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December 13, 2012

Want to travel? Get a degree abroad

Picture credit: Flickr/David Michael Morris

Usually, vagabonding starts with a separation from our previous existences made up of obligations, 9 to 5 routines and homely surroundings. After the liberation, always generally, someone storms off to a different corner of the globe, makes experiences, meets people, open his perspectives and spends his hard earned money. And always usually, when this hard earned cash gets low, these “someones” have to face a dire decision: find a way to support themselves by staying on the road, or just pack bags, return to their homes, and face a new set of consequences and experiences with a new mindset.

If you choose the first one – as I did -, the road ahead of you may be a bumpy one: the shadow of failure, regret and difficulty will always lurk at your side. And it will make a few things that most likely you would have thus far confined into an extra-travel dimension spring back into the game as a new set of open possibilities. I am referring in particular to one, possibly the most extreme: going back to school. Exactly, you read right: books, assignments, education, supervisors, thesis and blah blah blah. Sounds awful, isn’t it? Possibly. But most likely, I am almost sure that not many of you know that it is exactly by studying that a traveler may start funding his own life abroad. I bring you my own humble example: faced with the opportunity of losing a new important relationship or moving on to a teaching job somewhere else, I decided to look for employment opportunities locally, and they were hard to find for me. One day I met a friend who talked me into getting back to university and pursue an MA. “They give good scholarships” he said, giving me hope to solve my problematic economic situation.

So, I choose a suitable course and went back to school: I applied, waited, had to translate many documents in the local lingo – and this was an adventure itself, I assure you – and finally got accepted: as things usually do not always turn out for the best, I did not get a scholarship, but a smaller source of funding to trade off with some casual employment at the university. I was therefore back on my feet with something to do, some money to pay my bills, and especially, a way to enter the local life like I never experienced before.

I also recently discovered that the same concept of ethnographic fieldwork is, indeed, to travel meaningfully. Why? Simple: it brings a social scientist to research deeply a community/place/subculture with a lengthy, focused involvement. It may reflect the same essence of travelling slowly as you would soak into a culture, experience is subtle meanings, compare the differences, and making it less “other” than what it felt like at first contact. Because after all – and even if I am a culprit as well – it is quite hard to establish deep connections by taking 2 week long trips…

Has anyone else been studying abroad for long periods of time? Did you get funded? How would you describe your experiences, overall? May you compare it to a different form of slow travel? Please comment below.

Posted by | Comments (2) 
Category: Expat Life, General, On The Road, Vagabonding Life

2 Responses to “Want to travel? Get a degree abroad”

  1. Joanna Says:

    I studied abroad in Spain but only 1 semester, in a special “Hispanic studies ” program in a Spanish u iversity in Madrid with classes in Spanish but with all other American students. It was an isolating experience and I got more immersed in Spanish culture by teaching for a year after that in a small city outside Madrid.

    Now I am thinking about getting my masters in Spain, as many universities teach their economics classes in English. But I’m concerned about the application process – translating documents, dealing with their bureaucracy, etc. Also, how will my degree be viewed if I want to use it here in the US, maybe to teach in community college or get a government or NGO job.

    Plus if I expand my search to other countries outside of Spain, there is simply an overwhelming amount of programs …how do I choose when the whole world is an option?

    Any insights would be much appreciated

  2. A Says:

    Transferred from university in Spain to Canada for a science/mathematics degree. Paperwork was quite an adventure, but patiente and reading lots of stuff online was enough. Learning the language enough that you can do it is kind of fun, too. Didn’t get funded initially, but got enough to live quite comfortably after a year and a half of doing well.

    Overall, it was the best decision of my life by far. Got to know many cultures very well (specially Chinese one), and a lot more of perspective on everything.

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