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Choosing a graduate school abroad
August 24, 2014, 2:35 pm

More and more students opt to attend grad school abroad. Some do so for the duration of their programs and complete their master’s programs in one to three years; others do so for a portion of their programs and complete their master’s programs between a college abroad and a college or university in their home country. Either way, attending graduate school abroad can be a wonderful and empowering experience.

Ask yourself the following questions to determine if a graduate school abroad is right for you:

Experience that you can gain in another country that you cannot gain in your home country?

Depending on your program, there might be valuable experience to be gained abroad that simply cannot be gained (or easily accessed) in your home country. If you are studying European history, for example, it will be easier to access certain documents and visit certain sights if you spend time studying in Europe. Consider your major, your emphasis, and your research and ask yourself, “is there valuable experience that I can gain in another country that I cannot gain in my home country?” If the answer is yes, consider spending a semester or more earning your graduate degree abroad.

Will having international experience make you more competitive in your field?

Some fields, such as international affairs, international business, political science, public health, sociology, and journalism, seek employees who have had meaningful experiences abroad. This makes sense since many of these fields examine theories, processes, events, and circumstances that cross international borders. Other fields, ones less obviously affected by international conditions, also benefit from professionals with international experience. In our increasingly globalized world, more localized fields, such as speech pathology, psychology and marketing, benefit from the experiences professionals glean from international exposure. Many professionals within these fields work with people who have emigrated from other countries and serve diverse populations.

Having gained cultural exposure through international experience could therefore make you more competitive in your field. Also, many employers may look for employees who demonstrate tolerance, mental and emotional strength, and a capacity to honor and appreciate diversity; adding a semester or more of graduate school abroad to your resume could help illustrate to your employer that you have this unique skillset.

Do you need to know another language to be competitive in your field?

If you plan on working with people who speak different languages or one language in particular, it makes sense to attend grad school abroad. Immersing yourself in a language, and giving yourself multiple months or years to do so, can be an excellent way to learn a language. Also, spending time in another country allows you to learn the cultural nuances of a language in a way that language programs don’t. And, if an employer sees that you have spent time in the home country of the population you serve, you may likely be more competitive for the job.

Can you balance the mental, emotional, and sometimes physical challenges of living abroad and going to graduate school?

Living in another country, no matter how wonderful, can be stressful. Attending grad school, no matter how exciting, can be stressful. Pair the two together and you have on your hands a situation that can be mentally, emotionally, and physically trying and draining. Prior to making the decision to attend graduate school abroad, consider whether or not you’re ready to work with the many challenges that are sure to arise. Make sure you have a support system, ideas for dealing with breakdowns, and the necessary capacities to work with challenges as they occur.


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