Rebekah is currently pursuing her MA in Russian Translation at the University of Exeter. She found her programme and enrolled via StudyPortals. We asked Rebekah about her experience of searching and applying to a university abroad.
Hi, I’m Rebekah. I’m 22 years old and where I come from is already a long story. Originally, I hail from the green, wet Pacific Northwest of the United States. In the past five years I have called New Hampshire, South Africa, Jordan, Ethiopia, Russia, and England my home.
When I was 16, I moved to Norway for one year, and I instantly fellin love with a language and culture different from my own. That is what got me set on studying French, Ancient Greek, and eventually Russian, which is the MA degree I am currently earning at the University of Exeter, here in southeast England.
I’ll be here for one year, which seems short to this American, as most of our MA programmes last two years. However, this was a deciding factor for me in choosing where to study as a postgraduate. Not only was the British degree term shorter, and thus less expensive, it also offered me a way to experience yet another foreign culture (and be closer to my beloved Russia, when it comes to flight distance).
Searching for study options
The adventure of my study programme began with a Google search (how romantic). At first, I limited myself to American universities. I was looking at UW and Columbia extensively, but I was dismayed over the prospects of doing programmes that were so clearly focused on Slavonic literature and not on the actual language, which is what I was truly passionate about.
When I was living in Russia, I was able to do the tiniest bits of interpreting for people and in reviewing my experience with the Russian language and where I wanted to go with it, I realized it was those interpreting experiences that stood out to me as the times I’d felt best about myself – the times passion really sprang out from within me.
Once I’d figured that out, all I did was search “Russian interpretation MA” and suddenly a wealth of options appeared, and they were all in Europe. That settled it for me, I was going to study in Europe one way or another.
Using StudyPortals really helped me compare different universities in the UK – which I’d learnt was the best place to get an MA Translation degree. The website gave me the ability to cross compare universities and to pick my top four to which I would apply.
After weighing heavily on what each of the programmes offered (my most important priority in deciding) I started considering the Universities of Bath, Leeds, Surrey, and Exeter. Remarkably, I was accepted into all four and when it came down to selecting my choice, I chose based off my personal interactions with the universities.
Two of the universities were extremely hard to get a hold of when I had questions or needed advice, and one of them I didn’t feel any personal connection with the head of my would-be department. The fourth though, the University of Exeter, stood out like a gem with their quick, helpful responses and the friendliness of my department’s director.
As for my advice to other Americans looking to study abroad, I’d say first of all, good for you! Studying abroad is one of the best things you can do for expanding your mind, your personal space, and even your sense of self.
I often say I’ve learned the most about myself being crammed into a Russian metro train at 7:00 in the morning, or having to speak to a British cab driver (good luck with that), or figuring out how to buy milk on a Sunday anywhere in Norway.
Experiences that test us, that force us to figure out a solution when things seem impossible are what define us and make us stronger, more capable human beings. So my advice is to be just that – strong.
Do what you want, go where you can, be the best you can be. Of course, that all sounds nice and easy, but what about money? If you’re anything like me, I know you’re wondering about how I managed to fund all my adventures. The unfortunate but all too common answer to that is loans. As any American knows, the only way for us to fund our education is through loans. A lot of them. Big ones. But, like I said, do your research and you may find as I did, that studying in Europe is a lot cheaper than in the US.
And what matters in the end is whether or not you’ll be happy. For me it came down to the following question: ”I have my BA loans to pay off anyway, will adding more debt to that put me in a position where I’ll be able to enjoy working to pay it off? When it came to translation at the University of Exeter, the answer was a hearty ”yes”.
I love my city here in England and I love the university I attend. My instructors and my courses are all interesting and leave me feeling as though I am truly learning what matters to me. If I had to rate the whole experience so far on a scale of 1-10, I’d unreservedly choose a 10. The only thing I would do differently would be to trust myself more.
It took a lot for me to finally sign a contract with a school – I was worried I wouldn’t be good enough. I was worried European standards with language would be higher than American standards (since generally the US does not value foreign language learning). But I was wrong, thank goodness, and the stress I wasted is the only thing that I would go back and alter if I could. Apart from that, not a thing could be better…except perhaps, food here could stand to be a tad less expensive…or the £ could drop a little.