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    Posted April 11, 2014 by
    Edinburgh, United Kingdom

    Postgraduate Studies Abroad Are Cost and Time Efficient

    There are many benefits for an American studying abroad, not least of which is the gained perspective from being outwith the American cultural system. When a student gets truly immersed into another country’s culture, they find themselves leaving their nationality behind and focusing on the immediate things that matter more such as communication, understanding and learning to work around barriers like language, religion, and other difference. But, that being said, it also depends on where a student goes to study and why.

    A student can easily go to one of the hotspots (London, Paris, Florence) and spend their entire semester on the fringe of the community in which they live, where they spend their days with the other students they are often staying with, and not learning the language and only dabbling in adjusting to the day to day life of someone who has made those places their homes. This is not to say that those students don’t get something out of these experiences, they do. They get to have a nice wee visa in their passport, stories to tell and memories that will carry over into the future, and sometimes, the undergraduate study abroad courses lead to a more extensive postgraduate programme; plus, they get the benefits of putting ‘studied abroad’ on their CVs.

    But does that really help the student within the job market? Before jumping to conclusions, I daresay that it depends on the field in which the student is entering and how well they articulate/mould their experiences abroad into a beneficial rhetoric.

    Maybe I’m just being harsh. Maybe, I’ve just been studying abroad for so long (two MAs, and beginning a second PhD) that I have lost sight of the goal of studying abroad and my horizons have been ‘broadened’ so much that I no longer see America as a viable option in which to live. I’d like to think that has nothing to do with the fact that though I studied abroad as an undergraduate and postgraduate I still cannot even get an interview for any job, anywhere in the world. Maybe I’m just bitter?

    But that’s neither here nor there.

    Point is, I have spoken at conferences here about why it is highly beneficial for American students to do their postgraduate studies abroad. First off, countries such as the UK, Italy, and Australia and others do not require the dreaded GRE. Especially for those of us who are heavily one-sided when it comes to maths or literatures. This takes the pressure off of those who cannot make the necessary composite scores for getting accepted into a US postgraduate institution. Sure, it’s all well and good that you made a GRE score high enough to get you into any university in the States on your English/literature scores, but your maths scores were so low that the composite doesn’t reach the threshold of entry. There’s a way around this, but it is only in special circumstances where the university really wants a student and will lobby the governing bodies to explain why it is ok to admit a student with lower than the ‘average’ score.

    Secondly, there is the cost vs time vs experience factors. Taught MAs in the UK (and many other places in Europe and further afield) usually take one year. In the US, they take two (This is a broad sweep and is not always the case.). What this means is that in the time it takes for one student to do an MA in postcolonial studies, or business marketing, or economics in the USA, an American student who goes to London or Paris or Amsterdam will have completed the programme in half the time. Or, they could do what I did, and use those two years that they had planned to get their MA in the States, and pursue two abroad.

    This must cost.

    Yes, it does. In the UK, there is a reasonable limit to costs. Each foreign student pays much more (generally) than a local student. But even at the cost of, sometimes, upwards of £10,000 per year it works out to be cheaper than a similar degree in the USA. Firstly, you have one year; one fee of +/- £10,000. You have flights (+/- £450.00 for one round trip), cost of living (on the high end Edinburgh University suggests £175 per week = £9,800 per year), plus any expenses for travel and so forth (let’s say £3,500). Roughly leaving you with a cost of £23,750 GBP for the year. At today’s exchange rate, that’s almost $40,000 USD.

    That’s a lot of cash.

    But when you look at the cost of doing the same degree in the United States, the cost is roughly the same per year, if you go to a middle-grade university such as Auburn University. Here, the cost per year, if you are lucky enough to be an Alabama resident as I would have been, is $28,109. For an out-of-state student, it jumps up to a whopping $44,628! And this is per annum. If it takes a student two years to complete their Masters and they are from California or Utah, then they are looking at $89,256 for that MA. (costings from here: http://www.auburn.edu/administration/business_office/finaid/pdf/cost.pdf)

    For the same costs, I was able to do two Masters degrees in the UK in complementary fields while my friends who stayed in the States only did one. How much is one’s time worth?

    Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to studying in the States too. For instance, at the doctoral level they really take you under their wings in the States, they insist you take classes (sometimes with undergrads) to be up to scratch to do your research properly. Then they often give you the option to teach some courses, giving you a taste of what academia is like. But you are still looking at forking out those yearly fees for up to four/five years if you are looking at a middlegrade university, more if you are aiming for an Ivy League institution.

    While in the UK they do not give you as much support, they expect you to be able to research when you begin your degree and you must have a well-balanced sense of autonomy, because you don’t have classes to take or someone riding you about your reading list. And they do not offer as much as American universities in the way of general preparedness to go into the world of academia. They allow you to research to be a specialist. They do not make you ready to teach general-subject courses as you might get back home.

    But the PhDs in the UK are only three years (usually, full time). That’s $120,000. After the third year, you pay only a maintenance fee, which is a pittance comparatively (£90.00 per year at Edinburgh Uni in 2013/4).

    This is still a fair shake less than doing one in the USA. When all is said and done, only each person can make the balancing decision of time and cost and experience when it comes to postgraduate studies abroad. But there’s a lot going for it.

    The question, however, still remains: does studying abroad help in the job market back home? It’s never as cut and dried as “this person studied abroad and therefore will be a better employee with more ‘broadened horizons’”. It may, however, make a candidate stick out from the rest when all the applications begin to blur into one, and it certainly gives a sense of worldliness that might attract a company.

    But, I guess it also depends on if you want to return home or not.

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