This page is meant for graduate students who would like to go abroad, and also for undergraduates who are thinking of waiting to go abroad until they are in graduate school.
The international experiences that are open to Masters and Ph.D. students are usually quite different from undergraduate study abroad programs. Graduate students have fewer international options, and their academic planning is more important and complicated. But on the positive side, graduate students can sometimes go abroad for longer periods of time; their time abroad is often closely linked to their careers; and their experiences abroad are often “deeper” than those of undergraduates.
Part 1: International options for graduate students
There are very few study abroad programs meant for graduate students. When shopping for a Masters or Ph.D., be sure to ask if the program includes some kind of experience abroad. You cannot assume that it will, and undergraduate study abroad programs will probably not be an easy fit for you (as explained in Part 2).
Purdue undergrad programs open to graduate students
There are some Purdue-affiliated undergraduate study abroad programs that accept graduate students. Go to our searchable Programs page, check the box for "Graduate" level, then hit "Search", and you will see a handful of programs, out of the 250 + that Purdue offers, that will accept graduate students.
However, any graduate student considering one of these programs must talk to his or her advisor at length, and well in advance of applying to go abroad, about how the program would work academically.
Experiences arranged with the help of your Advisor
Any graduate student knows that one of the keys to success in his or her Masters or Ph.D. – perhaps the most important one – is a strong and supportive relationship with his or her advisor. This is critical to getting funding, to having one’s academic plan and dissertation approved, to finishing a degree (especially a Ph.D.) in a reasonable number of years, and to finding a job. If you are considering going to a certain university for a Masters or Ph.D. but do not see a strong potential advisor for yourself among the faculty, look at another university.
A good relationship with one’s advisor is also critical to getting to spend time abroad as a graduate student. There are very few study abroad programs meant for graduate students. Many graduate students who go abroad do so through "unofficial" opportunities arranged with their advisors. Examples include collaborating on a research project with international colleagues of their advisor, or exchanging places with a foreign graduate student or teaching assistant for a semester or a year.
Such experiences are usually less structured than undergraduate study abroad. There may be no classes or organized excursions, and you may need to arrange your own housing. The financial arrangements are unique in each case; your advisor may be able to cover your expenses out of research funds or from a grant, or if you are taking part in a TA exchange, you may continue to be paid your teaching assistantship.
The positive points of international experiences like these are that they can allow you to be abroad longer than many traditional study abroad programs; they can help you to be more integrated into the local culture; they can introduce you to colleagues with whom you can develop long-term working relationships; and they offer considerable independence, which is usually attractive to graduate students.
Graduate students can also design their own programs abroad through a US Student Fulbright Grant. The deadline to apply for this prestigious and competitive award is usually in September. Visit this site for details.
Another financial aid opportunity that supports graduate students abroad is the Boren Fellowship of the National Security Education program. See http://www.borenawards.org/ for details.
Graduate students often find that it is considerably easier to go abroad in the summer than during the academic year; this does not interfere as much with the rigorous pace that graduate students need to maintain in order to make progress on their Masters or Ph.D. Conferences.
Graduate students can sometimes find funding (through a grant) to attend international conferences. While these experiences are often very short, they still count as international experience, and can be of help in research and networking efforts.
Other research opportunities
The Euroscholars Program offers an opportunity to participate in research at one of 12 high-quality research universities in the European Union.
Part 2: Undergrad study abroad and graduate students
It is not easy for graduate students to fit into undergraduate study abroad because the academic, personal and financial demands that come with Masters and Ph.D. programs are very different from those that come with Bachelor’s degrees.
A Masters or Ph.D. is considerably more demanding than a Bachelor’s degree. In graduate school, a “C” is usually a failing grade, and it is assumed that students will teach themselves any base concepts that they do not already understand when starting a program. Generally speaking, the academic standards of graduate school are much higher than those for undergraduate degrees and so it takes much more study time to do well.
Another difference is that most graduate degrees require not only classes but also research toward a thesis or dissertation. The research obligation is like a mostly self-directed class – but often with no set schedule and few tangible measures of progress – that continues for however many years as one is in graduate school.
In other words, working on a graduate degree means that you are far busier than the average undergraduate. The demands of a graduate degree program would not leave enough free time for most graduate students to take part in a typical undergraduate semester abroad, with a relatively laid-back course schedule, excursions and long weekend trips.
Another factor is that graduate students do not have as much academic flexibility as undergraduate students. Most graduate programs have room for very few electives, and transferring credit in from other institutions or from study abroad program is often not an option. Many undergraduate study abroad programs do not even accept graduate students (although a few of Purdue’s programs do; see above).
By the time someone becomes a graduate student, they are usually supporting themselves. When applying to graduate school, students need to look for universities that will grant them some combination of tuition waivers, fellowships, and teaching or research assistantships to avoid taking on debt to pay for their Masters or Doctorate.
Graduate students who support themselves through research or teaching assistantships need to know that they would probably not be allowed to continue that work if going on an undergraduate study abroad program; in most countries, having a student visa means that you cannot work in that country.
Graduate students who receive a tuition remission as part of their aid package need to understand that the fees for some Purdue undergraduate study abroad programs are not based on Purdue tuition, so they would have to cover the cost of the program themselves.