Why I Chose to Pursue a Masters Degree Abroad (and why you should too)

By: Jackie Lowrey

To put it simply, I did it to see if I could. I did it because the concept of leaving my suburban childhood home in Dallas, Texas and starting anew in England terrified me. I did it because I had not seen it done by any of my friends or family and decided that I might as well be the first one. Be the one black girl I was unconsciously searching for in each of my classes, on my sprawling university campus, in the popular pubs frequented by bookish post grads and self-assured students who did not want the university life to end. I was terrified. But I also wanted to be a part of their world. Just to see if I could.

These 5 factors inspired me to take the plunge:

I wanted travel to be my education…

…and was constantly reminding myself of the bigger picture. When studying abroad, you learn more than an academic education, you learn how to live independently. By studying in the UK, I made close friends from around the globe and learned about their lives and cultures. Most importantly, we all were experiencing a pivotal time in our lives in which we admired each other’s pasts, indulged in our presents, and were hopeful of our futures. I learned that education does not simply stay within the confines of a classroom but can be discovered ANYWHERE in the world. The opportunities are limitless. You just need to go find them.

I wanted a challenge…

…and to see if I could achieve it. Maybe it is just me, but it did not occur to me to travel as a student for two main reasons: 1) I did not have the money and 2) I thought it was something white kids did. I did not know any better but decided to challenge my ignorance, swallow my pride, and join them. I spent 5 weeks at Oxford University during my junior year and was 1 of 5 minorities in a class of 50. I will be honest, the first week I felt like an outcast and after a desperate evening, I decided to do what I never do and actively get out of my comfort zone. By week two, I was smiling, cheek to cheek with sorority girls on Instagram and sharing a pint with frat boys, and occurrence that would NOT have happened at my conservative college campus in Texas. If only for a few weeks, we were all unified by our curiosity and wanderlust.

I had a partner in crime…

…whose motivation got me through the tough times. It takes a lot of guts to pick up and leave your home and a steady emotional support system is crucial. Someone who will believe in you even when you don’t (or won’t) believe in yourself. The idea to even study in the UK began as a wine-fueled conversation between my German roommate and I one evening. As a European, the world she envisioned was void of boundaries. She wanted to study in the U.S, so she did. She wanted to pursue a Masters in the U.K., so she was preparing to do so. I told her that it would be my dream to do the same and she responded with a simple, “Then why not do it?” I could think of many excuses: too far, too expensive, to many uncertainties, etc. to which she replied, “If you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen. Just think big” From that night, we promised each other that no matter what, we’d make it happen. Two years later, we earned our Masters degree from U.K universities and haven’t stopped thinking big since.

I did not have to be rich…

…but I did have to be resourceful. While it is daunting to spend so much money on something as frivolous as a European education, I constantly reminded myself of the bigger picture. We can spend our money on a lot of things, but investing your hard earned cash into your education and future experiences will have lifetime returns. To afford my Oxford trip, I started by asking my university for help. I wrote a sincere letter to student affairs administrators explaining my situation and how and why an abroad experience was beneficial to my education. While it was terrifying being vulnerable and essentially begging strangers for money, they accepted my request. When that money ran out, and it did, I had to invest in myself and get creative. My mom told me to leave no stone left unturned. I did all that I could think of: walking neighborhood dogs, learning basic accounting to work as a freelance bookkeeper for small businesses, you name it. I followed the same steps to afford my Master Degree. I am not the same person I was when I first got on the plane from DFW that late September 2014. I developed an insatiable need to improve myself and experience as much as I can.
 I had to be curious…

…and remind myself to live in the moment. Fear is a paralyzing emotion and can rob you of living your life to the fullest. I have always been a curious kid but would rather explore in a book through research than discover firsthand. I was the kid who wouldn’t raise their hand in class when I was confused, I would just teach myself on my own time. I did not want to take the chance of being wrong or underprepared. This insecurity kept me immobile for years and I soon realized that being stifled through a fear of failure and uncertainty was no way to live life. I had to accept the fact that my curiosity and lust for life was stronger than my fear of the unknown. Once I overcame that hurdle, I just kept running and have not slowed down since.

 

 

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