Or as Mariana from Mexico said:
‘’ I don’t think Mexico is good for specialised graduate education, so I want to go abroad to be better prepared. I also want to go away to learn something new, get the international experience and bring it back to Mexico.’’
It’s quite clear that these students really do think they will have a better learning experience abroad and that it might be easier to specialise there, but they’re absolutely determined to apply this knowledge back home. Some of them seem to even think that it’s their obligation to return and develop their countries, once they’ve had the privilege of studying abroad. I was personally truly inspired by their commitment and enthusiasm.
If you’d like to hear more about these students and how they’re choosing their future university, please watch this space for updates as we will be publishing a new report summarising findings from this research in Spring 2016.