Pursuing Post-Graduate Studies Abroad: Risks and Rewards
Missed out on getting an international experience in your undergrad? It's not too late.
Studying abroad is one of the major unsung advantages of being a student. Getting to explore your interests in a new, unfamiliar setting is a unique experience — something that'll only get tougher to do once you settle down and start your career.
If you missed out on getting an internationalized education during your undergrad, you may want to study abroad for your post-grad; either for your entire degree, or even just a semester. Either way, you'll encounter new ideas and perspectives by studying abroad.
Of course, there are risks alongside the rewards. Let's take a look at a few of the major factors that go into studying abroad for your post-grad.
Benefits of studying abroad for your post-grad degree
Studying abroad isn't for everyone, but it does have some specific benefits you may find appealing:
Finishing your post-grad degree early overseas
Many master's programs are quicker to complete outside of Canada. Here, many master's level programs take two years, but in the United Kingdom, for example, most master's programs can be completed in a year. It might be intense, but it'll take you only half the time.
Experiencing the unknown
Studying abroad will test your skills in many ways, both in and outside of the classroom. Travel is one of life's greatest teachers: immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture will teach you lots about the world, and even more about yourself. From getting an apartment to shopping for groceries, even the basics will be rendered strange. Exposure to the unknown can help you develop a more well-rounded perspective.
Getting a second chance at the right degree
One study in the UK from 2015 suggests about 33% of undergraduate students wish they'd chosen a different program. If this sounds like you, a post-grad degree can help you dig into your real passions. Because the courses are shorter, you've got less to lose, and you've already got your undergrad complete, so you know you're capable of sticking through tough times.
Plus, in some cases, schools abroad will offer programs that are hard to get into (or hard to find in the first place!) here in Canada. From law, to medicine, to optometry, some of the best-paying professional careers can be explored much more easily overseas.
Developing your translatable soft skills
You might already be tired of hearing about soft skills, but they're super important. Many Canadian employers find that soft skills are where their new hires suffer most — though a new grad may have the technical know-how, they often lack the finesse needed to fit easily into a new team in a new environment.
By practicing these exact skills during your post-grad abroad, you'll be in a good position to stand out from your peers who haven't taken the self-sacrificing risks that you have.
Risks of studying abroad for your post-grad degree
There are some potential downsides to studying abroad, too. Here are a few of the big ones:
Paying the costs of studying abroad
The biggest factor will be the cost. For most students, studying abroad will be more expensive than staying in their home country. Many universities charge international students more than domestic — Canadian schools do so too.
Exceptions could include universities in developing countries that don't have the purchasing power of a place like Canada, where your converted dollar is likely to go further. But if you're considering some of the big name destinations, like the United Kingdom, Australia, or the United States, you can expect to pay more for the privilege.
If you're lucky — and you've got good grades with strong community leadership credentials — you might be able to get a partial or even full scholarship. These opportunities will vary depending on your school and program, though. Plus you have accommodations, travel costs, and more to consider on top of just tuition.
Still, if your post-grad takes less time to complete overseas than it does here in Canada, you might actually save money in the long run. The specific calculations will come down to your specific situation.
Taking time away from your life and potential career
When you're pursuing a post-grad program, overseas or not, you'll be putting your career — and the rest of your life — on hold for a while. Of course, you're betting on a better outcome down the line, but that's not guaranteed. Having a post-graduate credential on your resumé will help you stand out from other applicants, but in many cases, you won't have much work experience either.
You can mitigate this somewhat by taking a post-grad program that offers a co-op or internship component. Still, it can be disheartening to see your friends back home earning promotions while you're locked in a far-away library.
You'll have to remind yourself that you're working towards the future that you want for yourself, even if it will take a while to achieve it.
Feeling like you're part of a community when studying abroad
Depending on your temperament, you might find it tough to develop strong friendships and feel like you're part of a community when you're studying abroad. Not only will you have a ton of high-level work to complete for your course, but you'll be in an unfamiliar location, which could make adjusting to the rhythms of your new life a challenge. This could be extra difficult if you're facing a language barrier when communicating with locals.
That said, intense pressure can help forge strong bonds, too. You may find that the hurdles you're facing bring you closer to your classmates, fellow ex-pats, and local people. Your experience will vary quite a bit, whether you're in the heart of a bustling city or out in the country, but knowing exactly what will appeal to you before you arrive can be tricky.
A post-grad degree isn't for everyone, and neither is studying overseas. But if you're a curious, driven person, who can handle a bit of hardship, you might be a good candidate for a post-grad abroad. You'll travel, meet new people, and try things you'd never experience otherwise. If you've never thought a post-grad abroad, consider exploring your options. You never know what might click for you!
Explore post-grad degrees at a Study and Go Abroad fair near you