In the past, the option of studying abroad was typically only considered by high school or undergraduate students. A young student just beginning their educational career may have viewed foreign study as an exciting opportunity to travel and experience a culture different from their own. But today, a growing number of graduate students are also exploring the benefits of foreign study. In fact, in an article for U.S. News and World Report, the Assistant Dean for academic and global programs at NYU’s Steinhardt School, Erich Dietrich, reports that the growth in study-abroad programs among graduate students has been significant. In 2006 only 250 graduate students from NYU programs studied abroad and in 2011 more than 600 students took advantage of foreign study opportunities.
New flexibility in their education schedule may be making it easier for some graduate students to study abroad, and opportunities for dual degrees, international experience and expanded education are becoming more accessible for graduate students.
Of course, just like undergrads, graduate students understand the cultural and professional benefits of studying abroad. But graduate students may have different concerns about foreign study than their younger counterparts do. Students seeking a Master’s degree are typically older, more financially and socially independent, and they may not have the financial support of parents.
Concerns and Complications
Getting into the best program for their field of study is the first concern of any student, but finding a way to pay for it is a close second. Many graduate students find funding by applying to a teaching or research fellowship at their preferred university. The host country may also have resources for foreign students with promise. The best way to learn more about funding is to speak with the foreign study counselor at your school.
Basics like housing, language and healthcare are also of concern to an independent student studying abroad. Graduate students are often on their own when it comes to securing a place to live, but just like in the US, most “college towns” will have many low-cost options for student housing. Purchasing study abroad insurance for graduates is a smart idea no matter what the host country or school may offer in the way of healthcare. With a private policy, you know your medical needs will be covered.
The language issue is the same for grad students as it is for undergraduates. Living in a new culture where you don’t speak the language can be an intimidating experience, but in a graduate program that attracts international students it’s highly likely English will be spoken. However, making some effort to learn the language of your host country before you arrive will help with the transition. And once you’re there, count on cultural immersion to help you bridge any communication gaps.
Having gained maturity and a devotion to academics that undergraduates may not have, graduate students may benefit even more from the experience of foreign study. Studying abroad opens opportunities to network with professionals in your field from around the world and to teach, research and study in some of the best-equipped departments around the world. Though there are some challenges specific to independent students, they are all surmountable. If you’re interested in studying abroad, speak to a Professor or Administrator at your school and learn about the options. It may be easier than you think.