How Studying Abroad helped me in Graduate School

Study Abroad and graduate school are usually not in the same sentence. What does your previous experience abroad have to do with being in graduate school? Studying abroad has helped me navigate this overwhelming and daunting experience of the first weeks of graduate school. For students who are thinking about pursuing graduate studies, your experience abroad will help you along the way. Here’s how:

Living in a different city. I decided to attend graduate school in a state that I had never visited before.  Coming from the South and now living up North, I was quite anxious. I became more comfortable with the situation because I remembered the time when I lived in a different country three years ago and how I had to overcome the challenges of living in a new place. Even if you do not travel out of state for graduate school, you will need to work with new people and a department that might have a different culture that you may not be accustomed to. Looking at your experience abroad will help you overcome settling in a new environment.

Connections. I connected with my cohort because most of us had experience abroad, studied a language, or aspired to have a career outside of the States. This allowed us to instantly become friends during the first week of our graduate school. Talking about your international experience with a stranger can sometimes break the ice in conversations. It is an open invitation for people to know more about you and direct you to opportunities. Based on the conversations I had with one of the staffs at my university, I was invited to attend a talk with South Korean diplomats that was hosted at my university. Never put your experience on the backburner!

Language. Do not think that if you are not getting a Master’s or a Ph.D. in a foreign language you cannot take language classes in an academic setting. There are many scholarships/fellowships that are offered at universities and through the US government that can help with your language ability. Your experience abroad can make you an applicable candidate to further peruse language acquisition. My university offers scholarships such as the FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) and several other funding to help with improving with your language ability. There is the Critical Language Scholarship, Boren Fellowship, etc. Knowing about several types of funding has made me look forward to furthering my Korean language skills.

Obtaining more education can be stressful! A new location, new people, and possibly a different lifestyle. However, looking back at how you navigated living in a different country can help you apply previous knowledge and experiences towards your professional degree and make the journey fun!


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