It's undeniable that a graduate qualification can deepen your knowledge of a subject and better equip you for the open job market. For many, this next step in their education is taken from the comfort of their own country, province, or even town; however, for a growing number of students, a plane ride and a passport is needed to reach their campus of choice. We're of course talking about graduate schools abroad.
Lost in Translation
So you love pasta and good wine but can't speak Italian. You think Strasbourg is a city of global leadership but you can't speak French. How much of a language barrier would you face in your ideal graduate school abroad?
Harriet Scales is a 2nd Year student, studying a Masters in Management, at ESCP Europe in Paris. While, her first language is English, following the completion of her undergraduate degree in the UK, she has studied in both France and Germany. While Harriet did learn some French during her undergraduate degree, she maintains that I learnt more French in the first 2 weeks of my masters in France, than I did in 2 months studying French in the UK. The only way to really learn a language is to go live in the country.
If you really have no experience with a language, many graduate schools, including ESCP Europe, offer a multitude of programs through the medium of English. The world is getting smaller and consequently, educational institutes are adapting to attract graduates for more internationally focused careers.
By taking advantage of these foreign school programs ' immersing yourself in a different culture and learning another language ' you will become a much more desirable candidate for employers operating on a globalized scale. Harriet for instance, already has an offer to work for consumer giant Proctor and Gamble following her graduation.
With graduate schools increased interest in advancing their international appeal, many schools have simplified their application process, making it easier for international students to apply. If you're unsure of how your current North American qualifications compare abroad, simply check with the potential graduate school, or review The Times Higher Education Rankings, published annually.
Where entrance exams or language proficiency tests are required, many schools offer these exams at affiliate campuses, closer to the applicant's home. Harriet notes that she completed her ESCP application online, before sitting the entrance exam at their London campus.
Preparation and Planning
So you've picked your dream school, you've applied and been accepted; what next? Aside from booking travel and actually getting to your new campus, there are a few things that you should prepare, before saying Bon Voyage! to your home soil. Of your many priorities, finance and visas should be at the top of your list.
Generally, adequate funding is a student visa stipulation and so, financing your study should be one of the very first things to arrange. Once you have evidence of your funding and an offer of acceptance from your chosen school, you are then able to begin the visa process. Bear in mind that the procedures for obtaining a study visa permit vary from country to country; however, your graduate school will be more than willing to assist you through the application. The whole process may take some time and consequently, until your visa is secured, it's recommended that you do not make any travel arrangements.
If you find that your Euros aren't stretching as far as you thought, some student visas do allow for you to undertake part-time employment whilst studying. Yes, part-time work is a great way of absorbing more foreign culture and work ethics, but before accepting any employment, it's very important to check your visa conditions for any limitations.
Harriet began her graduate school preparation by thoroughly researching the country online and joining Facebook groups with other new students. There's lots of information on the internet to get you prepared before you arrive but, even so, I still arrived two weeks early to get all of the administrative stuff organized.
Eventually, all of your preparation and planning will pay off and with any luck, you'll be hauling your luggage up a cobblestone street with a name you cannot pronounce. Thankfully, most graduate schools offer guaranteed accommodation to international students, meaning that you and your luggage will have somewhere to go.
Your accommodation will undoubtedly be a melting pot of people from different cultures. As Harriet points out You don't just meet people from the country you're visiting, you meet like-minded people who have also decided to study abroad. From a networking perspective, she's gained confidence, and now knows people from every corner of the globe.
It's clear that studying abroad is a liberating experience. Abandoning your comfort zone and taking on new challenges will evolve your character, change your perspectives and boost your employability. That said, in a long-haired hippie sense, who wouldn't want to be a citizen of the world?
Photos: Jupiter Images/Thinkstock