After earning your Bachelor’s degree, you might feel exhausted. Like you need a ‘well-earned’ rest to reflect on your future. Or you might be eager to leave your studies behind, start working and making a name for yourself. Or you might feel like you need to learn more and specialise by taking a Master’s degree.
We are all different and there’s no one single path to take after finishing your undergrad studies. Some people may not be ready to study again so they may need a leap year, others need to start working. But sooner or later most people tend to go for a Master’s degree at a grad school. This is one very good way to advance both professionally and personally.
And when you get to that point in your life – when you know you want to continue or resume your studies with a graduate degree – you will also start considering doing a Master’s abroad and becoming an international student.
Since this is a big decision, balancing the advantages and the drawbacks is essential. This does mean going to a foreign country for a couple of years, after all. At first, it may seem that you have a hard puzzle to figure out. But as soon as you state the “pros and cons” of international study, the pieces will start coming together.
The main pros of studying a Master’s degree abroad
1. You can study at top universities worldwide
One of the main advantages of choosing to do a Master’s abroad is aiming for a highly ranked world university. This means access to better academic education, from reputed professors. It also means going to a foreign university with great facilities and academic resources. Not to mention the welcoming attitude towards international students. The most famous university rankings in the world include the World University Rankings, QS Rankings, or the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Here are some examples of universities that are in top 200 worldwide:
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), USA (ranked 33 by THE)
- École Polytechnique, France (ranked 59 by QS)
- University of Helsinki, Finland (ranked 56 by ARW)
- Radboud University, Netherlands (ranked 101 by ARW)
- The University of Exeter, UK (ranked 130 by THE)
- Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium (ranked 182 by QS)
- James Cook University, Australia (ranked 201 by THE)
- Linköping University, Sweden (ranked 201 by ARW)
2. You’ll have more possibilities to improve your language and communication skills
Studying abroad in a foreign language will let you interact with different people and languages. If you go for an English-taught degree in a non-English speaking country, such as Germany or France, you will also have the chance to learn a new language. But you will also have plenty of options if you just want to study a Master taught in English.
The rewards to improving language skills will influence you professionally and personally. You’ll gain more confidence, you’ll find foreign language jobs, and you’ll feel more at ease interacting with people from different countries.
3. A graduate degree is a way to boost your confidence and responsibility
As a student, some of your first steps to independence will be choosing your classes and preparing for exams course assignments. But you will also leave the ‘nest’ and discover the world, whether it's the European Union or another higher education system in the world.
Whatever country you choose, you have the chance to meet and discover new people and places. Being able to live through a study abroad experience will show how many resources you can find in yourself to adapt and thrive in a new environment.
You'll also learn how to manage your finances, your studies and free time, as well as your diet. And the list goes on. It will be hard not to be proud of yourself after conquering your fears.
4. An international diploma helps you stand out on the job market
Statistically, students who have chosen a Master’s abroad have access to more job opportunities after graduating. This happens regardless if you return to your home country or choose to work elsewhere. Even if you want to stay and start a new life in the country of your studies, you will discover there are a lot of work possibilities for internationals.
The cons of studying a Master’s abroad
1. You’ll have greater expenses with your studies
No matter how you put it, the word ‘abroad’ is a close synonym to the word ‘expenses’. This is probably the main disadvantage of choosing a study programme abroad. Not everyone affords the costs that it implies.
Roughly, your costs will include travelling, accommodation, food and tuition fees. There are at least three ways in which you can solve the challenges of costs:
- You can try and get a part-time job as a student, to manage some of the costs of living. A part-time job will not cover everything, but it will help.
- You can apply for a Master’s with a scholarship or for external scholarships. These scholarships can cover tuition fees. In some cases, they also include some monthly living stipend.
- You can take a student loan. Typically, you start repaying student loans after you graduate and start working. It is not ideal, but you will be free to focus on your studies during your Master's.
2. Courses might not meet your expectations
There are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, you might discover that the Master’s you enrolled to is easier then you expected. But the opposite can also happen. You might feel overwhelmed with information, with professors' demands and the whole curricula. Different countries have different academic systems which influence how subjects are taught.
One way to avoid being in one of these situations is to carefully read the programme description. Look for student opinions and dare to ask the university for more information. Doing this research should give you a fair idea about what to expect from a given Master’s.
But sometimes, even if you do your ‘homework’, there’s still a chance it will not meet your expectations 100%. That’s why it’s important to keep and open mind and try to adapt to the programme as much as possible.
Alternatively you can also use our best fit tool which helps you see if the programme you want to apply to matches your background and budget.
3. You might find it hard to adapt to your new life and deal with homesickness
Let’s not beat around the bush. Culture shock is real regardless of where you come from and where you are going. Sitting at home and planning your wonderful study experience, there‘s no way to know how life will be in a foreign country. Yes, you can read about it. Yes, you can watch movies and videos about it. But until you actually live it, it’s hard to tell if its right for you. Once again, being flexible and open to change will make things much easier for you. Don’t expect things to be a certain way. Expect them to be as unexpected as possible.
Homesickness will also show its ugly face, regardless of how well you adapt to a country or not. It is natural for us to miss our families, friends and the places we grew up in. But, hey, you still have a phone, video calls and instant messaging to make the longing easier. Not to mention school breaks when you are free to go back your country and recharge the feel-good vibes.
4. The admissions process might be unfamiliar and intimidating
The admission process in your destination country may be very different from the one at home. You may have to present different documents, or take an interview or entry exam. Writing a motivation letter or getting reference letters can also be a bit confusing.
The best way to make your application process easier is to carefully read the entry requirements. Contact the university as early as possible to clarify any questions you might have.