You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study abroad, yet you aren’t sure whether or not this is a good option for you. After searching for that perfect program, there are a number of variables in studying overseas you should consider as a graduate student before packing your bags. For instance, should you travel to a country that speaks a different language in the hopes of learning something new? Or are you better suited to studying in a region that’s a bit more like home? No matter what your concerns, this article is designed to help you to weigh the pros and cons of studying overseas so you can make a more informed decision.
1) The experience of living in a foreign country. Many graduate students relish the opportunity to live and study in a foreign country. You can enjoy the culture and history of another country and perhaps even learn a new language.
2) Tuition costs. Surprisingly the tuition costs for graduate programs abroad are sometimes cheaper than what you might expect to pay for similar courses in the United States. However, you need to make sure that your credits and funding will transfer if you find a program.
3) The value of attending a university overseas. You may be able to improve your employment prospects if it shows on your resume that you studied at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. You could may have the distinction of studying under a prestigious professor, which also might benefit future employment. In addition to the education, your study skills might improve from the experience of studying overseas in a foreign land.
4) Make New Friends and Professional Contacts. You will have the opportunity to become friends with your fellow grad students, allowing you to socialize and see the various intellectual attractions that your city has to offer. It certainly helps to make a circle of friends you can trust and feel safe with, and your other graduate students might enjoy some of the more highbrow activities that younger students would take for granted. Also having these new friends may prove useful in your professional career for future contacts in your field.
5) Opportunity for Sightseeing. Let’s use Paris as an example. If you are able to study in this City of Lights, there are a tremendous number of sightseeing adventures you can choose from such as visiting the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Champs Elysees. Even if you aren’t in a major international city, there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy the region in which you are staying, including savoring the local cuisine! This may add more enjoyment to your graduate experience, and help decrease the fatigue that can come with long hours of research.
6) Hands-on research. If your field intersects with a specific region, your research will be greatly improved through studying abroad. Your research will benefit from familiarizing yourself with the culture and history of the place you study, and may give you a unique perspective and competitive edge for your thesis or dissertation. This is especially true for students in Literature and History, since some documents are only available in certain museums, libraries, historical societies, and city vaults.
1) Room and board. While tuition costs might be cheaper in other countries, the cost of room board has to be considered, especially if you live close to a university at home. If this applies to you, you could live within the comfort of home and avoid the expense of housing and food. Some graduate programs offer room and board, but even so living abroad is expensive.
2) Being in a Foreign Country. As exciting as the prospect may seem, it can still be uncomfortable experience being in a foreign country, particularly if you cannot speak the language. Additionally you don’t have the comfort of being close to family and friends. Finally, being unfamiliar with the host country’s laws and policies might be cause for some problems if you do not inform yourself.
3) Changing courses. You may discover the graduate course content is more difficult to grasp than if you were in your home country. Another predicament might be the style in which your instructors teach. If you experience difficulty with the class, it could damage your chances of getting support from that professor later on.
4) Committee members. Most graduate students need to choose their courses carefully based off of the professionals they want to work with. When you are in a PhD program, and looking to choose your committee, it may be more difficult to pick a member who is in another country. While conference calls and skyping during dissertation defenses is becoming more common, you should try to pick committee members who are readily available to support you and give feedback on your work.
5) If you are not careful to plan ahead, you may have problems conducting research in some places abroad. For example, many research centers require you to have an appointment, various forms of identification, and specific clothing to enter. Especially if you are working with rare or very aged documents, you will need to find out ahead of time what is required at each place you would like to research, and make contact with them in advance. Otherwise, you may find yourself being shut out of important places and unable to perform your necessary research.
After you’ve had a chance to compare between the pros and cons, you might decide that studying abroad in graduate school is the best for choice for you. If planned wisely, studying abroad could be one of the finest experiences in your life, and enhance your professional marketability. On the other hand, if you don’t carefully consider studying overseas and don’t choose your program and the region wisely, it could be an experience that places a damper on your academic and professional career.