Whatever your reason for choosing to go to graduate school you will want to make sure you get everything you can out of the experience. James Donald finds some clear reasons for making your period of study one that takes in a destination and a country that is new to you
The benefits of going abroad to study
"Graduate study is beneficial in providing the opportunity for students to study in a different country." "With a wealth of universities offering graduating programs around the world, students will often pursue a Master's degree at a foreign institution to gain a unique cultural experience while acquiring new skills. Spending time abroad can provide an excellent opportunity to make new contacts and build invaluable relationships with peers from around the world."
"long-term experience in other cultures has a tendency to help one think objectively about oneself and one's home country, tolerate differences, and recognize and appreciate diversity."
This view is backed up by Sarah Han of the Department of International Cooperation at the Korean Council for University Education: "Studying abroad at the postgraduate level provides an opportunity to expand one's field of view and helps one to understand and analyze problems and phenomena from a longer-term, worldwide perspective. Students are more open to new knowledge and expertise when abroad, and that knowledge is often more easily applicable and adaptable to situations requiring international interaction; thus one can expect to be more competitive in today's era of globalization. Language skills obtained while studying abroad will always be beneficial to the student and their home country in both the short- and long-term. Moreover, long-term experience in other cultures has a tendency to help one think objectively about oneself and one's home country, tolerate differences, and recognize and appreciate diversity."
"Anyone who is able to put on their CV that they studied abroad is at a great advantage in terms of impressing future employers."
Different cultures, New horizons
"Studying abroad exposes you to different cultures and different landscapes," says Dee Roach, Group Manager, and European Marketing for the Navitas Education Group. "You can gain new skills, and it can help you grow as a person. It is great for your long term prospects and career. Studying abroad definitely broadens your horizons; you can travel and have a more complete cultural immersion experience at the same time. My personal choice would be Australia because it is a great base from which to explore the whole of the Asia Pacific region, not to mention the country itself. Australia boasts every kind of geographical environment as well as some rare species of flora and fauna."
Independence: you obviously have to cope on your own when you are studying abroad. You have to be able to look after yourself and sort out your own affairs.
Culture: the best way of finding out about another culture is by immersing yourself in it, and you can only do that by living in a country. Once you are working, your holiday or experiences overseas might be limited to only two to four weeks per year so studying abroad is a great opportunity to remain in a country and learn all about it over a longer period of time.
Travel: obviously you will not just be tied to the university or city you are studying in. You will also have the time and opportunity to travel within and around that country. Country-hopping during holidays and weekends is also possible, depending on where you are based. This will normally be with the added benefit of cheaper travel, as you will be armed with your student (discount) card.
Course work: some countries are renowned for their expertise or prowess in particular areas or specific fields. Germany is synonymous with advances in engineering technology, the USA with top business and management programs such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford (to name but a few), Australia screams art and design and sport and Canada has its world renowned "co-op programs". However, most countries will usually offer a whole host of courses and subjects, anything from alternative medicine degrees to circus skills and zoology can be found overseas.
Career: anyone who is able to put on their CV that they studied abroad is at a great advantage in terms of impressing future employers. At a very basic level it will give you something to talk about in an interview. But much more importantly it will prove to your potential employer that you have the ability to stand on your own two feet, that you can fit in when placed in different environments, and that you are resourceful and have initiative.
Improve your job prospects
Lauren Welch, head of advising for the US-UK Fulbright Commission in London agrees that studying abroad adds weight to your future job prospects: "Employers are looking to graduates to have international experience either by studying or working abroad. Now there are many more opportunities to study and work abroad, or stay on and work afterwards. There are a lot of research opportunities for postgraduate students in the US – over $45 billion is spent on research. In the US you have the ability to shape your electives around your interests. There is a great flexibility and over 12,000 institutions which is a very wide range." Lauren also says that studying abroad gives you a great opportunity to be near worldwide centres which means some of the lecturers or tutors will have experience of these – for instance if you want to study finance, head for New York, London or Hong Kong, or if you want to study politics, Washington DC is a centre to aim for.
Corners of the world converge
Professor Kimberly Hutchings, Program Director of the MSC in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) says that international student body is part of the success of their course: "The student body is thoroughly international and made up of the well-qualified students from across the world. The staffs in the IR Department are world-class scholars. The research culture at the LSE is particularly strong and there is a constant stream of visiting speakers for the school, both practioners and academics, speaking on issues related to international politics."