Stephanie (Steff) Ashby is part-time PhD student within the School of Management and Languages at Heriot-Watt University. While in the initial stages of her research, she intends to explore the efficacy of implementing Lean Six Sigma within a Higher Education environment. Prior to this she attained a BA in Mathematics and a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and an MBA from Durham University. As her ‘day-job’, Stephanie currently works full-time as an Admin Officer predominately involved in postgraduate student recruitment also for the School of Management and Languages.

Ok – so you want to do a PhD.  Should you stay in your home country or join the increasing number of students studying abroad?

Let’s face it there are advantages to staying close to home –  you  know the language, you know how things work, the food is familiar, family and friends are close by….it’s just so jolly convenient.  In comparison, moving away from this safety net can be more than a little bit daunting!!!

Yet isn’t one of the purposes of undertaking a PhD to broaden your mind and experiences, and doesn’t travel do just that?

Living abroad teaches cultural awareness, something any good academic in the modern world of international education must have.  You’ll learn to adapt to different bureaucracies, different perspectives and different outlooks, perhaps learn a different language, experience different cultures and traditions, and learn to become totally independent.

Educationally you will be exposed to a different research environment, methods, ethics, priorities and styles.  Many PhD programmes in the USA, for example, tend to have more classroom study requirements than the UK counterpart whereas many of the EU systems require closer collaboration with industry.  Considering programmes out with your own country means that you can choose a system which best meets your preferred working style and is most appropriate for your area of research interest.

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A decision to study abroad vastly expands your research options and potential specialisms, many of which might not be available in your own country.  It might even give you access to resources unavailable if you stayed at home.

Gaining international experience in this way will be invaluable if you anticipate participating in multinational research collaborations in the future.  It will kick-start your international network of colleagues, and internationalise your academic profile.

Given the pressure many universities world-wide are under to prove their worth on the international stage, proven ability to integrate internationally in an academic environment would be an invaluable addition to your CV.

Of course travelling abroad for study is not for everyone.  However if circumstances permit it is certainly worth considering.


Picture by fdecomite under CC license.