Can You Study Abroad in Grad School?

By Danni White on August 21, 2017

via Pixabay

Going to college adds a very important element to your life that not going to college simply will not add. I know that we as students often talk about how difficult college life is, and we’re not lying or exaggerating. It is a struggle and sometimes, a struggle that we could well do without or even feel like giving up on when we’re right in the middle of it.

It is one thing to struggle as an undergrad, but when you move into grad school, it’s a whole other ballgame. All students have a set of goals they want to meet in life whether it is social, personal, relational, or academic. For many students, one of those goals is to travel to another country for a short or long time.

In some cases, students take just a week or even a month to visit a country and learn more about the culture and traditions of its people. In other cases, students go on a year-long trip to another country in which it becomes a part of their academic experience and credits, particularly in their senior year.

But students who didn’t get that experience to study abroad as an undergraduate student or maybe those who did and want to go to the same or another country, wonder if they can do that effectively in graduate school. Graduate school comes with a cost, in terms of finances and in terms of mental and physical strength.

The answer to whether you should study abroad as a graduate student is both yes and no. Here are a few things to consider before you spread your wings to a foreign country:

1. Ask yourself what you would like to learn

Studying abroad can be a time of great experience in which you broaden your knowledge and understanding beyond that of history books and classroom videos. You get a chance to see another country firsthand, interact with its citizens, and engage and participate in the culture.

It is important to consider in the midst of the excitement, what you actually want to learn as part of your curriculum. Do you want to know what the health conditions are like in a certain country so you can become a visiting or cross-country doctor? Do you want to understand the film, art, and music industry of a particular country because you would like to be creative within that context?

Whatever the case, studying abroad will be more meaningful to you if you know how to connect what you are learning to your academic pursuits.

2. Consider your other time commitments

As a graduate student, you may have more to do besides school including work and family responsibilities. If that is the case, take some time to think about how the other commitments may or may not have to be put on hold. Think about the people (e.g., spouses, children, friends) who also may have to make arrangements around your new schedule. If you feel too much disruption may be the result in your life, you may want to work on other options.

Sometimes, goals don’t have to be done away with altogether. Instead, they have to be put on hold until a later time. If that is the case for you, that’s fine.

3. Think about your learning style and personality

Does studying abroad sound attractive only becomes your friend may be doing it or because you went to a particular country before and liked it? If these are your main motives for going abroad, you may want to think again about your priorities and life goals.

It’s grad school and grad school is difficult enough without going to a country to study and finding out you don’t like it all half as much as you originally thought. Think about the way you learned as an undergrad and your personality and let it help to guide you when thinking about studying abroad.

4. Going alone or going together?

Many colleges and universities allow students the opportunity to study abroad, mostly with a professor or with a group of students. In some cases, students can study in another country on their own (think: independent research project) and then receive school credit on a project or assignment.

If you are more introverted and like to take your time exploring and learning on your own, then it may be a good idea to put together a research proposal within your academic discipline and work to carry it out. If you prefer to study with others, seek out opportunities in your school in which you can do that.

There is no right or wrong answer to whether you can study abroad as a graduate school student. As long as you consider your goals, time commitments, learning styles, personality, and opportunities to grow and improve, you will be able to make the best decisions possible.

Danni White is a developmental psychology graduate student at Liberty University. She works in the digital publishing, media, and technology industries. After this degree, she will go on to work on a PhD in social psychology in which she hopes to do research on perception and social cognition’s impact on human behavior. She hopes to apply this research in corporate HR departments and community-based organizations. In her otherwise limited spare time, she blogs, writes and reads. She loves coffee, sports, music, cooking, meeting new people, and binge watching Netflix.

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