The truth about continuing one’s education is that it is expensive – particularly here in the United States. As tuition skyrockets and the economy continues to lag, competition for good jobs increases and pushes the expectations for education to ever higher standards. You will hear a recent college graduate argue with his or her parents about the future. The youth will say that they cannot get a job without a higher degree and the parent will defer to experience and assert that a college degree is enough to find serious pay. For some industries, this argument is entirely moot, for market has already decided for both parties that a BA will earn significantly less than an advanced or professional degree and confine one to the lower few rungs of the ladder. The question, thus, becomes – are you ready for the debt?
Debt? Is there another option available? Here’s an idea from left field (just one of many viable left-field ideas) – how about a foreign government scholarship? Hm? Wouldn’t you like an MA, MS, MPP, PhD, LLM, or MBA that’s fully paid for? How about a stipend? And a plane ticket? Free housing! No debt! No catch! Sound like a scam? If this were a television commercial with an 800 number it would be but, thankfully, it’s not.
There are plenty of foreign governments that provide a range scholarships (including full-boat ones!) to Americans. A former colleague of mine had lunch with Ambassador Hamid from Brunei last year. Ambassador Hamid indicated that Brunei’s government gives away about 5 scholarships per year for Americans who want to obtain a master’s degree, covering multiple different fields. PhD options and BA options are also available. He also indicated that in the application cycle for the year of 2010, the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam did not receive even one single application.
While some countries that offer government scholarships to Americans, like Germany, tend to have significantly more competitive applicant pools, Ambassador Hamid’s comments prove that there are valuable, enriching opportunities waiting to be seized. It’s just a matter of whether or not you are willing to seek them out and take hold of them.
Below, I have made a list of some of the government scholarship programs I have heard of through my exposure to various diplomatic missions here in Washington. I’m sure that this list is in no way comprehensive. There are bound to be more. If there is a particular country to which you are interested in going that is not listed below, I highly advise that you contact their Embassy and ask to speak with the officer who covers education (you can find some contact info here or just do a Google search). There will be someone at the mission who is charged with the duty of explaining to curious Americans whether or not such opportunities exist in their country. Sometimes, finding this kind of information takes a bit of digging. However, if you are willing, it could very well pay off in the end – especially if you’re finding information that others have not found.
Perhaps you’re skeptical. Perhaps, you think that most people already know about these opportunities. The fact is that even at the University of Chicago the Career Advice and Planning Services advisers and the individual faculty advisers (even those who focus on international studies, scholarships, and study abroad programs) are not entirely aware of these opportunities. When I was there, not one individual even suggested that they might exist. Fortunately, they do. Here are just a few of them:
Austria: The Oesterreichischer Austauschdienst (OEAD) offers research grants and scholarships for studying various fields in Austrian Universities.
Brunei: Most likely, you will need to contact the Embassy directly for information about the scholarship and an application form for the current cycle.
China, People’s Republic of: Information about Chinese government scholarships are available through the China Scholarship Council’s website.
China (Taiwan), Republic of: Taiwan also has its own set of scholarships that cover both degree programs (BA, MA, PhD) and language enhancement programs. You can read about them here.
Germany: Offering many programs through the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (or DAAD), German government scholarships can even sponsor you to study in other European countries in addition to Germany (depending on the degree program and field of study). Read all about it on the DAAD website.
Indonesia: While I’m unaware of Indonesian government scholarships, there is a great organization called USINDO that offers some grants and fellowships for study in Indonesia. These vary from year to year.
Japan: There are an array of scholarships for study in Japan. These can be extremely competitive. The most comprehensive scholarship program the Japanese government offers is the Monbukagakusho Scholarship (offered by the Ministry of Education). You can read about the Japanese government study programs on the Study in Japan website.
Korea, Republic of: South Korea offers a great scholarship program for Americans to study in Korea. BA, MA, PhD, and professional degree programs are available. The scholarship also covers a year of language study. You can read about the Korean Government Scholarship Program on the National Institute for International Education website.
Switzerland: The Swiss government offers scholarships for foreign students to attend universities, arts, and music schools. Check out their website here.
There are some websites that try to post these types of opportunities. One such website that I find to be fairly informative and relatively easily navigable is Scholarships Online. They also tweet as they go @ScholarshipsDB.
Many scholarships are also offered by Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Singapore, and so forth. For the sake of space I have not listed them all here. While some are general and can be applied to multiple disciplines, many are also specific to certain fields of study – such as computer science, engineering, biotechnology, robotics, etc. As in some of the examples above, some countries also offer grants for language acquisition, like Italy.