It was spring 2012 when I first applied to the University of Stirling to join their Publishing Studies postgraduate course for the approaching autumn. 2011 had been a terrible year for me and I felt stuck, so I had promised to make 2012 my year.
It also helped that I had told a cousin the previous summer that if I ever got a Master’s Degree, I would go to Scotland to earn it. The country called to me, silent but with fierce urgency. That same cousin had reminded me of that promise at the start of 2012, and assured me that despite my reservations, no time would ever be perfect for such an endeavor, so I might as well look at the very least.
Before I knew it, looking turned into acting, though I still called it “just looking”. By summer, I had my acceptance, and my mind was made up. I was going to a beautiful university in the heart of Scotland, perfectly situated for popping into Edinburgh or Glasgow when the desire arose or conversely exploring the glorious Highlands.
Never has a decision been more important in my life, never has one affected me as greatly, and never have I made one that so many loved ones disapproved of (don’t worry; they eventually came around).
But there were a lot of concerns that those around me voiced when I spoke of my desire to attend school in another country. They talked about expenses and costs. “Why couldn’t you just attend night school in the US rather than leave the country?” There were concerns about culture differences and even fears of safety—which is a fair concern, being that I was a twenty-something single woman traveling alone. What would I do if after all that time and money spent, I still wasn’t able to get a job even with a Master’s degree?
Well, you can’t fault people for trying, and you certainly can’t fault people for having fears. We are human beings, after all, and fear does play a big role in our genetic makeup.
I didn’t want to live just by fear anymore. I’d spent so much of my youth playing everything safe, taking little to no risks, and essentially felt like I’d done everything by the book, the way everyone wanted me to.
Scotland was my selfish choice. It was the thing I wanted solely for me, and I made the leap with my full heart and soul.
My story obviously didn’t end when university did, though I occasionally speak as if it did. But the Publishing Studies degree opened a lot more doors than I realized it would.
As a student, you have hope for the future, but there’s also some weariness as well. I was earning my Master’s two years after earning my Bachelor’s, having graduated during the recession and being unsuccessful at finding work in that time. It didn’t take long for all the fears I’d heard before to catch up to me.
Would I be able to handle myself and the workload?
Would I still be stuck after earning my Master’s?
Where would I go from here?
Question 1’s answer came easily after classes started. Like most things, courses are all about the effort you put in, and luckily I’m a pretty hard worker. While I won’t deny that there were times where it felt overwhelming, it was well worth it. If you apply yourself and take the work seriously, you can handle it, while still making time to explore and have fun.
Question 2 wouldn’t be answered until after my completion of school, but very soon after, I recognized that things were already different. In November 2013, the same month I had returned to the United States, I had my first interview. While I didn’t get that position, or the second I interviewed for, it was already an improvement: with a Bachelor’s Degree, I hadn’t even been able to get interviews. This, to me, said I had something special on my resume that I didn’t before.
Question 3 is an interesting one, as it’s one I still ask myself to this day. But where did I go after university?
The third interview was the winner. After the holidays (pro-tip: many publishers do a hiring freeze during the holiday season), I scored an interview with the company I work with now, and after a few different interviews, I was offered a position as an Editorial Assistant. I accepted immediately, enthralled to have an offer after all these years.
Fast forward to 2018, and I’ve seen more than 4 full years with this company. I’ve moved from working in the Editorial world, to now working as a Digital Producer, having been promoted in September 2015. This is where I am now.
I consider myself very fortunate to have had this experience in my life, and it’s one I’d recommend to anyone who has even had the thought pass through their brain for a fleeting moment. So if studying abroad is something you’re considering, what are some other questions you may be having?
Well, you might be having a lot of the concerns that my family had before I left for Scotland, and I think those are important to address. Fear is a reality in life, and fear can and will hold you back from anything you seek to do if you let it. But often times, fears aren’t actual issues—at least, not always in the present moment, which is exactly where you need to be when making a decision like this. Sure, you’ll inevitably think about what possibilities the future will reveal upon earning a degree in another country, but the fear of negatives will halt you before you even send an application.
The first one I’ll address is time and money, and believe it or not, I actually consider the time and money to be a perk of getting a degree abroad. It can take up to two years to earn a Master’s Degree in the United States, which is not just a hefty amount of time to dedicate to a degree; it also adds up in terms of costs. These time and money expenditures can go up if you’re choosing to do a degree part-time as well.
I earned my postgraduate degree in a year, with taught classes being broken up into two semesters, an autumn one and a spring one, and my summer dedicated to writing a dissertation. This saved me time, and with it money. I only paid for one year of schooling, as opposed to two, and while it was not cheap, it was certainly less expensive than most degrees in the United States.
I did pay more for my course than my British and European classmates, but I attribute that to the fact that I also had to pay in for things like the National Health Service, which would allow me to visit the doctor, receive medication and prescriptions, and also visit the dentist if need-be. This is a thought that may fall through the cracks when thinking about studying abroad—especially if you’re an American used to health care system here—but luckily it was something I didn’t have to think about, as I believe the extra money you pay towards your degree goes to that as well.
Another concern that people noted to me was culture differences and safety. Culture differences can be a major thing depending upon where you go, and they are definitely something you should consider when you’re deciding where to apply. For me, in studying abroad in Scotland, there wasn’t too much of a culture shock. Sure, there were different types of food and slang to get used to, but nothing that impeded my ability to acclimate to my surroundings and dive right into my degree and meeting people. There were no language barriers, though it did take some time to master translating the Scottish accent (especially Glaswegian, which is a language on its own), so my transition was smooth. But we’re all different people with a variety of interests and places that call to us, and your might be one that is very different than what you’re used to. In that instance, the internet is your best friend: study, ask questions, and learn everything you can before you break out the books for your new degree.
Safety’s another thing you’ll want to think about, and again I cannot stress the importance of doing all your research before you leave. I’d even recommend doing the research before you apply. But I’ll also state this: I’m a believer that a lot of safety does depend on you. Glasgow has a bad reputation for being a dangerous city, and yet it’s the city that I consider home. I adore Glasgow, its people, and I’ve never felt unsafe walking those streets—even in times when I was walking in a bad part of Glasgow.
But equally I always try to be aware of my surroundings, pay attention to who and what’s around me, and I stay alert. Growing up near New York City, but never having been a big fan of the Big Apple, I compare any place you’d go in the world to there. When you think about safety, think about how you’d be in any other city, even one’s you’re familiar with: do you ever go in there and not pay attention to your surroundings? More than likely not. Even if it’s a place you go to with regularity, you know there are some streets you’re safe on, and other areas you avoid. Take that mentality with you no matter where you go.
Finally, there was one last concern people had for me before I left for Scotland, and that was on what I would do if after earning a Master’s degree, I still couldn’t get a job. Which is honestly a silly fear. We cannot always be so fearful of the future that it stops us in our tracks from doing anything in the present.
Even if earning a Master’s degree didn’t get me a job, I had gained so much from my time there that I would never have considered regretting the decision.
But maybe it is a genuine concern of yours, so I’ll say this to ease your worries: earning a postgraduate degree abroad gives you something unique to add to your resume. Being able to show that you’ve not only been to another country, but lived their for a period of time while earning a degree adds to what you can present at an interview, and it’s likely something that many other applicants won’t have.
Tied hand-in-hand with that idea, earning a postgraduate degree abroad just helps you grow. If you’re already thinking about getting a postgraduate degree anyway, why not add a little something extra to your experience by traveling to another country for it? I guarantee that it will not only spice up your resume and skills, but you’ll gain a lot from it as well. You learn more about what you can handle and take on, and you have an opportunity to see the world from a whole new perspective and place—literally—and that opens doors not just for your career prospects, but for the person you’re going to be in the future.
Or maybe taking a dare like studying abroad will open up a door you wouldn’t expect: maybe you’ll find the place that you would like to call home. In addition to earning a Master’s Degree, that’s the other major thing I gained, and while I’m still unable to live in the place I call home, I do travel back-and-forth between the States and Scotland several times a year. I’ve become the go-to person for my friends and family who are thinking about traveling there, and I’m always happy to give them tips for getting by and recommendations of where to see. I’ve helped an American friend find her way to a place to grab food at 2am while she was there and I was Stateside. Even family members who previously questioned my desire to travel abroad have mentioned that they wouldn’t mind spending the holiday season with me in Scotland once I’m living there.
My point is you never really know what doors could open for you by taking a big leap—whether it’s across the country, across an ocean, or even farther.