On Graduate School and Studying Abroad


I didn’t take anyone’s advice when I went to Maastricht. If I did, I probably would’ve ended up somewhere much less interesting and the experience would’ve been much less fulfilling.

In addition, I’m absolutely terrible with these things, especially when my mind’s made up and I’m all set to go. Basically, I took care of everything on my own, from the moment that I decided this is what I wanted to do, probably in anticipation of what was to come.

This is why I don’t think anyone will take my advice into consideration, but hey, as the song says ” Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of  fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the  ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Here they are, in no particular order.

The Most Important One: 

  1. No matter what you do, wherever you go, have fun! I can’t stress this enough. Finding little pleasures in everything you do isn’t that hard- all you have to do is have a positive outlook on things and remember that this is probably once-in-a-lifetime experience that shouldn’t be wasted. And okay, this was the only piece of advice I actually followed. 

On Graduate School: 

  1. Research the university and program you plan on applying to thoroughly. So that you can keep the unpleasant surprises to a minimum.
  2. Don’t take anything for granted. Having been the smartest kid in your class doesn’t mean you’ll be as such once again. Things change, and you have changed. Embrace it and work hard to achieve what you aspire to.
  3. It won’t be easy ! A one year’s Masters program especially. One day you’re at orientation, clinging onto the only two people you know, and the next day you’re attending your last class. There is no time to catch your breath, and slowing down is not an option.
  4. No matter how much of an avid reader you are, or how well you manage your time, there is possible way you will get through the enormous stack of weekly readings. My conclusion: two classes, every eight weeks, anywhere between 8-10 readings for each class every week, equals one exhausted graduate student!
  5. All the so called “rules” from your undergraduate program still apply. That means attending classes (and actually focusing on the lecturer not playing Wordfeud with your buddies on your shiny smartphones), doing the work on-time, participating in discussions, etc…
  6. Questioning why you chose to do this to yourself is perfectly normal. When in doubt, know you are not alone and laugh it off or talk to someone about it.
  7. Expectations are good, just don’t set them too high! 

On Writing Your Thesis:

  1. If you thought the classes were hard, wait till you get to your thesis! Literature reviewing, SPSS, quantitative, qualitative, and best of all, supervisors… Should I go on?
  2. Maintain constant contact with your supervisor unless you want him/her surprising you with a never-ending list of changes at the very last minute. Oh wait, never mind, that will happen regardless.
  3. It’s your thesis, but if you don’t work the way your supervisor wants you to, you’re in for a surprise. They’re the one grading you after all. Making them happy while still doing what you want is probably the hardest challenge yet.
  4. Be realistic about your writing schedule– working everyday is a dream many of us have, just never seem to have accomplished. If you have, please, please, please tell me how!
  5. BUT make sure you don’t leave all the work till last minute- revising is of the essence!

On Studying Abroad

  1. Take every possible opportunity you’re presented with to meet new people. You never know what stories they have to tell, how they’ll help you, or just what part they’re going to play in your life.
  2. It’s not all about work! Allow yourself to travel and see the world. Learning is not simply all about what’s in the books
  3.  Manage your time properly. After having fun and meeting new people, I’d say this is the most important!
  4. Give yourself time to adjust– especially if you’re living on your own for the first time and are completely overwhelmed by everything and anything.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a new setting, there are new responsibilities and many different things to handle. Whether it’s help in or outside the classroom, you’ll be surprised at how asking for it will make you feel much better.
  6. Homesickness is normal but should not dominate your thinking or determine how you will lead your life. If Sykping home everyday keeps you happy, do that. Thinking about your hometown every second of every moment is pointless.
  7. Pick up local habits. Living in the Netherlands, the easiest thing I could do to blend it was learn how to ride a bicycle- and I did. Now I can’t even shut up about it.

As I said above, these are all personal bits and pieces of advice based on my year in Maastricht- so that doesn’t mean this is in any way a comprehensive list. I’m definitely interested in what you have to say, so please leave them in a comment or an email, and I just might make another list!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tycho says:

    If you play wordfeud, play to win.

    1. TK says:

      Or cheat to win 😉

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