Grad students study overseas

The opportunity to study abroad does not end with an undergraduate diploma, but it does take on a different form.

Many graduate students looking into study abroad programs this fall are finding that a semester overseas is not only a viable option, but a highly advantageous one. Educational opportunities abroad can better satisfy specialized or internationally focused career aspirations.

Caroline Donovan White, director of international programs and education at the Elliott School of International Affairs, said graduate students care about “what they’re studying, rather than where,” which differentiates them from their undergraduate counterparts.

“It’s a whole different ballgame,” said Jeffrey Lightfoot, an Elliott School graduate student who recently returned from France where he studied European and Eurasian studies.

Lightfoot said he would not consider attending a graduate school that did not offer an opportunity to study abroad.

“I had to be over in Europe if I was doing a concentration in regional studies,” he said. “It would be silly to just get an American perspective.”

This desire for academic immersion brought him to the prestigious Sciences Po in France.

Lightfoot said he quickly found himself taking rigorous classes taught in French alongside future high-level government employees. He said he benefited from the tutelage of professors who presented the material in a strikingly un-American fashion by emphasizing extensive memorization and repetition in front of one’s peers.

“I wanted all of my classes to be in French,” he said. “That is how you learn.”

Lightfoot’s wish for exposure to a challenging learning environment overseas is not uncommon among graduate students seeking to differentiate themselves from competitors in the modern job market.

Morgan Dibble, a first-year master’s candidate in international affairs at the Elliott School, said he is seriously considering a semester in Hong Kong this upcoming spring for many of the same reasons as Lightfoot.

“It’s important that someone studying international affairs has some international experience,” Dibble said. “It doesn’t make any sense to decide that this is going to be your profession and not (go abroad).”

Dibble added that a semester in Hong Kong will allow him to earn credit for courses that supplement his studies in Foggy Bottom.

Elliott School students are not the only ones studying overseas.

Bryan Andriano, coordinator of international programs and education at the School of Business, said the school sent 169 graduate students to another country this past year. He emphasized the school’s new requirement for MBA candidates, who must take classes abroad as part of their upgraded international consultancy curriculum.

The School of Business has “a strong interest in ensuring students have a global mindset and are cross-culturally engaged,” Andriano said.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences also offers international exchange opportunities for graduate students enrolled in a variety of degree tracks. In addition to clinical rotations for more advanced medical students, the school runs humanitarian missions and summer internships at more than 20 sites around the world that 88 students took advantage of this past year, according to SMHS officials.

The Law School is not far behind, offering both summer and semester-long exchange programs. Law School officials said the programs draw more than 50 students every year who specialize in various types of law at universities across Europe and North America. n

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