by Daniela Dandes
Have you ever heard of Noam Chomsky? In case you haven't, then you might be surprised to find out that he is one of the most reputable scholars of the 20th century. An important academic, activist and political thinker, he has been sharing his wisdom with the world through his various books, articles, talks, and also in his astute quotes. In case you are looking for tips on what to expect from your next Master's abroad experience or want to get inspired, look no further: Noam Chomsky is your guy.
He is revered as a deep thinker and an insightful commentator on world events. You can use his age-old wisdom to guide your future study abroad experience and help you set healthy expectations about your next Master's degree:
1. “Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.”
If you search on Google if studying abroad is challenging, in 9 out of 10 cases you will get answers that will say yes. That is because the experience of studying abroad implies a lot of changes: you’ll be faced with a new environment, new people speaking differently than you, new schedule and lifestyle. And changes usually come with a feeling of unease. Yuval Harari put it best in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century when he was describing the difficulties that future students experience in their decision-making process: "You are under the pressure from your parents, your friends, and your teachers, who have different interests and opinions. You also have your own fears and fantasies to deal with." You might be tempted to just settle for whatever Master's programme you find.
But here is where Noam Chomsky's words should spark some insight in you. Progress only happens when dealing with our status quo. In other words, you cannot expect to succeed if you are not putting in the hard work and getting over obstacles. The first one being brave enough to decide on applying for a Master’s abroad.
2. “We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”
Some people want to go to study abroad only to increase their Instagram popularity (hello, Paris, anyone?). While that can be a great perk, you shouldn't aim to make your Instagram followership your biggest academic goal. Noam Chomsky emphasized the importance of focusing on idea development and enriching the amount of knowledge in the world, rather than aiming to become famous.
Going for a Master's abroad for the right reasons will make a big difference in your experience outcome. Did you fly all across the globe for the parties and lols, or do you have a bigger purpose that you are following? Maybe you are going to help the world get rid of cancer. Or develop the next tourist-friendly space shuttle. Between parties and making a dent in humanity’s evolution, the later comes out as more useful and impactful. Those are worthwhile goals to pursue during your time at university.
3. “How it is we have so much information, but know so little?”
Do a bit more than what your courses require when you are on your Master’s abroad. That would be Chomsky's advice if you would apply his quote to your study experience. Why? Because then, you can say that you have dived deeper into what you are truly passionate about.
In the end, your purpose for going for a Master's programme abroad should revolve around exploring what is possible, getting inspired by new perspectives and wanting to make a tangible difference with the newly acquired knowledge. Sticking to what your teachers assign for you is covering the basics. But why settle for average when you can aim for greatness?
4. “If anybody thinks they should listen to me because I’m a professor at MIT, that’s nonsense."
Taking an active stance in your studies abroad will enrich your Master's experience tenfold. One key skill that every university says it trains is the ability of students to think for themselves. Noam Chomsky encouraged his own students to explore what they were learning in a critical and constructive manner, even if that meant countering his arguments. He believed that healthy debates let people show up and stand up for what they believe in, without the pitfall of ending up in an echo-chamber. You should not take what you are learning for granted. On the contrary, you should dive deep into the matter and make up your own mind about what you are learning. That is how we push innovation further.
5. “Unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
Studying abroad is a privilege that not many get to experience. That is why making the best out of your time at an international university carries so much weight. You have the chance, via your study programme, to come out more prepared for what you can improve in society. It doesn’t matter if you dream of becoming a successful musician, a millionaire IT manager, the next Sheryl Sandberg, Whoopie Goldberg, Warren Buffett or Jack Ma. You have your role to play and can drive progress within your sector of expertise. Noam Chomsky is inviting you to adopt this optimistic, inspirational stance of wanting to make the world a little bit better. That is because you are in the best position to have an impact, with your international degree.
With Noam Chomsky, it is all about action, drive, and thinking for yourself. These attitudes are heavily encouraged by universities and are great assets on the job market. In case you are aspiring to get the most out of your experience abroad, then read and re-read these quotes from Noam Chomsky, and dare to make your mark.