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Guest Column: 5 benefits of studying abroad in grad school

A typical Dutch scene. Courtesy photo.


By Leslie Stahl, MURP alumna, Community Planner at Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center

One of the reasons I chose to study at Northeastern was because of the Amsterdam exchange program. If you studied abroad as an undergrad, you likely know how fulfilling it is to live in a foreign city surrounded by different people and to learn in an exciting (and at times challenging) new culture. Studying abroad as a graduate student offers the same experiences and a few new ones. Here are my top reasons to do it in graduate school:


  1. Break your routine. It’s easy to fall into a routine when you’re in graduate school. Between work, classes and homework, every minute of my day had to have a purpose. Mixing it up can unleash your creativity and give you a new perspective on an old concept. Thinking outside the box is an important part of graduate school, and studying abroad provides the ultimate forum for doing just that.
  2. Leave your comfort zone. This is related to ditching your routine, but it’s different because you can get just as comfortable in your new environment. Instead, keep experiencing new, inspiring things. I’m not a huge modern art fan but I truly enjoyed going to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I am not an economist but I went to hear Thomas Picketty speak. These experiences challenged me to think differently and be accepting of new ideas.
  3. Gain a new perspective. Northeastern prides itself on the diverse, international student body it has cultivated over the years. Students from different backgrounds, cities, countries, and cultures create a dynamic learning environment that challenges you to consider perspectives far different than your own. Studying abroad takes it to the next level.
  4. Learn a new skill. After four years of college, four years of post-college work and a year and a half of graduate school, I felt like I had mastered writing and research skills. Studying in a different academic system made me realize that I was wrong. I returned from the Netherlands with a deeper sense of what a “complete” or “holistic” research paper is, and I have been applying that knowledge to my current work.
  5. Appreciate what you have. Nothing teaches you to take stock of what you have like traveling does. Living in a different country makes you appreciate your friends and family, your culture, your history and yourself. By breaking your routine, leaving your comfort zone, listening to different ideas and recognizing there is always something new to learn, you realize how much you’ve achieved—and how much more you can achieve.


Editor’s Note: Each year, students in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs can participate in a one-semester exchange program with the University of Leuven and the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Learn more about the School’s exchange programs here.


Published On: February 6, 2017 |
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