Graduate Program Anxiety

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Written by  October 4, 2016

Kelli finds her perfect graduate program abroad—but not without opposition.

Choosing a graduate program is hard enough. The internal questions of, “Do I need to go straight into a PhD program? Do I want an established, ridged program, or one that I can help mould and shape? Can I even afford to continue my education whatsoever?” All of these questions, while valid, are kicked-up an exponent when you add studying abroad into your consideration.

After hours of research, scrutinizing numerous "Top 100 Social Policy Programs" lists and at least three soy lattes with an extra shot a day, I finally found my graduate school of choice: University of York in York, England. Phew, the pressure is over right? Time to pop the Dom Perignon (let’s be honest we mean Kobel)? Think again. As most people do, I had applied to numerous universities and types of programs in regions all over the world. Once I had picked my dream graduate program, that’s when everyone decided to have an opinion about my choice. 

I was constantly thrown shade towards my choice of going to the University of York. My best friend judged me for going to an English-speaking nation. My parent’s coworker spoke to how I gave up the chance of a lifetime by turning down an Italian school I was accepted to. My own father still spouts off to our relatives that I am putting off real life to gallivant off to Europe, often followed by muttering under his breath, “millennials.”

My own father still spouts off to our relatives that I am putting off real life to gallivant off to Europe.

Despite everyone’s focus on your destination, there’s one thing that must remain central; it is your education at stake. Yes, it would have been amazing to sip Sangria after a long, strenuous siesta in Spain, or soak up the warming rays of sun on the beaches of Thailand after writing a stint of my dissertation. But if your graduate program isn’t a great fit for your academic endeavours though, the student loans, the hours of reading, the extra shot of espresso you now have to add to your soy lattes to function, aren’t worth it.

When choosing a school abroad, remember that destination should be a complimentary factor to choice. This may take shape in it being the region you’re studying for your thesis, or the location follows a similar approach to fundamental beliefs that compliments you. Academics have to come first in your choice even if your peers around you initially see your education abroad as a glorified excuse to vacation. The judgments won’t go away when you step on that plane, board that train, or wave to your mom from the side of a boat. All you’re left with at that moment is the feeling that you made the right choice for your educational future, which to me makes ignoring the haters all the more satisfactory.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Kelli Kennedy

Kelli Kennedy is a graduate student at University of York in Comparative and International Social Policy. After multiple short-term study abroad programs during her undergrad, the California native is taking on the winters of England to learn how to change the world.

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