Yes, I got my Master's abroad. No, it wasn't a vacation.
Ever since I stepped off the plane back in October - people have felt the absolute need to tell me where to get a job, what I need (and don't need) to be doing, how's it feel being back from vacation, do you miss Europe and on and on and on.
One thing is for sure: I got my Master's degree abroad but NO it was NOT a vacation.
Why is it that if I were to have gotten my Master's degree here, in the states, it would have been viewed as just more schooling and hard work. Yet, when I uproot my whole life, move abroad by myself, open bank accounts (not as easy as it sounds in the UK) and settle into a life of somewhat routine in a different country - it's considered a vacation?
Is it because I left the small town that I'm from for much bigger (and let's be honest better) things? Is it because I took advantage of my weekends and spent time exploring other countries or cities? Is it because you think that I didn't actually do any work and in fact it was a year-long vacation from 'real life'?
Why is it that my year abroad isn't considered 'real life'? It bothers me to no end that people, who have formed their own opinions of my time abroad, think that what I was experiencing wasn't real life - it was merely a vacation.
So, let's break this down a bit. I decided during my senior year of college to study abroad, better yet, to further my education and get my Master's abroad. I moved across the Atlantic ocean, far away from all of my family and friends, by myself to pursue this year-long degree.
Once I got there, I had to buy pillows and groceries (normal stuff, right?) to survive. I also had to set up a new phone plan in order to be able to communicate (this was a huge ordeal at first). Then, the very next day was orientation for international students (i.e. me) and it was a all-day event. After that, I had to get my residence card because I am now considered a temporary resident of the UK. If anywhere in here you think this sounds like a vacation, feel free to let me know, yeah?
Then, the schooling began. Five days of the week I had class, majority of the day, and when I wasn't at school I was working on the projects that assigned. This school didn't hold your hand through this process and it didn't make things easy for international students. I had to adjust my way of typing and writing because of how the UK grades things/talks.
I arrived in the UK/London on September 15 and I didn't take my first trip to another country until the middle of October. It took me about a month to adjust to my new surroundings, figure out the transportation system, where I wanted to buy groceries, etc. Then I went to Belgium and then after that (in November) I took a solo trip to Ireland.
Honestly, both of these trips were only around 3 days total. So, for those who are still thinking I'm on this long-extended vacation, that's about 6 days in the first 3 months I was abroad that I actually traveled.
In the Spring, I was able to travel a little more because my school had these things called "reading week". This is when the school expected us to catch up on projects/reading. It was an intensive program so if you weren't good at keeping up - this week was perfect for you. However, I made sure I did all of my work when I needed to so that I could take full advantage of these weeks. These weeks WERE my vacation.
This is when I did my big travels and of course I took advantage of them. Who wouldn't? Why would you MOVE to Europe and NOT SEE Europe? Please, tell me.
*I also want to emphasize that I did this, financially, on my own. I don't have a trust fund or a financially wealthy family aiding all of my travels. This was something that I decided to do, on my own, and that's exactly how I would do it.*
This whole experience was a hard, life-changing and insanely amazing experience. This wasn't just a vacation. This was my life.
I spent most of my time working on school work and then the other half I explored the world around me. I went into central London and explored all the unique neighborhoods and locations. I had my favorite coffee shops I would go to and I knew the cheapest grocery store to shop at. I knew London like the back of my hand and I became a whiz at the underground. I became a local. I'm still a local.
If immersing yourself into a whole new world and uprooting your entire life is a vacation, then I'm not sure how many vacations I would go on (I'm lying, I'd do it again in a heartbeat). However, that doesn't divert from the fact that people have mistaken this past year of mine for an extended vacation and if you can't tell already, I highly disagree.
It's odd, to me, that people who complete their Master's in the states and never leave the country aren't considered on vacation - they are simply going to school, right? So, why is it that I decided to pursue my Master's abroad and I'm considered to be on vacation?
My degree isn't any less valuable than people who got theirs in the states. I just so happened to have been able to travel Europe while obtaining mine. But my life was there. I had a school routine, friends, and everything that I would have had if I were in the states. Now, not only do I have one place that I can call home, but two.
This is just a PSA for those who are considering getting your Master's abroad - do it. Become part of another culture. Learn from the world around you. Uproot your whole life and dive hard into another one. Find out things about yourself. Be brave and unapologetic because that's all you can be in this world. Live for yourself and aim to make yourself happy. Don't let anyone's negative thoughts and opinions weigh you down because at the end of the day it's your life.
What do you think? Is studying abroad basically a form of vacation or is there real work involved? OR is it on a person-by-person basis? Let me know below. I'd love to hear your thoughts, Xx.