Studying Abroad: Is It Worth It?

Study abroad: before and afterI missed the boat when it came to studying abroad. Sensible people take a semester during their university years, go to Florence or Seville, or, I don’t know, Canada, and have the time of their lives. (No offense, Canada.)

But it wasn’t on my radar. Instead, I went to Cancun for spring break and wondered why they wouldn’t take my American dollars because it was only Mexico, for God’s sake. It’s not like I went somewhere foreign.

*Note. I would later fill out a job application for Global Vision International and claim that I had travel experience in central America. I can pinpoint the moment I didn’t get the job: When the interviewer asked me exactly where I had been and I confessed, “I went to Cancun for spring break my freshman year.” Fail.

It wasn’t until 2007, when I had run out of ideas, that I reconsidered studying abroad.

I had burned through all of BUNAC‘s available working holiday visas: Ireland, England, Australia & New Zealand. I wasn’t bold enough to consider teaching English and I was too selfish to do volunteer work. Plus, I had this niggling feeling that it was time to do something with myself. My friends were buying houses, getting married, and having babies. All I had was  a $5,000 credit card debt and a bunch of stamps in my passport.

 

Christmas Carnival Coffs Harbour

My friends were getting promotions. I was working at a carny.

 

I had to do something, and I had to do it now. So I powered up my clunky Dell laptop and turned to the internet. My searches led me to GoAbroad.com, where I found a Masters program at Kingston University in London. The course was in travel writing. Initially, I had some doubts. A degree in travel writing? That’s not legit.

Long story short, it was. In less than 5 months, I was back in the UK, the excited recipient of a partial scholarship to study travel writing for the next year.

At first people were like, “Wow, travel writing! That’s cool.”

Then they scratched their heads and started to question my actions.

 

“But what kind of a job can you get with that? Do you want to write for Lonely Planet or something?”

 

Kingston MA degree

This is what 25 grand buys you these days. You think they'd jazz it up a bit.

Well, no.

I didn’t move to London and rack up $25,000 in student loans (thanks a bunch, exchange rate) so I could get a job.

I did it because writing is the only kind of work I consistently enjoy. And travel is something I’m going to do for the rest of my life. It just made sense. Probably the most logical decision I’ve ever made, really.

If I was worried about getting a job, I would have stayed in Indiana.

 

$25,000 and no job? I hope it was worth it. 

Secretly, I think you’re crazy.

I get it. It sounds a little bit crazy.

Mongolian ddong chim

I picked up a real charmer.

But with no kids and no mortgage, I was free to make those kinds of crazy decisions. I got to live in London. I got to work with Scott Bradfield and Vesna Goldsworthy (who praised my writing!) and Nigel Richardson (who didn’t. But I’m over it. Really. Jerk.).  I wrote web content for the BBC show By Any Means and went to a party with Ewan McGregor. Okay, we didn’t go together, exactly. But he was there and I was there and there was free champagne so it was pretty awesome. I blogged my way around Europe as an intern for Busabout. I met Jared. I published my first online travel article. And I wrote. Every day.

It was worth every penny.

If you say so. I still think it’s a little extreme.

Even if I never publish another travel article in my life, I won’t regret doing a degree abroad. No, it wasn’t cheap, but I can always make more money. Even if it is in a rapidly declining currency like the Korean won (thanks again, exchange rate).

I’m not sure that having a degree means much these days – it’s more about what you do with your life. And even though I don’t have a career, I definitely feel like I’m living a full life. Studying in London was a big part of that.

Plus now I can throw around the term ‘master’s degree’ during my next phone interview. Score.

 

15 Responses to “Studying Abroad: Is It Worth It?”

  1. I thought you were a terrific carny!

  2. I want to write. For some reason I love writing. I read everyday, but I don’t love reading as much as writing. I guess I want to tell my own stories, not read someone elses.

    But I’ve never studied abroad.. until now. I’m in Spain, about to study Spanish. If you can consider that studying abroad. I’m anxious and excited at the same time!

    • Studying Spanish in Spain definitely counts as studying abroad! Good luck.
      And I think reading and writing go hand in hand – it’s hard to be good at writing if you don’t read what others have done.

  3. Hey Lauren,

    Great website & awesome reading!

    Makes me want to sort my sh*t and start travelling BIGTIME!!

    Tell Jared I said hello. x

    • Nat! It’s great to hear from you.
      You, Laura & Hayden could always come to Korea & sample some spicy chicken feet like Allen did! (He loved it. Don’t let him tell you otherwise.)
      Jared says hello too.

  4. Hi Lauren,

    I am so glad that I came across your posting because I moved from Toronto, Canada to attend Kingston University last September to obtain my Masters Degree in Publishing. Today in the mail I received my certificate and I thought for sure that it must be a joke, the certificate looks like something handed out at a kindergarten graduation, so after coming across your post here I can confirm that no, it’s not a joke at all. I too spent upwards of $20,000 for my degree and would have thought that they could have come up with something a little fancier! Regardless though, it was a good experience and I’m glad that I did it, hopefully it will lead to a successful career for us both!

    Allison

    • This made me laugh so much. I’m glad someone else thinks the same way I do about the degree itself!
      At least we both had a positive experience with the actual course. Best of luck in your publishing career – maybe just don’t show anyone the diploma.

  5. Lauren,

    I too am looking at studying creative writing at Kingston. I’m still not entirely sure what I would want to do with this or where I would want to go after, but I found this post and your blog very inspiring! I too feel studying this would be more about the experience than the actual degree. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the comment! If you have any questions about studying at Kingston, let me know – it was kind of a confusing process at first, as I’d never studied or done a degree abroad, but went pretty smoothly in the end. I’ve never gotten a job because of my degree (yet!), but I do feel like it was invaluable, both in terms of what I learned and the life experience that came out of it. The creative writing program was really good – I loved being around other writers and sharing our work. It was something I’d never done before and it makes me want to join a writer’s group whenever I finally get settled down!

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