I know what you’re thinking as you struggle to find that $20 in your wallet:
“How could I possibly afford to attend graduate school if I’m already finding it difficult to pay through undergrad?” (…or in my case, pay back my loans now that I’ve graduated). Ah, my problem with the American education system in a nutshell.
During my senior year when I was contemplating what my next adult move was going to be, a professor told me that a continuation of my education could never be a bad thing.
“What does she know?” I scoffed to myself, “she isn’t the one who has to pay for it.”
Jokes aside, I’m happy that despite the constant internal argument I had with myself over the last year, I decided to listen to her and finally listen to myself. I’m happy to say that I’ll be pursuing a Master’s degree abroad in the next year. And I couldn’t be more excited!
Finding a fulfilling job after graduation is probably one of the most stressful and difficult challenges of young adulthood. Going through four years of university, you’d think you’d have the process down pat. I have friends who have been through multiple jobs who still tell me they don’t a clue what they’re doing, which has made my numerous quarter-life crises over the past two years feel a little more justified.
But, as I’ve matured and solidified what I’m truly passionate about, I realized one very important thing: securing a job after graduation doesn’t (and won’t) always have to be the end goal. I decided that for me, writing as much as possible, traveling more, being able to live abroad and gain more life experience, and continuing to learn every single day was more important than settling for a job that would pay my bills and back my student debt. So, if you’re feeling the graduation day or office cubicle blues, here are some reasons why you should say “screw it!’ and apply to graduate school abroad.
Tuition? What Tuition?
While it depends on where you decide to apply, for the most part, if you’re applying to a university somewhere in Europe (excluding the UK and some Scandinavian countries), the cost of further education is much lower than what it’d be in the States.
Countries like Slovenia, Germany, and Finland offer free tuition for all public universities for all students, national and international, and the quality of education rank among the top in the world. Free, quality education? Sold.
Lower Cost and Higher Quality of Living
I might be a bit biased living in NYC, but the cost of living in many cities of the world is exponentially less than it is living in big US cities. Groceries in Berlin can round up to about €30 per week.
Having a meal out with friends can come out to a maximum of €20 in Barcelona. A student transit ticket which allows you to go anywhere in the country (or continent) at amazing discounted rates.
You start to realize that enjoying your life and making friends outside of school or work doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
The quality of life is also so much different outside of America, and most times more relaxing. There’s no class on Fridays, you can leave work at 4pm and not feel guilty about it, and Sundays are a known day of rest where everything is closed. You can learn to just be while you’re living and studying away from home, and not stress as much. There’s no better feeling.
Location, location, location!
Anywhere you study in the world, more often than not, you’ll have the accessibility of cheap travel, especially as a student. If you’re in Budapest, a flight to Krakow could amount to €40 roundtrip on EasyJet. A ferry ride from Helsinki to Tallinn? A whopping €10. A train ride from Kyoto to Osaka: only ¥1420 (or US$12).
The possibility to travel to new places and explore different cultures is so much more opportune when you become valued as a student and are given the opportunities and options. Always take advantage of your new home by exploring your neighbors, too.
English Taught Programs
When I told my parents and peers the country I decided to do my Master’s in, the immediate question was: “Are you going to have to learn the language?” My answer was yes; not because I would be taught in that language, but because learning languages is fun and makes life situations like going to the doctor or ordering take-out easier.
Besides the point, many countries around the world offer Master’s programs that are entirely taught in English. The beauty of our universal language is that it’s encouraged abroad and many people have high English literacy. So, when you’re looking at programs, don’t be afraid. Keep searching until you find one that you’ll understand, but do yourself a favor and try learning the native language, too!
History and Culture
Not even trying to downplay the US or anything, but… there are castles in Europe. There are temples older than you can count back to in Asia. There are those ruins we learn about in the first chapters of our history textbooks in South America. The rest of the world is so big and so old, I sometimes forget how young my home country is (…only 241 years old).
It’s amazing to begin living in a country where you can literally stand in history and not just read about it somewhere. Living abroad means you’ll always be learning something new in history and taking in the way a culture has responded and been shaped by those archaic moments in time. Relish in it!
Yes, New Friends!
When was the last time you made a friend that wasn’t born somewhere within your tri-state area? I’m lucky that in New York there are so many people from around the world that can become my new best friends. But out of school, cultivating those relationships is a lot more difficult.
Applying to school internationally means that you’ll likely be studying with and around people from all over the world, too. You won’t be alone in your endeavors when you realize this. So instead of trying to feel comfortable and finding the other Americans abroad, make friends with people you’d never think you’d ever get to meet.
An easy ice breaker? “Where are you from?” Works every time.
Author: Diana Figueroa. Diana writes for Rakbo. She is a New York City native and alumna of Fordham University, where she graduated with a degree in Communications, concentrating in journalism and creative writing. She is currently pursuing freelance writing projects and has recently launched her own website, nativevagabonds.co, dedicated to her passion for travel and her life in the Big Apple. She is looking to pursue her Master’s degree in Europe next year, hoping to combine her desire to work in the entertainment industry and her need to create through writing while at the international level. You can find her on route to the next music festival or curing her wanderlust as she plans her next adventure abroad.
A version of this was published on Rakbo on January 17, 2017.