I forgot to study abroad.
August 2, 2010 2:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to graduate and I never studied abroad. I'd like to change that.

I've wanted to study abroad since high school, but have missed the traditional college study abroad experience due to (a) too much college-aged devotion to my ex-boyfriend and (b) financial difficulties during the traditional junior-year study abroad cycle. I really, really regret not going — I love traveling, learning languages, and spending time immersing myself in other cultures. I could travel after college, sure, but I really want to live and learn abroad and not just go to bars.

It's far too late to apply to study abroad next year (and I'm not sure I could graduate on time if I did so, anyway). What options are available for postgrad study, research, etc.? Research-wise, I've been studying Islamic integration in European/UK culture and find that subject extremely interesting. You can take a look at my previous question — my interests are pretty varied, and run along the design/art/architecture and political science/sociology/psychology veins. My degree is in journalism & political science. My grades are okay, but nothing stellar. I speak Spanish & English and am learning French. I love languages and would happily learn anything I needed.

The options I've thought of are spending time at an English-speaking university abroad getting some kind of post-grad degree in sociology or political science focusing on immigration; trying to obtain some kind of temporary employment or internship abroad in a field of interest; or obtaining some type of research/journalism grant. What are the best options for post-graduate study abroad?
posted by good day merlock to Education (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What citizenship do you hold?
posted by halogen at 3:04 PM on August 2, 2010

Best answer: good day merlock: "It's far too late to apply to study abroad next year (and I'm not sure I could graduate on time if I did so, anyway). "

Well, wait - why is it too late for next year? Deadlines may have passed, but deadlines are abitrary and outcome driven. Study abroad programs need to fill their rotas, and people drop out, get sick, can't find the money, change plans or just plain change their minds.

I'd still call programs you're interested in and see if a) you can apply for the January term to do your second semester abroad, b) you can fill the credits you need to graduate in June if you go abroad. (Frankly I think the credits issue will be a bigger stumbling block than programme availability, even at this later date.)

But sure, there are grad programs that let you do semesters or even summer programs abroad for full credit. I am surrounded by these students at both grad and undergrad level so while I can't help you with a specific programme, I do know this is very possible for American grad students.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:06 PM on August 2, 2010

I participated in a 12 week long internship with the State Department as an Intern. It was an awesome program and only takes a few months to arrange. You don't even have to be a student to participate. Just be able to get a valid security clearance from the US and afford living somewhere without income for 12 weeks.
posted by msbutah at 3:33 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: US citizenship.

My school is on the quarter system; while it might be possible to get into these programs (the school deadlines have all definitively passed and my school's study abroad department is notoriously anal), I'd effectively have to get two quarters of passing credit in another country to graduate on time, as I'd be missing both winter & spring quarters. I'm not willing or financially able to spend extra time in college.
posted by good day merlock at 3:33 PM on August 2, 2010

Go to the American University in Cairo and learn Arabic, get a grad degree in Migration and Refugee Studies, or take some classes in Middle East/Islamic architecture. Or do a whole graduate degree. It looks like the deadline for spring semester is September 15.

Or do the same thing at the American University in Beirut (I haven't been, but I've heard it's gorgeous).

I'm not as familiar with British universities overseas, but you could pursue that as well. The advantage is that you'll have a degree accredited back home (though make sure to double check that), and the language of instruction is English.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:43 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm an American too and I will be studying at a London university in the fall, pursuing an MA, so I can offer some advice about that, if you're interested in further pursuing UK/European culture.

I specifically wanted to study in the UK, but there were several factors for me that pushed it from a vague idea to something I really, really wanted to do.

--Most UK postgraduate programs (just for a master's degree, I don't know about Ph.D.s or anything) are one year long. I preferred this to US programs (I don't know how other countries compare), most of which are two years, as I felt this was a more realistic commitment for me.

--You can apply to most schools for free. In fact, of all the schools I looked at, only the London School of Economics charged an application fee. This was a big plus for me as I spent hundreds of dollars on undergrad applications and I wasn't happy with that. With this, I felt I could just apply if I wanted and then see if I got in and decide what to do -- I'd have options.

--All the UK universities I looked at seemed way more laid-back about the application process than US universities. Applying for undergrad was extremely stressful for me. Me and my peers had to deal with the pressure of what was portrayed as either choosing the right school or screwing up our whole lives. There were super strict deadlines, super strict word limits on application essays -- everything was very controlled. Grad schools in the UK didn't appear this way to me. Most schools I looked at had application deadlines that were more of guidelines than deadlines, especially for international students. I heard many times that they want non-UK and non-EU students because they pay higher tuition fees. So they make it easier for us to apply. At my school, prospective international students were encouraged to apply by April or so, but anytime in the summer (until the program filled up) was OK. For my application essay, I was told to basically write what I wanted -- just sort of explain myself and my interest in the school. Once I got in, I was given a month to pay the deposit. I emailed the school panicking saying that I probably couldn't come up with that much money that quickly and they agreed to let me pay the deposit later (and left it up to me when).

--UK schools have slightly different application guidelines as well. There's less of an emphasis on extracurricular activities and being well-rounded. They want to see that you have decent grades and good letters of recommendation. Passion for the subject is also good. I have heard that they are less strict about grades for non-UK and non-EU students for the reasons I mentioned above.

--UK tuition fees are much cheaper than US fees, in general. My undergrad costs about $40,000/year now. Most London grad schools I looked at were around £10,000 for a yearlong program.

Also, I don't know about other schools, but my school offers free evening language classes (Spanish, French, and German).

One thing that really helped me was making a list of all the things I'd want in my dream UK postgraduate program. For me, this mainly included a ballpark tuition figure, a location I really liked, an internship component to the program (so I could gain work experience at the same time I was in school), and a very specific program focus (i.e. a program that was the exact thing I wanted to pursue, not just 'well this is closely related and would probably work'). I researched tons of schools and found one that met all of these criteria. Then I knew I definitely wanted to go there. A master's degree is quite a commitment, so I would encourage you to only enroll in a program that meets all of your criteria. And make them specific.

I would recommend the Guardian postgraduate guide for rankings and The Student Room as a forum to talk to other prospective UK students. There's also the brilliant UK-Yankee forum, for Americans with an interest in living in the UK. I cannot recommend that last one enough.

I think that's most of the things I learned about postgraduate studies in the UK. Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like more advice or information.

Good luck!
posted by Put the kettle on at 5:03 PM on August 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

One more thing: if you are interested in studying in the UK, considering your specific interests, I would say you should take a look at SOAS: "Part of the University of London, SOAS is the world's leading centre for the study of a highly diverse range of subjects concerned with Asia, Africa and the Middle East."

I can't evaluate the quality of its programs, but it always sounded like a fascinating place to me.
posted by Put the kettle on at 5:06 PM on August 2, 2010

South Africa would be worth it.
posted by parmanparman at 6:59 PM on August 2, 2010

I participated in The Fund for American Studies' European Journalism Institute in Prague. It was a week long program. If you don't mind learning about free market economics, it was relatively reasonable. TFAS offers a few other international programs. I think American University offers study aboard programs. And I've done two volunteer international programs with Habitat for Humanity. If you're interested in any of the TFAS programs, feel free to memail me and I'll fill you in.
posted by kat518 at 7:37 PM on August 2, 2010

Maybe a non-degree option would interest you?

I studied in Germany as a non-degree guest student. The learning was more important to me than the degree, so it was perfect--and at my school (granted, an organizationally laid-back one) getting in simply required finding a professor to have me as a student. Guest student policies vary from school to school, I believe (some places may want you to currently be a student somewhere else), but most places are used to a rotating cast of foreign students because of the Erasmus program (an intra-Europe student exchange program).

It sounds like money is a concern? University in Germany is free or very cheap, depending on which Bundesland you're in--and because I didn't go through a study-abroad program, nil is exactly what I paid. I expect you'd find a similar situation in other European countries.

Most schools have a foreign-students office. You could look into places that interest you, then contact whomever looks after the foreign students and ask them what your options are.

You might also look into Fulbright (or for Germany specifically, DAAD). I believe Rotary has foreign-study fellowships as well.
posted by the_blizz at 11:51 PM on August 2, 2010

If the study thing doesn't work out, what about a working holiday? The nice thing about these is you can both get the immersive living experience and afford a bunch of travel. In addition to these visas, I'm pretty sure that at least a couple European countries offer internship programs (France springs to mind?). Have a chat with your university's study abroad office - even if you don't end up doing something through them, they're bound to have heard about interesting opportunities.
posted by clipperton at 12:51 AM on August 3, 2010

Response by poster: You guys rock.

I would, of course, love more responses, but these are all great!
posted by good day merlock at 7:15 AM on August 3, 2010

It sounds like DIS (Copenhagen) might have some courses that would interest you. I'm thinking specifically of the Muslims in the West course but there are a lot of other courses that might touch on the architecture/political science interests.

SIT's program in Toulouse might be another good one.

EuroScholars has some great research options in Europe. Here's a list of some of the current projects going on right now in social science. There are a number of other options in other fields.

It's worth asking the program if you can participate even after you've graduated from your US institution, just for the experience rather than the credit. Or you could delay graduation for the semester/summer you spend abroad.

There are also a number of options for working abroad after graduation. Most of these won't make you a lot of money, but you'll usually break even. There are programs like BUNAC, where you go and get a short-term job (usually things like temping, waiting tables, etc).

I'd say the most popular/established work abroad programs are the ones for teaching English abroad. You may have heard of the JET program in Japan, but there are a number of teaching assistantship programs in Europe as well, including Finland (apparently on hold, but worth a call at least), France and the Fulbright. Fulbright, in addition to the teaching assistantships, also has research grants abroad. There should be a Fulbright advisor somewhere on your campus.
posted by srah at 7:29 AM on August 3, 2010

Response by poster: As an update—I ended up on a whim (thanks, DarlingBri!) emailing my program & study abroad advisors. They've waived the deadlines for me to study abroad spring semester, and it looks like I could even still graduate on time.
posted by good day merlock at 5:09 PM on August 3, 2010

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