Worried about money? There’s plenty of funding. Not a linguist? You don’t need to be. Overseas study isn’t as daunting as you might think.
A master’s abroad is basically a year-long holiday, isn’t it? It involves little or no studying, costs a fortune and is largely spent drinking, partying and Instagramming, right? Wrong. These courses are not just for bilingual jet-setters; they offer the opportunity of life-changing learning for all kinds of people. Here are five reasons you should think about getting academic overseas:
1 You make global contacts
Anushka Fernando, 31, works for a charity that helps refugees. She studied for a master’s in international education policy at Harvard University in 2010 and says the experience was invaluable for making contacts around the world.
“International places draw international people,” she says. “I found a diverse community at Harvard, where students came from different walks of life from disparate corners of the world. The work I do now has been boosted by them, for example by enabling me to recruit to volunteers to work on projects.”
2 You get the best accommodation
Undergraduates can walk around campus acting like they own the place, but in reality, postgraduates are boss. After all, they get the big rooms (often en-suite) in the best locations. Most universities guarantee a place in student accommodation for all international master’s students if the application is made within the deadline. And for those who want to find their own place to stay, universities often provide advice, including lists of approved landlords. They may even act as guarantors for private rentals if necessary.
Salih Bosca is from Turkey. He is currently studying a master’s at the University of Warwick and chose to live on campus.
“It has so many advantages,” he says. “I got to choose the best accommodation available and I am still in walking distance to cafes, restaurants and the cinema. I get to spend more time with friends rather than wasting my time on the bus every day.”
3 You discover new ways of learning
Studying abroad can bring lots of new experiences: you may be taking a subject that isn’t available in your home country, and are likely to encounter new teaching methods. Anushka Fernando says one of the most beneficial aspects is being exposed to the insights of people from different cultures.
“My classes were very international and the different perspectives and experiences resulted in a very rich and meaningful learning experience,” she says.
Others agree. Gemma Silk, 35, is studying for a master’s in educational leadership and management at the Open University, while living in Malaysia.
“I came to Kaula Lumpur for my job and then chose to complete my master’s at the same time,” she explains. “Living abroad has had such a positive impact on me. The course is based online, but you don’t only learn through the studying – you learn through the life you are living too.”
4 You can get financial support
Organisations such as Erasmus and DAAD offer numerous funding opportunities and awards. According to Dr Georg Krawietz, director of DAAD, there are about 20 scholarships available for UK students to study in Germany each year, and there are also many funding schemes available from research institutions such as the Max Planck Society.
But there are question marks over the future of programmes funded by the European Union, which may not be available once the UK has left the EU. Alternatively, many foreign students have part-time jobs to help them with the cost. “No one is supporting my master’s so I’ve kept a job alongside my studies,” says Silk.
5 You don’t have to know the language
Although living abroad is an opportunity to improve your linguistic skills, being able to banter in a foreign language isn’t essential. There are a huge number of courses taught in English – there are about 970 such courses in Germany alone, for example.
“My advice to anyone thinking about it is to go for it,” Silk says. “I have lived, worked and studied abroad and I’d say it’s the best decision I ever made.”