7 Challenges to Overcome While Preparing to Study a Master’s Degree Abroad

by Robert Balan

Congratulations, you’ve just finished your undergraduate studies! You feel great and ready to take on whatever comes next. The world is yours and things have never been better. However, no matter how much you’ve tried to avoid thinking about it, you know that you’ll have to make a decision about your Master’s degree, and studying abroad has always been a really tempting idea.

Making such a big decision is never easy, and you may have to deal with a few challenges. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you out! Let’s go together through some of the most common challenges you’ll face when you decide to take an international postgraduate degree.

1. Having to deal with all the naysayers

Depending on how your life has been so far, the people around you have either had a great influence on your decisions or a smaller one. It’s important to listen to the advice you get from the people you love: your friends and family. They want what’s best for you and that’s great. But do they really know what’s best for you?

It’s not uncommon to hear things like:

  • “But why do you want to leave?”
  • “What if something happens to you there?”
  • “Are you sure this is what’s best for you? Because we think you should…”

Don’t get discouraged! Respect and appreciate that your loved ones want you to be safe and comfortable, but remember that personal growth usually happens in new, challenging situations, in places where you need to adapt and reinvent yourself.

We know that sometimes it might feel as if you don't speak the same language, but simply explain to them that a Master’s degree abroad is a great opportunity. Point out that you love the idea of being an international student, having courses in English (or another language) and practising your language skills. Remind them that an international degree will be a great advantage on the job market and above all tell them how much this really means to you.

Study a Master's degree abroad

2. Being overwhelmed by all the possible choices

Do you have the answer to the question “which is the best university for me?” This is the one you’ll have to answer and there is no magical mirror that will give you the answer (P.S. If you’ve found one, please let us know).

Sometimes, the easiest way to choose a university is to decide whether you want to continue in the same field or try something different. After investing these years in a Bachelor’s degree, you should already know if you want to continue down that path or make a change. There’s no right or wrong answer here, really. It’s all about figuring out what matters to you and what you want to invest your time, energy and creativity in. Here are some questions that might help you pinpoint the answer:

  • What do I enjoy doing? What am I really good at?
  • Do the things I’ve studied in the last years really mean something to me?
  • What would I love to learn more about?
  • What makes me happy even when I do it for free?
  • How would I like to contribute to the world and the people around me?

3. Worrying you won’t be able to afford it

If your family will support you financially on this new journey, things will already start off on the right foot. Yet, keep in mind the tuition fees for your chosen programme.

Here is a list with certain countries offering affordable (or even free) programmes:

Here are some countries which offer more expensive study options:

Don’t forget that accommodation and living costs also need to be covered. Depending on your grades, you might even get a scholarship or a place in the university campus. Therefore, make sure to look into that. If living on campus isn’t your favourite cup of tea, then start looking for affordable rent options.

Depending on your Master’s programme, you might even be able to get a part-time job, earn some extra cash and get in touch with the local community. There are many possibilities, it’s just about finding the one that’s best for you and your particular needs.

4. Dealing with all the paperwork needed for the application process

Every university has its own unique selection process and requirements. The best way to make sure you know exactly what is expected of you is to check the individual page of your chosen country or university. There, you’ll normally find a list with all the documents and certifications you’ll need to provide.

Most of the time, you’ll be asked to prove your English skills through an internationally recognised certificate, such as IELTS, TOEFL or C1 Advanced. Dedicating some time to brush up on your English and make sure you master proper grammar will help you ace them in no time.

Keep in mind that the university admission process might take some time depending on each institution, how many students apply and so on. Sending all the documents and getting the final answer won’t happen in an instant. Your documents will have to be translated and notarised. Remember to be patient and don’t forget what your motivation is and why you are doing this. It will help you focus and go through this stage easier.

Study a Master's degree abroad

5. Getting a student visa

You should also check whether you’ll need a visa or not in your new host country. You might need one if you are not an EU/EEA citizen. Depending on where you live, this might take between 2-3 weeks to 3 months. It would be a shame to miss the chance to study abroad simply because your visa wasn’t issued on time. Knowing how to get it early puts you one step closer to moving abroad.

6. Trying too much to get the best of both worlds

A common feeling people have when they make big decisions is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The truth is, you’ll never be able to do it all. If you don’t go abroad, you’ll miss the chance to learn the local language, you'll miss the amazing experiences you’ll have there, all the connections, adventures and sights worth visiting.

On the other hand, if you go abroad, you’ll miss the things happening in your home country, like birthdays, parties and holidays. This is indeed something to consider, yet keep in mind that experiencing a new culture and environment really is a life-changing opportunity that might not come back again.

It’s good to know that you can always change your mind. Sure, it’s great to finish what you’ve started, but it is just as great to know when something simply isn’t for you. We often grow up being taught that making a mistake is a terrible, terrible thing. However, looking back, we all know that the biggest lessons we’ve learnt came from huge mistakes. These things are unavoidable, but how you respond and what you learn is always up to you.

7. Facing the fear of failure

You might face the fear of failure during this process or even after it is complete. You might wonder if you’re good enough or simply start asking yourself maddening questions. What if this, what if that:

  • What if I fail?
  • What if I don’t settle and adapt?
  • What if the courses or the exams are too difficult?
  • What if I fall asleep during one course and then I wake up 15 years later, married, with 2 kids and one dog?

In order to overcome these problems when you apply for a Master's abroad, it’s important to remember that we are only given a few decades on this planet and what you make out of them is up to you. Yes, it’s a difficult world and things are rarely perfect or the exact way we want them to be. But that’s not the point. You can only do the best with what you have and that’s enough.

Regret is a terrible, terrible feeling and by now you might already know how it feels. You know what they say, you’ll end up regretting the things you didn’t do more than the things that you did. This is why you should follow your dream and go after what you really want. It will be worth it!

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