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The Unexpected Benefits of Doing a PhD Abroad

Leestijd: 4 min · Door Myra Nizami

While there’s initially something exciting and intriguing about the idea of moving to a new country to do a PhD, reality can settle in fast. You might find yourself worrying about what it would actually mean to be so far from home for so long, or if it would be hard to navigate a different academic system and adjust to a new place. Suddenly, you’re talking yourself out of doing a PhD abroad before you’ve even really started to consider it. 

But there are also so many benefits to doing a PhD abroad, from both a career and a personal development standpoint, that make it worth considering. Whether you’re thinking about doing a postdoc after, or you want to gain some professional experience, a PhD abroad can have a very positive impact long-term. Here’s why:

A global network of contacts

Doing your PhD abroad allows you to expand your network outside of your home country and institution.Having a solid network allows you to gain access to different projects, work experience, and research opportunities that can enhance your own work. Whether you choose to move again after your PhD, or come back home, having a global network is extremely important for accessing these opportunities.

Professors and supervisors also move around a lot, especially in Europe researchers are generally more mobile. Doing a PhD abroad allows you to build a global network that you can leverage during your degree and for years after.

Unexpected opportunities

Like networking, doing a PhD abroad opens you up to a lot of different paths. It can help you develop your research interests further, and find projects you’re passionate about that you may not have found otherwise. By going abroad, you’ve already opened yourself up to a completely new experience, and it ends up snowballing into more. The more you express yourself and your passions to your supervisor and other faculty, the better the chances are that different opportunities will arise as you progress through your degree.

Soft skills training

By deciding to move abroad, you demonstrate that you’re determined, open to new things, and ready to jump into new situations. But as you progress through your degree, you’ll gain an understanding of different systems and work cultures that you might not have experienced if you’d stayed in your home country. These are incredibly important soft skills that you’ll need after your degree, no matter what path you choose. Doing a PhD abroad is evidence of your passion, flexibility, and willingness to adapt to new systems and people -  key skills that universities and employers seek out.

Developing a better understanding of different research methods and systems

A PhD is a key step in your personal development as a researcher. Going abroad can give you insight into a different world that can be extremely beneficial for your own research and how you approach your work. Studying internationally gives you opportunities to explore different research methods, discover innovations in the fields, and experience first hand how different academic systems actually work. 

For some, this might all sound daunting. If you’re one of them, use this as a chance to work past your fears and give yourself a new perspective on your research and the broader academic systems you want to be a part of.

There are so many benefits to doing a PhD abroad, both practical and personal. It can be a great way to balance academia with a sense of adventure and really understand your own capabilities. If you use the time to better understand and adapt to the nuances of a different culture, you’ll find a new realm of possibilities. As you start to adjust, work through new situations, and improvise solutions during your degree, you’ll see yourself grow. You’ll find that you have become more adept at problem-solving and thinking on your feet - always good qualities to highlight in future applications. Doing a PhD abroad is what helps you get to that point and you’ll find yourself immersed in the experience.

Door Myra Nizami · Published 2020-03-17

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