With so many graduates competing for jobs, a period of study abroad may help you stand out from the crowd. So what are the benefits of postgraduate study abroad?
Increase your employability
It takes confidence to set up in a new country and adapt to a new culture and signals to employers a can-do attitude and will impress on your CV. According to the Council for Industry and Higher Education, who regularly survey employers’ attitudes, job applicants with international study experience are highly valued. There is a growing need for graduates to demonstrate competences which equip them to work in a global environment, in different countries, in multi-cultural teams and using language skills.
There are also opportunities to gain work experience alongside a period of study. In the US for example, Assistantships are offered to PhD students or those on research focused masters degrees, where funding is offered in return for services to a university, such as teaching, research, lab supervision or working in a campus office for about 15-20 hours per week.
Study at internationally recognised universities
You can identify the top 200 universities in the world recognised internationally for specific subject areas, or specialist research, and the funding they receive from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. If you wish to study at one of the 23 leading research universities, take a look at Universitas 21. They offer semesters abroad, summer schools, research conferences, on-line study experiences and travel awards to enable collaboration and research with colleagues across the world. A short term collaboration as part of a PhD can be less of a commitment than full-time study abroad but pay dividends for your research career.
Broaden your horizons
At institutions such as the College of Europe and the Central European University it is possible to study Masters in topics such as international relations, diplomacy, European economic integration and law. Students come from over 50 different countries to see business in a wider perspective in a culturally diverse and international environment.
Brush up your language skills
Immersion in another country will rapidly improve your language skills and be a valuable asset to your CV. Graduates are often put off study in Europe because of the demands of being taught in another language. However, postgraduate courses are increasingly taught in English and language skills are merely needed for integration into the country.
Postgraduate study abroad experiences
Greg Callus works with the on-line community team at a major national newspaper. He studied an MA in Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York, aided by a scholarship from the Fulbright Commission.
‘I was lucky enough to study with and to train under some truly brilliant journalists...(and) noticed significant improvements in the quality of my work, both as a reporter and as a writer. US universities seem to place a much stronger emphasis on providing professional education - law, journalism, business, public policy, medicine are often free-standing graduate professional schools, rather than departments catering primarily to undergraduates, which gives a different character to the training. It seems much more vocational by comparison. The funding available to most US institutions is staggering, and does provide for very favourable staff-student ratios and facilities for postgraduates. There's also the matter of the cultural experience - living abroad is a great way of interrogating your identity, and working out where in the world you think you belong.’
Sue Willman works as a solicitor and heads up a human rights and public law team. She studied International Law at Georgetown University in Washington DC, also aided by a scholarship from the Fulbright Commission.
‘(Postgraduate study abroad)... is far more challenging- socially, politically, culturally and intellectually. It gave me a lot of confidence to try new things- that American ‘can do’ attitude rubbed off on me. It also gave me access to new information and potential areas for expansion, which I hope to develop over the next few years. I did an internship at the Centre for International Environmental Law for which I gained credits on my course. I also made many international contacts.
In the last few years postgraduate study abroad has become more accessible. The Bologna Process has made European higher education more compatible and comparable with a degree/Masters/doctorate framework across all participating countries and information is readily available on the web, see PLOTEUS, for example. Organisations such as the Fulbright Commission give advice on studying in the US and Study Options on postgraduate study in Australia and New Zealand. Finally, you can find out more by attending International Study Exhibitions.
You may also be interested in the companion article Funding Postgraduate Study Abroad and you can search for funded study opportunities abroad in the Studentships section of this site.