After chatting with Katie, I’ve been thinking about my Masters! I did my MA in Irish History at University College Dublin, and had the good fortune to live in Dublin for a full year. I travelled a lot, made some new friends, and was able to train with the historian in my field. Today’s post is all about things I think that you could consider before going abroad for graduate work and the things that I learned while living in Dublin!
Studying early Irish history past the undergraduate level in Canada is pretty hard to do, so I knew I would have to leave to go on in academics! A lot of people would suggest study abroad programs to me, but that wasn’t possible in my program- they aren’t overly common in Canada, and my classes are full year, meaning that it would have pushed back my degree a whole year. Enter: my Masters!
Things to Consider
Before you undertake graduate work at home or abroad, I would recommend asking yourself a few questions and being honest with yourself.
–Will this further my career? Will this degree actually help or hurt my job search? When I came onto the job market, 98% of employers refused to even consider me for entry level positions because they thought I was overqualified, going to leave for PhD, or both.
–Does this work for me financially? I will have my loans from that year paid off in 6-7 years. I grew as a person, as a historian, and learned a lot about the world, so it was worth it to me. However, the amount of debt that I would have incurred from attending a US school would not have been worth any experience- know what level of debt you can actually work with.
–Is this program the best fit for me? If you are going to go overseas for graduate work, you should do it to work with someone specific in the field or because the program itself is the best fit for you. If you are going because you want to travel, I would recommend simply traveling (see finance question above).
Because I didn’t have any undergraduate debt, it would allow me to work with the expert in my niche field, and allowed me to learn more about me, going to University College Dublin was a wonderful choice for me. Although I ultimately decided to not continue on in the field due to a lack of funding and jobs at the end of it, I don’t regret my MA for a second.
Things You Will Learn
No matter how much research you do, you still won’t know 90% of what you need to to successfully get around and be a person.
In Canada (and the US), drugstores have prescriptions, over the counter medications, and a wide assortment of toiletries, food, and odds and ends. In Ireland, chemists who have medication are completely separate. I learned that one while I was wandering around with a sinus infection… I also learned that in Dublin, if you don’t have a bus pass, you will have to pay each time you get onto a new bus. No such thing as a transfer that saves you the second fare… I’m bizarrely intense with my research- before I go somewhere, do something, or make a purchase, I spend hours reading up on the pros and cons, best way to approach it, what to look for. I spent months researching life in Dublin and it still took me three months to get situated.
You are there to study.
This is something that escapes a lot of people, particularly undergraduate students students studying abroad. You are on a different continent to study at the end of the day- you will have to do assignments, write papers, and take exams that will culminate in a degree, and that requires work. It may be tempting to travel every weekend and party all of the time, but do you want to end up with a sizeable debt and have nothing to show for it?
You have to be open to new things.
“We never did this at my old school.” Okay, Phoebe from the Magic School Bus, we get it- things are different than they were at home. If you were that attached to the way things are at home, you should have stayed there. It sounds harsh, but you will be living, studying, and working with domestic students who don’t want to hear you continually complain about their country/city/school is terrible because of X. Studying abroad is a fantastic way to meet new people and experience things that you wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to- while you don’t necessarily have to repeat it, at least you can say you tried!
The Biggest Surprise
This is different for everyone, but the biggest surprise for me was that Dublin felt like home by the end of the year. I don’t know that I will ever have the chance to live there again but it will always be home to me. It’s crazy how much Dublin has changed already since I left (four years ago?!?) but it will still be comfortable to me. There is a little piece of Dublin inside of me now, and that’s certainly something that wouldn’t have been possible without that leap of faith. Living abroad also helped me see that Winnipeg isn’t the place for me in the long run- I either want older history or more to do culturally! Everyone belongs somewhere, you just have to find your place.
Did you study abroad? Would you ever consider it?