Life Abroad
10 min

Why the US is not the best place for study

After completing their high school education or receiving their undergraduate degree, many people strive to continue their education in the U.S.

It’s believed that studying in the West is prestigious, career prospects are breathtaking, and life is simply better.

But in fact, not everything is so easy and simple as it may look in pursuit of the American Dream. Together with StudyFree mentors, we decided to figure out why the U.S. is not the best place for study today and what countries should be chosen as an alternative.

Education is expensive

The cost of education in the U.S. is one of the world’s highest. Students without scholarships and grants on average pay universities between $20,000 and $70,000 a year.

Additionally, the U.S. education system has some of the hardest requirements in terms of scholarships.

“I am working towards my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I plan to graduate early this year to save money,” Nastya Yeryomina says about her study at Boston University in Massachusetts. Her education costs $80,000 a year.

Nastya adds that in addition to tuition, the students have to pay for the textbooks whose prices start at $50 and stretch to infinity. Throughout the school year, a student may be required to buy an average of eight textbooks, but there’s no guarantee that all of them will be really useful in the process of study. “The only solution is to search the internet and buy either an e-book or second hand. This way, you’ll be able to spend $60 for five books instead of one,” Nastya advises.

High rent

In addition to the exorbitant university tuition, it’s expensive to rent in the U.S. – and this is true for the majority of states.

“I used to live in a dorm (and paid $14,000 a semester for my room), and now I rent a room in an apartment. Boston is a very expensive city, and the closer to the city center, the higher is the price of accommodation. I pay $1,250 a month for a room, and that includes Wi-Fi. I have a housemate who lives in the other room, which is slightly bigger – and she pays more,” Nastya says.

Next semester, Nastya will move to a more spacious apartment. “The rent was set at $1,600, but I knocked it down to $1,300,” she shares.

On the West Coast, the rent is significantly higher. According to StudyFree mentor Dennis Friedman, a nice apartment in the Silicon Valley costs $3,000-4,000. “For $1,000-2,000 you might only rent a room,” says Dennis, who lived and studied in the U.S. for four years.

StudyFree mentor Anastasia Shuvaeva studied at the Northern Arizona University, whose main campus is located in the town of Flagstaff. 

“Together with four of my friends, we rented a two-story house. Everyone had their own room and paid $500 a month plus $100 for the internet. This was quite a cheap option for our town. A room closer to downtown costs $800 with internet, and a separate apartment is $1,500 a month,” she recounts.

It might be difficult without a car

If you don’t drive, you might have a problem getting around the country. True, in New York you can easily do without a car, because large cities have a well-developed public transportation system.

But in California, Texas or Ohio, you’ll have a hard time without a driver’s license.

“If you are a foreign student, look for accommodation closer to campus, and read up on the city’s transportation system to make sure getting there and back doesn’t eat too much of your time. A driver’s license would also be handy,” says Anastasia Shuvaeva. 

Exorbitant price of beauty services

Good hair stylists and nail artists are on the pricey side in the U.S.

“I found a fellow countrywoman doing manicure in Boston. Shellac manicure costs $70, and she recently raised her prices. My last manicure cost me $100. I don’t think I can afford her services anymore.

American nail salons are mostly staffed by Vietnamese who charge $60-70 for their work. I found a cheaper salon near my house. The manicure there costs only $27, but after the first visit, my nails turned a different color, and I’m wary of going back,” says Nastya.

According to Anastasia Shuvaeva, a haircut at one of Flagstaff’s hair studios costs between $15 and $60 plus tip. 

It’s expensive to eat healthy

Junk food is sold on every corner, but healthy food is pricey. For example, a small box of grated Parmesan costs $18 at the Whole Foods store.

“I visited Whole Foods twice, it’s a very expensive organic supermarket. The Americans mostly go there for vegetables and meat. I bought tomatoes there – they were more palatable than those from a regular supermarket but can’t be compared to the farmers’ tomatoes you can buy in Moscow, which simply melt in your mouth.

I buy food at Boston’s cheapest supermarket and each week pay $70-100. At Whole Foods, my food basket would cost twice as much,” Nastya says.

“Going out and food shopping will set you down at least $200 a month,” Anastasia from Flagstaff adds. 

It’s hard to obtain a work visa and stay in the country

After completing their studies, a graduate is given a 12-month OPT (Optional Practical Training) permit. If after a year you fail to find a job and obtain an H1B visa (a work visa for foreign employees), you have to leave the country.

StudyFree’s Business Development Manager Victorina Lintsova says that after graduating from the University of Michigan she stayed in the U.S. for two years and worked as coordinator at the Great Lakes Training company under H1B visa, but it wasn’t an easy feat: “The employer has to prove that the foreigner is a better candidate than any American, and that they can’t find a U.S. citizen with relevant skills.” 

How this happens: the employer works to prove to the immigration services that the position has been open for a while, but no U.S. citizens have been found to fill it; they explain the company’s plans, why the foreign candidate is a good fit and how their skills will enable the company to achieve its business goals.

“I was lucky, and my employer agreed to take the risk. The legal counsel said that the chance of getting a visa was no more than 10%, because my major was common (organizational psychology) and not something niche and genius. But our case proved to be strong, and we won,” Victorina says. 

Where to study outside of the U.S.

The U.S. education has a flip side: high tuition costs and rent, high food and beauty service prices, difficulty in obtaining a work visa after completing your studies. 

StudyFree has selected five alternatives with a high level of education and lower tuition and rent costs.


The majority of Austria’s state universities (such as Vienna University of Technology, University of Vienna, Universität Innsbruck) offer foreign students a free education.

Students from non-EU countries must pay a bare minimum administrative fee of €300 a semester. This policy applies to all programs and levels of education. The average cost of living in Austria is about €800 a month.

The majority of undergraduate programs are taught in German. To be accepted, one has to spend a year in a preparatory college. This is because the system of school education in Austria entails 12 years of study instead of the customary 11, and prospective students have to add the extra year. 

English-language teaching can often be found in the graduate programs. 


Many of Germany’s state universities (for example, Technische Universität München, Ludwig-Maximilians — Universität München, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), provide free education both for undergraduate and graduate studies, and this option is open to the foreign students. Specific terms and conditions may vary depending on the region.

Graduate studies might require payment, but their cost will be a fraction of price in other countries. According to StudyFree mentor Valentina Yakupova, the average cost of tuition in the country is €270-280 a semester.

A room in a student dorm will set you back about €400. Average cost of living in Germany is €500-800 a month. Sometimes, it can be covered with additional scholarships.

Applying to undergraduate programs in Germany is similar to Austria: the majority of programs are taught in German, and to apply, the student has to complete the 12th year of studies at preparatory courses.

There are no such requirements for the graduate programs. Study in English is available both for the undergraduate and graduate studies, but in the latter case, the number of options is greater. 

The Netherlands

Undergraduate education in the Netherlands for non-EU students costs an average of €9,000 a year. Graduate programs are more expensive, and the price depends on your area of concentration.

This may sound expensive compared to other EU countries, but there is good news as well: the foreigners can study in English and have their costs fully covered.

For example, there is a scholarship program Orange Tulip and Holland Scholarship (OTS) for citizens of Russia that’s financed by the Dutch universities.

As for other costs, a room in a comfortable student dorm in Amsterdam costs about €750 a month, but it’s possible to find something cheaper. Personal spending is about €600-700 a month.


Beginning in 2019, tuition at France’s state universities for foreign students amounts to €2,770 a year for undergraduate programs and €3,770 a year for graduate. This fee is the same for all foreign students. In the business schools, a year of studies costs upwards of €8,000.

It’s possible to study in English, but in the state universities the majority of programs are in French. In the business schools, the courses are taught in English.

Foreign students may obtain a scholarship from the French government, an Eiffel Scholarship or additional scholarships from the universities (such as Science Po, IFA Paris — the amount of scholarship depends on the school). Moreover, every foreign student has a right for the partial monthly compensation of their rent costs by submitting a request at


Italy has relatively low tuition costs (on average, no more than €2,000 a year). Additionally, foreign students are given opportunities to obtain a scholarship.

Applying to the Italian schools, students submit information about their family’s annual income. The receipt of the scholarship and its amount depend on this figure: the lower the family’s income, the higher the chances of a scholarship.

Another advantage for Italy is that the cost of graduate study in the country’s universities is close to zero (only the regional tax has to be paid).

According to StudyFree mentor Tatyana Pilipenko, both Italian-language and English-language programs are available. “There are undergraduate programs in English, but there are few of them. The number of graduate programs is slightly higher. Almost all of the PhD programs are in English. I did my graduate studies in English and continue to study for my PhD,” she says.

The cost of living is also quite low. Tatyana says that the cost of an apartment in Lombardy (its capital is Milano) is anywhere between €400 and €800. Budgeting for a month, expect to spend €1,000-1,500. In the south (everything that’s below Rome), one can live on €500-600, rent included.