In just over two weeks I’ll be leaving for grad school in China.
“Grad school in China?!”
Most people are confused. They don’t understand why I would possibly want to go to grad school in China, or how I’ll be able to use my degree back home.
Next year I’ll be attending the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China. Nottingham is a British university that also has campuses in China and Malaysia. There are plenty of universities all over the world that have programs like this, such as American University in Cairo, NYU Abu Dhabi, and Johns Hopkins in Nanjing. All of these universities conduct their classes in English, and are taught to the standards of their home university*. These schools offer a really great way to get an amazing degree from a reputable university while living abroad. You’ll be able to travel in your spare time, meet people from all over the world, and save money by living in a cheaper country.
Another option would be to check out universities in countries that already speak English, like the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada. I actually have two American friends getting their master’s degrees at the University of Sidney this year; One of them even has a full-ride!
*Johns Hopkins in Nanjing is taught almost exclusively in Chinese
While researching jobs and opportunities for this upcoming year, I stumbled on Concordia University’s MAIS program almost by accident. Students teach English at a university in China, while getting their master’s online. It sparked my interest, and I started looking at other programs of a similar nature. I eventually settled on the University of Nottingham, which was the best choice for me.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are so many grad school options out there! No one ever talks about attending grad school abroad, and the many benefits it can bring. While getting a master’s overseas may not be the right path for everyone, I think it’s really important to know your options, so you can make the best decision for you.
So here we go, six reasons why you should consider grad school abroad!
This is probably the most important reason to consider getting a degree abroad, especially for Americans. College in the US is criminally expensive. When you compare how much we spend on our degrees relative to other developed countries, it just doesn’t make any sense. Exiting college with tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars of debt is not a very good way to start your twenties. Many young people from Europe or Australia choose to travel for a year after college, but most young Americans are so riddled with debt, they have to take the first decent-paying job they can find! While there are ways to live abroad and pay off your debt (teaching abroad is one of them!), it’s better to not have all that debt to begin with.
Tuition in America is unfathomably expensive, especially when it comes to private schools. While there are ways to pay less in grad school (becoming a TA, research grants, scholarships, working for a company that pays your tuition for you), it’s still a lot of money.
Since Nottingham is a British school, I’ll be paying British tuition prices. My tuition for one year at the University of Nottingham is $14,000 USD. Now let’s compare this to a really good public university in America. I’m from Seattle, so I’ll use the University of Washington. UW is a public university, meaning it is much cheaper than most private universities because it is funded by the state. I did some research a few days ago, and tuition for Washington state residents is $16,298 for one year ($28,344 for non-residents). That’s not too bad right?
Unfortunately, a graduate degree in America takes two years, while my degree at the University of Nottingham only takes one. This means that UW students will be paying over $32,500 in tuition, while I’ll only be paying $14,000. Since my program is only a year, I’ll already be working to pay off my loans, while the poor students in America will only be half-way done with their degrees.
God forbid you live in a state that doesn’t have a good public university. If you want a master’s from UW and you live out of state, you’ll be paying $56,700 USD for your degree. If you want a degree from a private school, you’ll probably pay much more. I attended the George Washington University for undergrad. A master’s at GWU’s Elliot School of International Affairs will cost you $65,000 USD. Holy Cow!
This is the part where you all start to hate me. My housing for next year is $1,700 USD for twelve months. Let me repeat that: I’m paying $1,700 for a full year of housing. While Nottingham’s international student dorms aren’t palaces, I have my own bedroom, and I’ll be sharing a kitchen, living room and bathroom with my three roommates. I even have a balcony!
Many of my friends living in Washington DC, San Francisco and New York spend about $1,700 per month for their apartments. For comparison sake, the University of Washington tells students to budget $14,000 USD for room and board. That’s the cost of my tuition!
Living in a western country is expensive. Food, public transport, utilities, bills: it all adds up really fast. By studying in a country like China, I can save a lot of money while I’m at school. I can eat lunch in the cafeteria for about $1 USD, or splurge on a nice dinner in the school’s cafe for $3. Taking the subway from one side of Ningbo to the other will cost me about $1 USD, while taking a cab 45 minutes may cost roughly $10. My health insurance for the year is $150 total, and my utilities payments are pennies compared to what my friends pay in America.
Total, I owe the University of Nottingham $17,000 USD. This includes tuition, housing, books, my ID card and health insurance. There are a few things I’ll be paying for that aren’t included in this list: a flight to and from China ($600 each way), and my residence permit and health certificate, which are a combined total of $200.
2. It’s easier to apply
Applying to universities in America is very stressful. Even if you meet all of the requirements, there is still no guarantee you’ll be accepted. American grad schools look for some magic combination of GPA, classes, work experience, GRE score, writing ability and personal flair. American universities love to use a “holistic” approach to college admissions, which normally works out well for decently well-rounded people, but it’s also extremely stressful. There are “safety schools” and “reach schools”, and applicants are forced to wait anxiously to see if they excelled in enough categories to be admitted.
The British system is very different. During my visit to the Ningbo campus, I was told that if I had a 2.1 A-level score (GPA 3.4 equivalent), I was pretty much guaranteed to be admitted. As long as I wrote a good essay, had solid recommendations, and produced a diploma and decent transcripts, there was no need to worry.
When I received the admittance letter, it almost felt anti-climactic, like I didn’t earn it. But I guess the other argument would be that I did earn it by producing a solid application, and getting decent grades while in undergrad.
Finally, if you apply to a school outside of America, you don’t have to take the GRE test! That means no expensive books, countless hours studying, and overpriced stressful visits to testing centers. After seeing my friends all rip their hair out over studying for the GRE, I’m glad that it’s something I’ll never experience.
3. You can learn a new language
Unless you go to grad school in another English-speaking country, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a new language! While I already speak Chinese fluently, there are plenty of opportunities for Nottingham students to learn Chinese. My major offers Chinese classes as part of the curriculum, but Nottingham also offers a variety of other ways to learn Chinese outside of the classroom. There are extracurricular Chinese lessons and a Chinese language club; International students can even sign up for a “Chinese buddy”, who will help you learn Chinese, and introduce you to the local culture.
About 90% of the students at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo are Chinese. All of the students must pass an English test to be admitted, and will have a preliminary year of English intensive classes before they start their degree, so that they’ll be able to keep up with the native speakers. I’m excited for the opportunity to be able to befriend some of the Chinese students, so that I can practice my Chinese with them outside of class. It’ll be a great way for me to improve my language skills, and I’m sure my classmates will be more than happy to take a break from English for a while. Plus, having local friends is really fun! They can show you cool new foods to try, and introduce you to local culture.
If a graduate degree isn’t enough to help you stand out from the pack of job applicants, the ability to speak another language will certainly help you rise about the rest. In an increasingly global world, employers want people who can speak another language. You’ll find that learning another language is so much easier when you have an opportunity to use it in your everyday life. With a little hard work and the desire to learn, it’s very possible to become conversational after a year.
4. You get to live abroad
This one pretty much speaks for itself. If you didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad, or you’re itching to live abroad again, graduate school is the perfect opportunity! You can live in a new country, try new foods, meet people from all over the world, and explore a new culture.
If you want to travel, but you’re worried about a resume-gap, grad school is a perfect option. You can live abroad for a year or two, and come home with a prestigious master’s degree! You’ll be ready to dive into whatever career awaits you, with an open mind, international experience, and a shiny new degree.
5. Plenty of Opportunities to Travel
Attending graduate school abroad will give you plenty of opportunities to travel. For example, most schools in Asia give students a month off for the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year). If you’re studying in China, you can easily pop down to SE Asia and explore countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Maybe you want to eat sushi in Japan, or take a train up to Beijing and hike the great wall? China also has tons of school holidays, making it easy to explore places nearby. You can get almost anywhere in China with $70 on a 24-hour sleeper train, and hostels are only about $10 a night! SE Asia is even cheaper, meaning your meager student budget will get you a lot of bang for your buck.
If you decide to attend grad school in Europe, you can easily hop on a train or take a quick flight to another country for the weekend. You’ll have a whole group of new classmates and friends to travel with, and transportation throughout the EU is relatively cheap compared to America. Even Australia has extremely cheap budget flights to Bali!
6. It’ll help you get a job
The world is finally starting to realize that international experience is a huge plus! While it may seem like everyone you know has studied abroad, only 1% of all U.S. students enrolled at institutions of higher education in the US have studied abroad. Employers are now starting to realize that applicants who have studied abroad bring a lot to the table.
- A willingness to adapt to new environments
- Understanding of different cultures, peoples and ideas
- Self-confidence and independence
- Ability to look at situations from different perspectives
- Proficiency in a foreign language
- More interesting and well-rounded
While I’m not saying all students who have studied abroad reflect these characteristics (because we all know that’s definitely not true), I do believe living abroad helps develop these skills.
Grad school abroad isn’t for everyone, and there are definitely certain professions in America that require a local degree. However, getting a degree abroad can be a great option for a lot of people; Unfortunately, no one ever seems to talk about it. If you’re at all interested in grad school abroad, be sure to spend some time researching your options. Don’t be pressured to blindly follow the beaten path.
By getting my degree at a British university in China, I’ll be saving myself tens of thousands of dollars! I can improve my Chinese, travel during my holidays, meet people from all over the world, and have a great degree from a prestigious university in one year. The possibilities are endless!
Do you think grad school abroad is right for you? Are you shocked by the American tuition system like I am? Let me know below!