The feeling of visiting a foreign country for your international studies, meeting local people, and immersing yourself in a new culture is almost unparalleled. When combined with spending time abroad for a Masters programme, it is a meaningful experience for anyone who seeks to broaden their horizons and develop their personal and professional self. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that one can extract the same value from an international study programme at home. When considering the next steps in your education and the most suitable Masters degree for you, keep one thing in mind: the dynamic environment of international studies will be an experience to cherish and remember.
International and intercultural awareness
What constitutes an international Masters programme is not one abroad, but one which features a diverse student body and teaching staff from different parts of the world. Programmes that are truly international are relevant to our contemporary surroundings and look at the teaching material through a global perspective. They manage to instil in students an intercultural awareness and an open-minded attitude – essential attributes for today’s globalised business.
The growing student interest in international programmes both at the undergraduate and graduate levels is then easily explained. According to U.S. News & World Report, the number of international universities offering English-taught programmes is on the rise, especially in Europe. Top international Masters programmes boast incredible student diversity, with people coming from different continents and enhancing the study experience with a variety of academic and professional experiences.
Although intercultural awareness is not part of most Masters curricula or a subject of its own, class participants are able to reap the benefits of their international surroundings in several ways. Experts say that the communication and teamwork that goes on in class essentially teaches students how to deal with work styles that differ from their own. “Cultural awareness becomes an understanding of one’s self and how one needs to adjust to the environment and ecosystem that he or she is in. To be culturally aware, you’re acknowledging, ‘I’m aware of what my culture is and I’m taking the strategy to adjust my behaviour in a specific way,” explains Dr Patty Goodman from Northeastern University (US).
Next to bringing people together and enhancing their intellectual potential and cultural awareness, international studies also contribute to the personal growth of class participants. Reports on the topic have shown that studying abroad or in an international programme has the capacity to influence a person’s values and their life choices. A survey conducted by IES Abroad, a not-for-profit organisation, asked alumni about their study abroad and the majority of their answers reveal that they believe international studies increased their self-confidence. Most of the survey participants also said that the experience enabled them to learn something new about themselves and served as a catalyst for increased maturity. Whether you are bold or insecure, determined or still looking for purpose in your future career, international immersion will open your eyes to the qualities and strengths of your character.
Above all, personal growth is not just about developing your values and expanding your view of the world. Believe it or not, changes of a personal nature will also influence your professional attitude and the way you handle yourself at the workplace. Students who have international experience are often viewed as independent, self-reliant, and adaptable. These qualities will help you deal with day-to-day matters but they are also some of the most highly sought soft skills by employers. Every moment of self-discovery and personal growth will lead you in the right direction and will contribute to your career progression.
Diverse career opportunities
Speaking of the intercultural awareness and personal development of students usually brings up another popular question: does international experience equal lucrative job opportunities?
Of course, the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”. Although job offers will not be falling from the sky after a year or two spent abroad, international experience counts for a lot. People who are exposed to different nationalities, ethnicities, languages, and other factors related to diversity develop intercultural understanding and more sophisticated communication and problem-solving skills. Moreover, beyond influencing skills and competencies, going global seems to have a tangible professional impact as well. It will certainly look good in your CV/resume and employers will take note. A study done by the European Commission revealed that two thirds of the surveyed employers felt that graduates with an international background are given greater professional responsibility more frequently. The majority of surveyed employers also reported that international experience was an essential aspect in their recruitment practices.
Perhaps even more importantly, having international experience can open new doors for you by encouraging you to look for job opportunities you may not have considered prior to your international studies. Your confidence in working in English and conversing with people in a foreign language will also positively impact your chances of landing a job in an international setting. Testimonials of alumni who choose to develop their careers at home are another proof of the universal value of international and intercultural experience. “Three months after graduating from [the programme] I was already involved in a large urban project back in Brazil. In this project the diversity of the studies carried out during the course proved essential to deal with situations that involved planning, design, and research,” reflects Luiz Carvalho on his European Post-master studies in Urbanism at TU Delft (Netherlands).
There is one common factor bringing all of these points together – your eagerness to go off the beaten track and delve into the unfamiliar. Whether it is to explore the world or to enhance your career, international Masters studies will make you more adaptable and independent. Even seemingly simple efforts such as getting accustomed to an international setting and working with English-speaking professors will help forge your character and get you ready for the global market.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2018-2019 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Go Global, Go Master's”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.