For the past few months, I have scoured the internet looking for a particular type of blog. I wanted to read content about students from the United States currently doing a graduate degree program abroad. Despite spending countless of my lunch hours on google, changing the search terms to encompass every possible combination of “American graduate student abroad blog” that I could possibly imagine, I kept coming up with nothing. The closest thing I could find was some single articles on general study abroad websites, but nothing quite close enough to what I was looking for.
You see, I have been dreaming about, and am currently in the process of, applying to graduate school programs outside of the United States. Around the time that I graduated from university, proud to have completed my Bachelors degree and relieved that it was over, the crazy idea to complete a Masters degree abroad popped into my head. I always knew that some kind of further education would be in the cards for me. Since the age of thirteen, when I had grand dreams of going to law school and becoming the next Amal Clooney, I included some type of graduate school program in my life plan. The excel spreadsheet of my life (yes, I do have a spreadsheet roughly planning out the next fifteen years) went something like: complete undergraduate degree, work at some fancy nonprofit job for a few years, go to graduate school, work at another fancy nonprofit job, become best friends with Barack Obama, rule the world. Very realistic goals, I know.
Every fall season since I graduated in the summer of 2016, I obsessively stalked the graduate admission pages for universities. I lusted over International Relations programs and I almost cried with happiness at the prospect of learning about Peace and Conflict studies so specifically. This may seem over dramatic to some, but it pretty much sums me up. I am beyond passionate about what I studied in university. While I did not always love my university experience, and considered dropping out on more than one occasion, my tumultuous relationship with it had nothing to do with my studies. I adored my program. I loved every single class that I took. And while my tendency to procrastinate may have challenged it, I actually enjoyed writing most of my papers too. Nothing could have been a stronger indication that I had chosen the right field to study.
Despite my clear desire to jump back into academia, I delayed it. A combination of wanting to gain work experience, uncertainty about the type of degree I wanted to complete, and a pull of the heart strings to stay closer to home pushed the decision back. However, each time that I did this, I felt crushed. I knew that I wanted to be continue my education, and I also was not afraid of taking a non-linear career path. Diving head first into one program would not prevent me from pursuing another at a later stage if I decided that was what I wanted to do. I could be like Elle Woods and just decide to go to law school one day. Nothing would necessarily stop me.
So at the ripe old age of twenty-three, two years out of my Bachelors degree and with a few colorful work experiences, I am applying to graduate school. My desire to become “Master Smith” (if getting a PhD makes you a Doctor, then why can’t I be a Master after a MA?) has presently won out over all the other things I want to accomplish in my hopefully long life. Writing personal statements, editing CVs, and begging professors to write me letters of recommendation has consumed my free time over the past few months. My nerves are on a high as application portals have slowly started to open, and my impatient, nosy nature has lead me to reach out to complete strangers on LinkedIn, who are currently completing degrees at universities that I am applying to, and inquire about how long it took them to receive a decision upon application submission.
Needless to say, a blog detailing the experience about someone who has already gone through this process would be helpful. Much like when I applied for the Scottish Parliament Internship program, and read and re-read the blog of a participant of that program, I long to learn about the experience of someone who shared my current status. I want kinship and empathy, and instead I am met with lonely Go Overseas articles about the pros and cons of pursuing a graduate degree abroad… Helpful when I was first contemplating the idea two years ago, but not as helpful after I have already read the article a solid thirty-seven times and yet it keeps popping up when I am trying to find results for “Graduate School Abroad as an American.”
I realized that if I was so desperate to find a blog about this experience, then surely there must be other people wanting to read about it too. I wanted something to get lost in, an outlet for all things graduate school related, and I way to channel my passions for academia in a way different to my current method of talking about it as fast as I can to my family, friends, and just about anyone who will listen.
Finally it hit me that I could write the blog that I was so desperate to find. I love to write, have a strange habit of oversharing my life, and have felt a bit embarrassed about how my blog seemed to crash and burn once I returned from Cambodia. There are so many things that I want to say, tangents that I want to rant about, and memories of the process that I hope to document.
So buckle up dear reader, the Travel Smith is back: graduate school application edition.
The Travel Smith