5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Graduate Study Abroad

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When you make the decision to attend graduate school abroad, you’re opening yourself up to the endless opportunities and long-reaching benefits than an international degree provides.

Not only do these degrees afford students the opportunity to set themselves apart from other candidates vying for similar jobs and careers, but they’re oftentimes shorter and cheaper than graduate programs in a student’s home country (this is especially true for American students). And while there are several potential roadblocks to consider, there are also means of navigating each one.

So if you’re still weighing your options when it comes to graduate study abroad, consider these advantages- and potential disadvantages- before making your final decision.

Advantages of Graduate Study Abroad

1. Lower Tuition Costs

Many people assume that “graduate study abroad” is synonymous with “heavy financial burden.” For U.S. students, however, tuition fees at international universities are often significantly lower than at American colleges, even when the cost of room and board is included. Whether or not you’re an American student, be sure to check out these 7 countries where graduate school is a fraction of U.S. costs.

piggy bank savings

Struggling to find options for financing your graduate education? Check out these resources from Idealist.org!

2. Shorter Than Other Programs

International graduate programs tend to be shorter than American graduate programs (they generally take about a year to complete). Not only will this allow you to move forward with your life much more quickly, but you’ll spend far less money on tuition and room and board.

3. High Job Market Value

high job market value study abroad advantage

Studying abroad not only allows you to gain perspective on foreign issues, but it helps you to understand human relations on an international scale. Whether you’re looking for a career within the United States or a career that spans continents, today’s employers are actively seeking globally-minded candidates.

And the adaptability you’ll have no choice but to acquire while abroad will certainly bolster your potential as a job candidate, as employers will be looking for someone who can survive in a rapidly-changing corporate world.

4. Global Network Expansion

One of the most rewarding and lingering effects of this transnational experience results in the friendships and relationships you will cultivate throughout your time abroad.

global network expansion study abroad advantage

Not only will you get the chance to meet and develop relationships with students, teachers, administrators, and fellow program participants, but you’ll have a myriad of opportunities to converse and spend time with the locals.

Work to establish and maintain these connections; not only might they lead to lifelong friendships, but they also have the potential to lead to international job opportunities!

5. Unique Learning Experience

unique learning experience advantage of study abroad

The value of graduate study abroad is truly undeniable; you’ll be provided with innumerable opportunities for educational and personal growth, intercultural development, and professional advancement.

And studying under foreign professors is sure to provide you with a brand new experience, as school culture, teaching styles, and curriculums will undoubtedly differ from those in your home country.

You’re going to arrive back home with a brand new perspective on yourself, your future, and the world. So get excited!

Potential Disadvantages of Graduate Study Abroad- with Solutions!

Though an international graduate education awards you numerous benefits and opportunities, be sure to consider the potential drawbacks before mailing your applications. No matter where you receive your degree, grad school will be a significant investment of time and money, and you want to make sure you’re making the best possible choice for yourself.

1. Unfamiliar Admissions and Selection Process

The admissions process in your host country may be vastly different than the same process in your home country.

unfamiliar admissions process advantage of study abroad

Consider that the time frame may be unfamiliar, that faculty support may be limited, and that you may not have the time or funds to visit and tour a potential campus.

Keep in mind that it may be necessary for you to demonstrate your mastery of the local language, or even to prove that your prior studies have adequately prepared you for the program for which you are applying.

Solutions:

  • Contact admissions and faculty early on in the application process (at least 3 months) to acquire specific information regarding graduate programs and the admissions process.

  • Seek advice from faculty and study abroad program administrators at your undergraduate university.

  • Contact students from your home country who have studied in your host country or attended your host university; find them through professors, admissions offices, email, social media, etc.; ask for advice and recommendations.

  • If available, conduct a virtual tour of your university.

  • Search for brochures, journals, student newspapers, etc. maintained by the institution in which you are interested.

 Check out this timeline to study abroad planning!

2. Your Degree May Not Be Transferable

degree may not transfer disadvantage of study abroad

If you’re planning to pursue a higher degree at a later date, there is always the possibility that your international degree will not be transferable to a higher degree program within your desired institution.

Also, be sure that you are seeking the degree appropriate to your desired career field.

Solutions:

  • Save your best work from your graduate studies abroad so that you can provide potential professors, universities, or employers with samples when you return home.
  • If you plan to pursue a master’s degree abroad and a doctorate in your home country, check with the schools in which you’re interested to make sure your master’s degree will count towards your doctorate.
  • Make sure that your international degree is applicable to any degree or licensure necessary to practice in your field (i.e. law, medicine, social work, etc.).

3. High Cost of Travel and Living

high cost of travel and living disadvantage of study abroad

Though tuition is the single most important factor to consider when weighing your international grad school options, don’t forget to take into account the cost of living (which can vary extensively from city to city), the cost of travel between your home and host countries (especially if you plan to make one or more visits home), the exchange rate between your home and host countries, and possible currency fluctuations.

Solutions:

  • Research the cost of living by reaching out to current or former residents, conducting web searches, etc.

  • Create a budget; save in advance; allow ample time to apply for financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

  • Check not only the current exchange rate, but its history over the last year or two; consider currency fluctuations and how they might impact your budget.

4. Cultural Divide

Studying and living abroad may be incrementally harder if you don’t speak the language of your host country. Though you may be able to get by, you will not do so without numerous challenges, and it’s certainly best to have a general sense of your host country’s language before you depart your home country.

culture shock and homesickness disadvantage of study abroad

Another significant challenge of being a graduate student abroad is the homesickness that may settle in as you begin to miss your friends and family. For some international students, homesickness is accompanied by varying degrees of culture shock, or the anxiety, feelings of frustration, and sense of alienation that can occur as a person attempts to adjust to a new culture.

Though not everyone experiences these hindrances, they’re very normal reactions to have as you are adjusting to your new home. Try not to stress, as there are plenty of steps you can take to help ease you into your transition.

Solutions:

  • Contact prospective universities to see if classes are offered in your language.

  • Take classes or lessons or use apps, podcasts, and/or online programs to learn the language of your host country.

  • Find a language exchange partner who is interested in learning your native language.

  • Purchase a pocket dictionary and carry it with you when you go out.

  • Learn about the culture of your host country through the web, reading, and conversation before you go.

  • Stay in touch with your family and friends through apps like Viber and Skype and have them send you care packages.

  • Connect with people from your home country who will also be studying abroad, watch your favorite TV shows and movies, listen to your favorite music, and eat your favorite foods from home.

For more information on culture shock, signs and stages, and coping strategies, click here!

5. Potential Employment Disadvantages

Although a vast number of employers are actively seeking worldly, culturally-knowledgeable job candidates, a majority are still concentrating their recruiting efforts within their own countries and markets.

In this regard, an American student receiving his Master’s degree in Spain may find himself being solely recruited by Spanish firms.

potential employment disadvantages disadvantage of study abroad

In addition, students returning home from international graduate programs may find that potential employers are unwilling to recognize foreign schools of which they have not previously heard.

Whereas an American employer may have no qualms about the merit of an unfamiliar American college, he may be unwilling to recognize a little college in a small foreign town with which he is unacquainted.

Solutions:

  • Assume that your hiring manager will be unfamiliar with your abroad school and frame it appropriately on your resume; state its ranking (if it’s high) or its acceptance rate (if it’s low).

  • Before traveling abroad, contact any companies you may want to work for to confirm that your international qualifications and credentials will be recognized.

  • Before beginning the application process, make sure that all of your potential schools are properly accredited and have solid reputations.

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