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Can You Study Abroad for Grad School?

Can You Study Abroad For Grad School?
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated September 10, 2023
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Whether you missed out on studying abroad during your undergraduate studies or loved it so much you want to go abroad again, you’re in luck. You can study abroad in grad school and earn your advanced degree in another country. Some American universities offer in-house study abroad programs for graduate students that let you live in another country for a semester or longer. Alternatively, you could attend a foreign university in another country to earn your graduate degree. Before taking the leap, though, it’s worth considering both the pros and cons of earning your Master’s or other degree outside the U.S. Here are some advantages and potential disadvantages to keep in mind before you pack your bags.  

Pros of Studying Abroad for Grad School

Studying abroad for grad school can be an exciting and enriching experience. Here are some of the top advantages and opportunities that this path can open up for you. 
  • Save money on tuition and fees. While the cost of tuition increases year after year in the U.S., some countries offer low or even free tuition to students. Germany, Iceland, Norway, Austria, France, Luxembourg, and Spain, for example, all offer affordable options for advanced education. 
  • Immerse yourself in a foreign culture. Studying in another country gives you the opportunity to learn about another culture firsthand. You could gain countless new experiences that you wouldn’t have had otherwise by studying at home. 
  • Learn a new language. Along similar lines, you can study and improve your language skills. Not only will this be personally fulfilling, but it could make you a better candidate for a job, depending on your field. 
  • Build a global network. You’ll also make friends with people from all over the world and gain connections in multiple countries. 
  • Make your resume stand out. Living and studying in another country can be a great talking point in a job interview and show that you possess cross-cultural communication skills and other competencies. 
  • Become more independent and resilient. Finally, living in another country forces you to be adaptable and self-reliant — skills which will help you mature and grow into an independent person. 

Cons of Studying Abroad for Grad School

At the same time, there may be some potential drawbacks to studying abroad for grad school. Here are some possible challenges to keep in mind when wondering, “Should you go to grad school?” 
  • May have a higher cost of living. While you might save money on tuition and fees, you could end up spending more if you live in a high cost of living city. Plus, it might be difficult to work part-time if you’re not a citizen or aren’t fluent in the country’s primary language. 
  • Language barrier could be a challenge. While you can find graduate programs in English abroad, the university may not offer every class in your native tongue. Taking classes in another language could help hone your skills, but you may find it difficult to keep up and understand all the information coming your way. 
  • May miss out on opportunities to network at home. Since you’ll be studying and living abroad, you’ll miss out on the chance to grow your network at home through on campus events or internships. 
  • Could experience homesickness. Living in another country can be challenging, and you’ll probably feel homesick or have trouble adjusting at certain points throughout your time abroad. 
  • Employers may not recognize your school. Unless you’re attending an internationally recognized university like Oxford, your school may not have the same name recognition among employers, friends, or family as a domestic institution. 
  • May have to validate credentials in the U.S. Depending on your field, you may have to pay a third-party service to verify your credentials. Some programs may not fulfill the requirements for licensure that you need if you’re planning to return home and work in the U.S. 

Factors to Consider When Deciding to Study Abroad for Grad School

Along with weighing the general pros and cons of studying abroad for grad school, it’s worth considering specific factors when deciding whether this move is right for you. For example, your specific academic and career goals can inform your choice. For certain specialized degrees, such as medical and law degrees, it could be challenging to earn your degree abroad. These fields have specific licensure requirements, so you’ll need to see if your courses and credits will count toward your eventual certification. On the flip side, if you’re planning to go into international business or development, studying abroad could perfectly align with your career goals. It will give you firsthand experience in another country and help you build your global network. It’s also important to consider your financial resources when making this decision. If you’ll be relying on income from a part-time job to pay for grad school, find out whether you’ll have the ability to work in another country. Compare tuition costs, and consider looking for an international school that’s eligible for federal financial aidFinally, consider whether you have any family obligations or other commitments that may influence your decision. If you have the freedom to study in another country now, it may be worth taking advantage of before you have more ties grounding you to a specific location.

Researching Universities and Programs Abroad 

If you’d like to earn your degree in another country, it’s important to research your options for graduate school thoroughly. Here are some features to keep an eye out for: 
  • Language of instruction: Some schools offer programs that are taught entirely in English, while others might have courses taught in other languages. 
  • Admission requirements: The requirements may be different than what you’re used to in the U.S., so review the criteria carefully. 
  • Application deadlines: Keep track of all the deadlines so you can get everything in on time. 
  • Available scholarships: Find out whether any scholarships are available for international students from the U.S. and what steps you must take to apply. 
  • Costs: Along with researching tuition and fees, check out the area’s cost of living, especially housing and food, so you can prepare financially. 
As mentioned, you may also want to look into whether your courses will count toward any specific licenses or certifications you may need for your specific career. 

Financial Considerations

While it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of studying abroad, you’ll need to take some time to come up with a financial plan. Research tuition and fees, as well as any scholarship opportunities. Check out the area’s cost of living too, especially as it relates to housing, food, and transportation. You’ll also want to explore available funding options, which may include grants, scholarships, and student loans. Depending on your visa, country of study, and language skills, you may be able to earn some income abroad with a part-time job or find a remote job you can do from overseas. 

Paying for Grad School Abroad

When it comes to paying for grad school abroad, you might use similar funding options as you would at home. Seek out grants and scholarships first, since these are a type of gift aid that you don’t have to pay back. Find out whether your school offers any assistantship or fellowship positions to international graduate students, as these could help you earn money while gaining experience in your field. You may also want to attend an international school that’s eligible for federal financial aid. If you choose an eligible school, you can submit the FAFSA and put yourself in the running for federal grants and student loans, specifically Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Grad PLUS LoansIf your international school isn’t eligible for federal financial aid — or you have a gap in funding — explore your options for private student loans from a bank, credit union, or online lender. 

The Takeaway

Studying abroad can be an unforgettable time in your life that introduces you to an array of new experiences. Along with meeting people from all over the world, you’ll get to immerse yourself in a new culture, learn a new language, and undergo tremendous personal growth.At the same time, there are both pros and cons to studying abroad, so it’s worth considering the potential drawbacks seriously before you take the leap. Consider your personal goals, field of study, career plans, and other commitments to determine whether studying abroad as a graduate student is right for you. If you choose to study abroad, consider opting for an international school that’s eligible for federal financial aid so you don’t miss out on this valuable financial assistance for school. 

Student Loan Refinance Tips

  1. Refinancing your student loan can lower your monthly payments and help you adjust your loan term. Compare student loan refinancing rates to find a loan that works for you.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Can you study abroad during a PhD?
How much does it cost to go to grad school abroad?
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About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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