What to Expect When Getting Your Graduate Degree Abroad

My philosophy was very simple after studying for a year in Paris: I HAD to get back to France. I had that oh-so-clichéd “time of my life,” but there I was, back home in Britain, daydreaming of all things French.

The solution was clear; I found myself a master’s degree in the heart of Provence, France. Years later, with my master’s degree complete (including a spectacular semester on an exchange program in Hong Kong), I’m halfway through a PhD and still wake up to the unmatched Provençal French sunshine everyday. Even though the solution was clear, the path to was a little murky so learn from the experience of others and know what to expect when pursuing a degree overseas.

Overwhelming Options

The sheer choice of graduate degrees, diplomas, and qualifications in any given country (including the U.S.) can be baffling. Each country has a multitude of both international and national-level qualifications. You’ll need to be prepared to do a whole bunch of research to find the degree which suits you and your objectives, both in your student life and beyond.

Don’t End Up Lost In Translation

To do this, you’ll need to find out which degrees are valid where. Most graduate programs offered by large universities in the humanities, arts, sciences, and business are recognized the world over, including the U.S. This isn’t usually true for medical and law degrees or teaching qualifications. In any case, it’s worth checking to avoid nasty surprises down the line.

U.S. vs. the Rest of the World

The academic approach to graduate study can vary according to the country, especially in relation to the U.S. Some graduate programs allow students a huge amount of academic independence, meaning very few classroom-based “contact’” hours and long gaps between meetings with supervisors. You’ll quickly have to learn how to self-motivate and not confuse this independence with leisure time. However, learning how to manage your freedom is an invaluable lesson for your future academic endeavors and for life in general.

Another thing to bear in mind is the question of language barriers. More and more courses the world over are being offered in English, but many universities, especially in Europe, teach in other languages in which proficiency is a necessity.


Depending on your choice of destination and program, the most striking difference between studying abroad and studying in the U.S. is likely the cost. Internationally heralded universities in Australia, the U.K., and some other European countries charge similar fees to those in the U.S. However, in France for example, a master’s degree will set you back around $550 per year. That’s right, a fully-fledged two-year master’s degree can cost you just over $1000.

What’s more, this low price tag doesn’t necessarily translate into inferior teaching quality, au contraire; that $1100 will get you a master’s degree from the world-renowned Sorbonne in Paris. Remember though that the cost of living in some popular student exchange destinations, such as Paris, can impact heavily upon the savings made from those bargain tuition fees.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Big Cities

Your choices are far from limited to those cash-draining popular cities. All you need to do – and here’s the best bit about graduate study abroad – is be prepared to get out and explore further afield. Academic considerations aside, further study abroad will give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, meet hundreds of people, and discover yourself during the adventure. That’s something that no college course alone can teach you.

Adam-WilsonAuthor: Adam Wilson

Adam Wilson was born and grew up in northern England. Always a lover of languages, he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in French and Linguistics from the University of Sheffield in 2009 before moving to Provence in the south of France. He completed his Master’s degree in Language Sciences at the Université d’Aix-Marseille and is now working towards a PhD in Linguistics at the same university. Alongside his studies, he also teaches linguistics classes to Bachelor degree students and when not working enjoys playing guitar, practicing various sports and generally making the most of the Provençal climate.

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