''If I continued to stay in Taiwan, I would just use the same language, hang out with people similar to me and pursue the same careers as others.'' - Shin-Yu from Taiwan
How I decided to study abroad: inspiration, expectations and fears
One of the very first few words I learned to speak without knowing its meaning was probably “studying abroad.” It is my father who initiated my curiosity about this term as he was pursuing his Phd at The University of Manchester when I was one. Yet, he gave it up shortly, leaving the regrets and depressions in the rest of his life. The negative feelings affected me and gradually formed a shadow of fears and worries in my mind. I thus held complicated opinions on studying abroad. On the one hand, I desire to experience the exotic world where my father had been to and wish to complete my father’s dream. On the other hand, I am afraid the language barriers, cultural shock, different study patterns and loneliness in the new environment would upset me just like how it affected my father.
Fortunately, the concerns dissipated as soon as I volunteered at World Model United Nations in 2010, hosted by Harvard University and attracting more than 2000 international students to my home town. That was the first time I met a large number of people from diverse countries. During the five-day session including professional conferences, social events and activities, I felt my world was totally changed. The brand-new inspiration made me realize how amazing the international environment were and how limited my previous life was. I knew my life could be more abundant.
Most importantly, through the interaction with the international students, I got the picture of another way to pursue a successful life than just being occupied with study and exams as a student which is, I think, the typical Asian learning pattern. If I continued to stay in Taiwan, I would just use the same language, hang out with people similar to meand pursue the same careers as others. However, if I could study abroad, I might be able to explore the better opportunities for career, meet diverse people and create more fun in my life. Although there might be also something unknown and exciting happening in my hometown, I was pretty sure I would miss and regret more than if I stayed. This was the point I decided to study abroad.
I then came to Lund University in Sweden through the exchange program at my home town college. This experience was even more inspiring and gave me full confidence in pursuing a further degree abroad.
How I choose the program: support and preparation
When it comes to choosing where and what to study, Sweden and the UK were the two familiar and obvious choices for me. I put more efforts into searching programs and universities. I conducted cross comparison to the QS and the other local ranking resources by subject to collect a few promising programs. Also, the study consultants from UKEAS and my professors provided me with valuable suggestions. Further, in order to write an impressive statement of purposes and CV, I borrowed several examples from the alumni of the targeted universities through my personal network and the consulting firms and referred to the instructions from the trusted bloggers. Other important preparations were inclusive of asking professors for recommendations and taking an English test, which were relatively easy but required long processes.
Differences between studying abroad at the bachelor's and master's level
According to my two studying abroad experiences, I found a huge difference between bachelor's and master's level. The main point is the professors in bachelor's programs are more instructive, encouraging and willing to teach; while the professors at master department tend to treat the students as a well-equipped, decisive and independent academic partner and assume they are able to solve out any academy-related problems. I remember when I was an exchange student in my bachelor's program, my professors cared a lot about me and my classmates’ reaction in class and gave us very specific feedback on most assignments. Yet, entering master in management without awareness of the differences, I was overwhelmed with frustrations. I felt so lost in the beginning when my master’s professors usually came give a few lectures and then quickly rushed into their own busy schedules without patience for the leading questions. Some of them were not even interested in providing feedback. When I came to discuss the thesis plan, my supervisor usually answered with: “What do you think? You should make the decision by yourself.”
How the experiences affect my career
Although there were more tears than smiles in the studying abroad experiences in general, it has created positive impacts on my career. It not only polishes my English skills in expression, communication, teamwork and problem-solving, but it also brings about the significant increase of self-awareness and the vision and the confidence to manage uncertainties. This is an invaluable asset for me to stand out in a fast-changing world. Needless to say, I found most of the employers are more impressed with this experience than any others.
Tips for other students
Last, I would highly recommend that those students who are eager or already planning to study abroad broaden the range of their choices, in schools and in locations. The more choices you find and compare, the more satisfied you would be during the study. Understanding the diverse aspects from living standard, culture to post-study plan at the destination is also paramount. This will empower you to find the best path. Directly contacting with the school representatives or alumni is the most efficient way to understand, assess and get admitted to the program.
Are you interested in studying in Sweden? Browse Master's, Bachelor's and PhD programs in Sweden and get in touch with admissions advisors.