Study Abroad: Ten Reasons to Do Grad School Abroad (page 4)
The United States is not the end all and be all of higher education. There are some fabulous graduate schools and study opportunities around the globe that you can take advantage of if you're willing to move away from home for a few years.
Many reasons for pursuing graduate school abroad are the same as the reasons for spending a semester or a year of your undergraduate education somewhere else. However, the unique reasons for going to graduate school abroad deserve some discussion.
If you studied abroad in college, realize that going abroad this time around will be different. You are applying directly to a university abroad. No undergraduate institution or U.S.-based program is going to look after you. You're on your own this time. Going abroad for grad school may be slightly more stressful because you have to find your own housing, budget down to the last detail, and chart your own academic course in a foreign place (with the help of an adviser, of course). But, if you're serious enough to pursue graduate studies, you're probably quite capable of handling all those relocation details.
Most American graduate students who study abroad obtain their full graduate degrees at a university abroad. However, a growing number of U.S. universities and study abroad programs are organizing short-term study abroad for graduate students. These programs are as short as a few weeks or as long as a year.
Taking Advantage of a Quick Finish
Graduate degrees earned here in the U.S. tend to take longer than those earned abroad. A taught master's (classroom-based) program abroad usually takes about one year while the U.S. equivalent takes about an average of two years. You also have an option abroad that isn't as popular here: a master's by research instead of coursework. A research master's may keep you in school anywhere from 12 to 18 months. PhDs earned abroad generally take less time as well. Earning a PhD in the U.S. hovers at about six years and can extend up to eight. Receiving a PhD outside the U.S. works out on average to be four years.
One reason for shorter PhDs in some countries is that students enter undergraduate universities at a higher level than Americans do, so they're doing U.S graduate level work by the end of their undergraduate degrees - they're a little bit ahead of us.
Realize that a MA or a PhD will be respected regardless of where you end up after school. No one can take a degree you worked so hard for away from you!
If you come back to the U.S. after earning a PhD abroad in three or four years, you may need to spend a year or two doing a post-doc to make yourself more marketable.
Attending professional schools (business, law, and medical) abroad tends to work a little differently. In the U.S., students earn these degrees after completing four year bachelor's programs: MBAs take two years, JDs take three years, and MDs take a whopping eight years to complete. In some countries, students start these degrees directly after secondary school, so they take fewer years off their lives in the grand scheme of things. However, choosing to do an MBA program abroad isn't a big savings in tuition. Foreign business universities tend to charge rates that are nearly equivalent to U.S. business school rates for U.S. nationals. Furthermore, depending on the country where the degree was granted, law and medical degrees in particular are not likely to be recognized by many U.S. institutions.
Many foreign universities have incredibly strong reputations and world-renowned post-graduate studies. If you research your particular subject area, you're sure to discover a school or two outside the U.S. that does excellent research and produces top quality graduates in your field. Why not go there?
A note of caution about the quality of graduate school programs: Here in the U.S. we tend to get caught up in rankings. Which graduate school is ranked highest for business? Psychology? English? These rankings are all rather arbitrary. You could go to one of these so-called top schools and have a miserable experience or get a lousy education because your program has too many PhDs and you fail to get any personal attention. What, to you, characterizes a high quality program? A small PhD program in Canada may be just as good, if not better for you, than a program on one of those top U.S. graduate school lists.
Making Economical Sense
Well, if your graduate degree takes less time if you do it abroad, then it follows that it costs you less money. Like they say, time is money. Schools abroad, in general, have tuitions much lower than their U.S. counterparts. If you couple that with a really good exchange rate in U.S. to local currency and a lower cost of living than here in the U.S. " you could have yourself the bargain of a lifetime! Not only that, but applying to a foreign university as an international student can give you an advantage: You're different, you add variety to the program, therefore, the school may want to give you money (in the form of merit scholarships or stipends) to study at their university.
Two caveats to keep in mind when considering the economics of grad school abroad:
- Many places abroad, especially big cities, are much more expensive than where you currently live in the U.S. So check the cost of living in areas where you're looking at programs.
- Don't expect to pay the low tuition of citizens in your host country. Like state universities in the U.S., most universities abroad charge much higher fees for non-citizens. (These fees, however, could still work out to be less than what you'd pay in the U.S.)
Trying Something New
The number one regret of college graduates I know is that "I didn't go abroad." Well, just because you didn't do it as an undergrad doesn't mean it is too late! Consider having your abroad adventure a little later in life and go abroad for grad school! It's never too late to take advantage of all that study abroad has to offer: personal growth, opportunities to travel, and continuing the quest for knowledge, to name a few.
Going abroad for grad school becomes an especially attractive offer if your current life is as, if not more, commitment free than it was as an undergrad. If you don't own a car, an apartment/house, a dog, have a child or a significant other - then what is stopping you from packing up and studying abroad now? I guarantee this becomes immensely more challenging when and if you acquire any of the aforementioned commitment-laden objects.
Going Again Because You Loved It the First Time
If you went abroad in college and wished you could have stayed longer, or if you went abroad and traveled to a really neat place where you want to live one day, or if you promised yourself you'd somehow get back to your abroad location for another extended stay someday - then grad school abroad can satisfy some of these wishes. If you found a second home on your first abroad adventure, then why not go back? Remember, studying is one of the easiest ways to get a visa to live in a foreign country! You still may have very good friends there or have established a great working relationship with a professor you want to have advise your graduate work.
However, a note of caution on returning to the same study abroad location: It will never be exactly the same as your first time around. It may still be great, it may even be better, but remember, you're not the same person as before. Time has passed and you're probably at a different place in your life when you get on that plane for foreign lands this time around. Be sure you're going abroad for the right reason - to further your education in a subject you're passionate about. Don't go back to chase some mysterious foreigner you fell in love with but couldn't do anything about because you were only there for eight weeks.
Getting a Global Education: The Wave of the Future
With globalization, the advancements in technology, and the ease of jetting off to a foreign land, education has become more international in nature. Exploring the big world outside the U.S. and discovering how the rest of the world views us is important. Understanding the histories, religious beliefs, ethical philosophies, artistic traditions, and world views of others can help us decide how to make a difference in the world.
As a graduate student at an abroad university, you are embracing this wave of global education. You bring a unique perspective to a classroom and this perspective will probably be questioned and challenged, but it will make life interesting. Not only are your own studies enriched by those around you, but through graduate seminars, presentations, and conferences, you also enrich the world of your fellow students. You may be able to acquire unique internships or gain access to some of the most radical or popular thinkers in your field by studying outside the U.S. The possibilities are endless - and surprising - when you pursue your education elsewhere.
Getting Accepted to Grad School in the U.S.
Doing a master's degree or post-baccalaureate outside the U.S. is also a good way to propel yourself into graduate programs in the U.S. Spending a year working on post-graduate study abroad can strengthen your application before an admissions committee, particularly if you do extremely well in your studies abroad. Not only is this an economical option to bolster your C.V. (resume), but it makes your application stand out. You bring something different to a grad program than candidates who have been in the U.S. for their entire academic career. Plus, getting accepted to do a year of post-graduate study abroad can be relatively easy - not only are you international, but some abroad schools will see you as a source of income because they can charge higher fees to students from outside their country.
Studying French in France
Where better to study Celtic civilization than Ireland or Scotland? Or get your master's in French literature in France? Earn your PhD in Chinese culture in Beijing! Don't these suggestions seem to make sense? As long as you speak the native language, then go to the country in question if you're looking to do graduate work on a specific cultural or regional subject. In doing so, you'll probably rub elbows with more than one expert in the field. Furthermore, the opportunity to do field research or take field trips to locations pertinent to your studies is not to be missed!
Avoiding Pesky Grad School Admissions Tests
Fear of standardized tests? Are you just a poor test taker? Well, if any of the College Board's graduate admissions tests have got you down or are proving to be a large obstacle to attaining your grad school goals, consider going to a school that does not require any of these tests. Your best bet of finding a school that doesn't care about U.S. grad school test scores is going to be outside the U.S. Other countries don't have a college board equivalent. Many abroad graduate programs place a heavy emphasis on your undergraduate academic record, references, and completed research in your proposed field (For example, did you write a senior thesis in college?).
Some schools are on to this little trick and may ask for your test scores (business schools are the worst offenders and often ask U.S. applicants for their GMAT scores), so this isn't a foolproof strategy.
Opening Doors for Working Abroad
If your ultimate goal is to permanently live or work abroad, then graduate school is a good avenue to getting your foot in the door. Looking for a job abroad is exceedingly difficult if you're living in the U.S. Going to grad school in the country of your dreams is one way to get into the country so that eventually you can apply for permanent residence. Graduate school in another country also helps you make connections for when you finish your degree. Another option that you may have the luxury to pursue as a graduate student is unpaid internships. Spending ten hours a week working for free in a company could eventually lead to a permanent job.
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