We are always so keen to hear people’s experience of studying abroad, so we can it pass on to you and you can hear first hand what it’s like.  So a massive thanks to Grace for sharing her experience of studying in Russia.

This post will be a long one, because we wanted to really give you a feel of what it’s like.  Now we hand you over to Grace!

 

Advice

It is an incredibly exciting experience to go abroad to study, and to ensure you have the best experience possible, plan everything!  You must have a checklist and stick to it.  Don’t leave anything to chance.  Firstly do your homework.

Choosing a course and destination

Don’t fall into “the grass is greener” frame of mind.  Research as many options as possible not just the courses and colleges you are considering that specialise in your chosen subject area but the practitioners who teach and tutor the courses. There are prestigious colleges and courses that are extremely expensive and high profile but although they may have the reputation they are not your only option in attaining a successful Education that will set you up for you future career.

A college or establishment of education might not be in the most popular of destinations or have the gravitas of the some of the more up to date modern architecture and facilities you see in college brochures, but in fact they might just have fantastic practitioners and educators, so try not to be sold on the aesthetics on websites etc.

It is so important that the accreditation you apply for be recognised in Ireland and Internationally! While it is very important to maintain and not compromise the quality of the educational value there are options to cut costs by being open minded and shopping around.

Look at this experience as an investment in you and one that must provide value for money!

Course content:

Once you have narrowed down the list of destinations and courses, look closely at the content of the course you are interested in and assess how it will be of  benefit to you in the future. Ask around. If you know of anyone who has studied in the college or establishment of education you are interested in, ask about their experience. Go online and look at testimonials and follow up on alumni or past students and see how they built a career after they completed their education. By doing so you can gauge the skills acquired and learned from their time in the course. You can investigate how they used their accreditations to build their future.

Practicalities:

Think about the experience as a whole and research the options you have within the area you are planning to travel. Research good but affordable student accommodation options and accessible public transport routes so you can become familiar with and practice your navigation, before you travel to the destination. This is wise especially if travelling alone. It is not the safest to be wandering around lost abroad.

Several months prior to travelling begin to familiarise yourself with the culture and language of the country in which you choose to study(if you don’t already speak the language)

The culture is important because it not only enriches your experience while you are there but each country has it’s own social norms and religious beliefs and if they are very different to your own, it is wise to be informed.

In most countries you travel to, especially if you are an international student people will speak English to you if you use English, however, it is important to make a good effort to learn the basics of the language of the country and build on them. It really is beneficial not only as a good personal experience but it helps your confidence in communication if you can speak at least some of the language. Greetings, directions, please/thank you, making orders for meals…etc. Sometimes hearing the language is better than reading it. There are books and  audio books at all libraries to hire and online also, so no excuses!  

Money

Finances and safety:

Travel/student insurance might be a good idea.  Save up as much as you can before you go and it’s a good idea to put aside some emergency money, just in case. This will help you feel a little more secure when you arrive at your new surroundings. Find out about any grants, scholarships that might be available to you. If it is possible to avail of a grant apply early and make sure you provide all the information to avoid any hiccups with your application. When you are abroad the last thing you need to be concerned about is running out of money so be prepared and solidify this foundation first and foremost.

Also if it is a short course and you don’t plan to be abroad for more than a few weeks traveller’s checks are a good idea in case you run into any problems you are more secure. It is a good idea not to put all your cards/money into one bag. If it is lost or stolen you are left with nothing. Never place a backpack or handbag on the ground out of your view. If you can put small padlocks on your luggage it helps.  Always place your belongings where you can see them.

Also a waist bag is a good idea for your money and a passport neck strap is a good idea when travelling. Don’t bring bags that look easy to open or for lady’s handbags that don’t have a zip or anything to fasten them because they attract thieves and this can put you at risk. Don’t place anything in your back pockets! (Phones wallets/purse etc) At social gatherings be careful where you leave your coat and what you leave in the pockets. When you settle into your new surrounding, for your own safety, don’t become complacent about being aware of your belongings and their whereabouts.

Social balance :

Part of going to college is the social aspect. Socially it is good to get to know the other students and build friendships. It is a transitional time and building a network of people around you helps with confidence and there can be a support and solidarity in the comradery of students that is very comforting. So it is important be social and to find friends who are encouraging and with whom you can share your experience and support one another through the course. If socialising at night stay safe and stay together.

Keeping a balance is important. Rest time is as important as study time in equal measure. It is wise to keep focused and prioritise your studies. Some students can become distracted by the college party lifestyle and it is students, such as these, that tend to fall behind when attempting to achieve their goals.

So if you are going to take a huge opportunity and travel abroad have an amazing educational experience, don’t lose sight of why it is you are there. Not everyone can avail of an experience like this.  You are investing in your growth as a person and in your future career. Plan everything and keep rooted. You will get out of the experience what you put in!

“Based on your experience of international study, what would you say to a young person considering their options?”

I had the pleasure of travelling to Russia to study the work of the theatrical practitioner Stanislavski with the Moscow Art Theatre.  His work has been developed into today’s “Method Performance”, for which is a process choice for many actors in today’s industry.  My experience was incredible and it was for sure the catalyst for me to study the art of performance and theatre. I will never forget my time there and I would highly recommend travelling abroad to study at least once in a lifetime.

Meeting new nationalities and seeing how other cultures view the same art as me only from a completely different, social, emotional and economic perspective was a fascinating! I also travelled to Germany to a place called Lingen to study with the late Agusto Boal (Theatre of the Oppressed) and he opened my mind to how an art form like performance can change people’s lives from small communities to whole countries.

Back home I used the knowledge I acquired to create my own style of teaching and performance and finally I achieved an honours Master of Arts degree in Drama and Performance at U.C.D in 2010. I won an award from the Dublin Theatre Festival to study with Graham Whybrow of the Royal Court and I began writing plays full time.  I now write stage and screenplays and I produced my first full stage drama The Coping Class in Dublin in 2014.The experiences of studying abroad broadened my mind to the possibilities of what my chosen field of work is capable of beyond entertainment and that is invaluable.