Graduate Studies Overseas
August 30, 2011
Might as well admit it: getting a college education, much less at a graduate level, in the United States costs more than an arm and a leg. The loans necessary to afford a doctorate degree can keep students in debt for years if not decades, and prices show no signs of slowing down any time soon. But if you want a good education, that’s just the price you have to pay, right?
Maybe not. An increasing number of students are turning to study abroad as a solution to the financial education crisis, and finding other benefits in a life overseas.
Why Study Overseas?
The most obvious reason to get your graduate degree overseas is financial. While US programs can cost tens of thousands of dollars, most foreign universities cost only a few thousand, if they cost anything at all. Socialist countries like Sweden offer education with no tuition at all, even for foreign/non-resident students (or sometimes for a minimal fee). What’s more, most US financial aid options and scholarships (like the Fulbright) apply overseas, so you could still live on scholarship even outside the country. Of course, many European countries have a higher cost of living than the US, but the money you save on tuition more than makes up for it.
In addition to the financial benefits, living in a foreign country is a valuable life experience. In our increasingly global world, understanding and participating in foreign cultures is more important than ever, and having friends with different backgrounds will only help you develop your self. Nothing broadens your horizons like literally moving them, right?
Common Fears Dispelled
But despite the financial benefits, there are plenty of common concerns that people raise when study abroad comes up, especially at a graduate level. Here are a few of these issues and why you shouldn’t worry about them:
- If I get a degree overseas, no one in the United States will recognize it. How would I ever find a job? This is probably the biggest concern graduate students overseas have. After all, no matter how hard you work or how much you study, if your school isn’t a recognized university none of it will matter. Fortunately, most foreign universities are recognized by the United States. Do a little bit of research into the academic standards of the country you choose to attend school in, and pick a university that has the highest accreditation standards. The United States almost always recognizes the top level of accreditation regardless of the country, and in some places lesser standards also qualify. It’s the same principle as getting a degree online – as long as you fully research the university before committing to it, you should be fully qualified to work in the United States when you graduate
- Foreign students have such high educational standards. How can I hope to compete with them? Actually, America has one of the highest education standards in the world, and one of the most competitive collegiate educational systems. Foreign students have more reason to worry about the issue of competition coming to America than American (or Canadian) students do going the other direction. If you have an undergraduate degree from a US institution, you will find yourself just as competent as your foreign peers, if not more so.
- I’m not very good at foreign languages. I could never learn in a foreign country. As the world becomes more connected, English is fast emerging as the go-to international language. Many officially non-English-speaking countries use English as an unofficial second language, like India, Singapore, Ghana, Sweden and other areas in Europe. Furthermore, it’s highly advantageous for students everywhere to speak English, particularly those interested in international business, which means that most graduate schools overseas offer courses or even entire programs in English. You may still have to adapt to the local language in your everyday life, but you don’t have to worry about it for your education. Classes in English are easier to find than you might think.
- Getting my graduate degree abroad will take too long. On the contrary – most graduate programs overseas actually take less time than their US counterparts. The main reason for this is that most European countries have 5-year college degrees, and use graduate programs as more of a bonus year. Thus, you can sometimes get your graduate degree in as little as a year, while in the states it might take you two or three years to complete.
Once you’ve made up your mind to go abroad, it’s time to choose a school. There are tons of brilliant overseas options, and the following are just some examples of what’s available. Do your own research and you’re sure to find the perfect option for you.
- Ecole Normale Superieure de Paris – France: For only 190 euros ($270 USD) a year, you can attend school in the famed city of Paris, France. Their website is even offered in English as well as French, and their study abroad programs are available both as an independent student or as a collaboration with your home university (probably more expensive, because you’ll have to pay US prices).
- Singapore National University - Singapore: One of the priciest schools on this list, Singapore National University tuition costs about $4,000 a year, but that’s to be expected from one of the top 30 institutions in the world. Singapore is an especially good option for those interested in Asian studies, and with almost everyone fluent in English it’s a great option for the linguistically disinclined. What’s more, Singapore is a great jumping-off point for visiting Thailand or Australia, which makes for dream weekend getaways.
- The University of Barcelona – Spain: Graduate tuition at the University of Barcelona costs only $2,000 per year – a fantastic deal by any standard, but especially considering that the university ranks in the top 3 Ibero-American universities. With a number of specific degrees and programs offered in English as well as Spanish, Spain is a fantastic option for those interested in the humanities, as well as the sciences.
- Universidad Autonoma de Mexico – Mexico: Many people think of Mexico as bordering on a third-world country, but actually Mexico City has universities to rival their peers just north of the border. At only $1,000 a year, the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico is like a discount version of many southern California and Arizona schools, particularly if your interest is in Latin American studies or history. The country also boats several fantastic research institutes, so don’t count our southern neighbors out.
- University of Berlin – Germany: The cost of living is high in Germany, but not the cost of tuition. For only 100-500 euros a year ($140-720 USD) you can study at one of the premier universities in Germany and Europe in general, and many of the university’s degrees are even offered in English.
- University of Johannesburg – South Africa: At $4,000 a year, the University of Johannesburg and its cousin the University of Cape Town are the other pricey schools on this list (though not compared to graduate schools in the US), but the cost of living in South African is so small that a student budget can have you practically living in luxury while you study. If Europe is too rich for your blood, South African is a great alternative.
- Uppsala University – Sweden: Because Sweden is a primarily socialist country, education is free – even in college, and even for foreign students. Of course, the cost of living is quite high, which means you won’t be getting a free ride, but who can argue with a Master’s program taught in English for free?
So before you fork over a small fortune to get your degree in the states, maybe you should take a look at the foreign options. What you find may surprise you.
*Photo courtesy of wiki commons.