Maybe you’re like me and regret not taking the opportunity to study abroad in college. A whole semester off of school in a new exotic place, with new people, new culture, maybe a new language, and the ability to travel at your fingertips- swoon. I have friends that spent semesters studying in Australia, France, and England and always thought what the heck was I thinking missing out on that.
Well I’m here to tell you that it’s not too late, there is a way to fix that. It’s called grad school. I’m serious. I bet that at least half of us have toyed with the idea of going back to school. I bet you can think of a 100 excuses why not to too. I’m too old. I’m too young. I have a family. I have too much going on at work. I don’t have enough work experience. I can’t afford it right now. The list goes on, but let me at least provide some firsthand perspective.
1. Age is just a number, there is always going to be somebody older and somebody younger then you in your classes I promise-I was the younger one.
2. By the time you finish your program just think, you’ll have that much more experience in more ways than one.
3. Work life balance is important, adding school to the balancing act makes you quite the gymnast!
4. Some companies may provide tuition reimbursement, figure out if yours does and take advantage of it.
5. Having an advanced degree puts you in a better position to get a raise, to change jobs, or to even change careers (I experienced all three).
Okay- I’m off my soapbox. The point of this post isn’t to convince you to get an MBA. It’s to show you that if you do chose to start a grad school program, 99% of them offer the ability to study abroad in some shape or form (not a verified statistic). I chose a part time grad school program taking night classes one day a week after work; some people may choose a weekend program or even a full time program. My program, like most, had a list of required classes everyone had to take and then a number of required elective credits; these electives are the key to studying abroad as “elective” means you get to pick. Unfortunately, being a part time student/full time working professional I didn’t have the luxury to take an entire semester off of work to study abroad so I compromised for an international business course that included a week long Euro trip. (Pro tip- if you are working full time and your company is in support of your continuous education program, negotiate with them to give you a week off without having to take vacation days for it, it worked for me!)
I was excited to be going back to Europe for a week don’t get me wrong, but after spending months there, a week just didn’t seem long enough. I had a friend from work who was on an expat assignment in Cheltenham, England similar to the assignment I had in Paris. I expressed an interest to my boss about seeing the operations in England while I was already going to Europe, and was able to work it out to work remotely from the office there before my school trip began. This is how I turned my one week study abroad trip into two and I decided why not make it three. I tapped into my vacation days and worked out the timing to have a few days to travel before having to meet my study abroad class in Germany… and this is how I found myself in Amsterdam! (look for a travel post specific to Amsterdam coming in the future).
A week in England and a few crazy days in Amsterdam later, it was time for my study abroad class. I hopped on a seven hour train from Amsterdam to Heidelberg, Germany. (Pro tip- make sure you purchase an actual seat on a cross country train otherwise you are forced to stand…. for seven hours. Also make sure that your train isn’t late causing you to miss your connecting train which in turn causes you to miss the group welcome meeting and city walking tour.) Yes this happened, but I think it was a blessing in disguise because it allowed me time to check into my hotel and shower (much needed after the train ride.) After a bit of R&R, I sought out on my own walking tour to meet the rest of the group for dinner.
The trip was great! I can pretend that I learned a lot about the European Union and their government system, or I can tell you what I really learned.
– German beer is as good as they say.
– If you go paddle boating in the Rhine River with your future boyfriend make sure you don’t decide to go in the water because it will be very embarrassing when you try and get back in the boat and can’t do it gracefully to save your life.
– The world famous thermal spa in Baden-Baden Germany is the best thing ever.
– Wine is really cheap in Strasbourg, France and hurricanes only cost 4 euros during happy hour… and the views? Priceless!
– If you pull an all-nighter celebrating the 4th of July at a German nightclub make sure that you don’t have a three hour group boat ride the next morning or you’ll feel very very sick.
– The Strasbourg light show is super pretty, pretty enough to go back two nights in a row.
– The crepes in Frankfurt Germany are not as good as the ones in Paris.
– Don’t be hung over for the Heidelberg castle tour.
– Even if you hate mornings, it’s worth it to wake up at 4am to watch the sunrise over the Rhine river.
Well. With all my ranting, I hope I’ve convinced you that it’s never too late to study abroad. All you have to do is go back to school for your MBA! … Or you can just skip the school part and travel abroad on your own because you won’t do much “studying” while you’re there anyways.