How to Announce You’re Going Abroad for Your Master’s Degree

by Joe Baur

So you’ve decided to go back to school for your master’s degree, good for you! And you’ve also decided to do it abroad (maybe in even one of the most unique study abroad destinations). Even better.

However, you’ve yet to figure out how to make the big announcement to your family, friends, and boss; that’s an issue, sure, but not one without a solution. Be conscious about tweaking your announcement to match your audience. For instance, while your parents might appreciate tears, there’s really no room for them in the workplace. Keep the following tips in mind and your [super-exciting-we’re-so-pumped-for-you!] announcement will be a relative breeze.

Business meeting

Give proper notice to family and friends

And remember: if all else fails, write it out on a cookie cake. Everyone loves a good cookie cake.

1. Be confident in your decision.

Know in your heart that going back for your master’s degree abroad is the right move, and it boasts value that a diploma alone can’t capture. That confidence and reassurance will emanate as you make the announcement to your family, friends, and colleagues.

Share the news with shaky confidence and that will reflect poorly back onto you. If you’re not confident, nobody else has any reason to be confident in you. They might unintentionally inflate your doubts, or give voice to those little concerns in the back of your mind you’re trying to ignore. Right now, you need that base of support before going into this major change in your life.

Exude confidence and you’ll likely get confidence in return, which will come in handy when you face the inevitable rocky transition of a move abroad. The last thing you want before getting an international graduate degree is to arrive unsure of yourself and your decision. Few things are smooth about an international transition, so it’s important to always have that confidence to fall back on.

2. Give proper notice.

As far as the workplace is concerned, two weeks notice is the standard. However, you can always extend that notice if you know your shoes will be difficult to fill. Employers will appreciate the courtesy and will remember you fondly, which of course will serve you nicely when you need a letter of recommendation to secure employment following your master’s program.

Conversely, there are few things employers hate more than an improper notice. An improper notice can mean you notified your employer of your impending departure with less than two weeks to spare and/or you made the announcement over email. Even worse, you didn’t bother to notify them at all. All of the above are solid kindling for burning a potentially valuable bridge down the line.

Michael Scott’s aside (or David Brent’s if you’re more of an Office UK fan), employers are people, too. Treat them like you would want to be treated. Ask for an in-person meeting to discuss your career. Talk about what you enjoyed about the job and why you’ve decided to pursue your master’s degree.

The same goes for your family and friends. They’re all on your team and want to support you, but an improper notice can damage your relationship, especially if they feel you don’t value them as much as they value you. As we’ve already covered, you’re going to need all the support you can muster before you go abroad for your master’s degree. So it’s imperative to make sure your team is solidified with a foundation of support.

It all goes back to the old adage of treating others as you wish to be treated. They’re all adults, so be an adult and give proper notice.

Man waiting at airport

Going abroad for a master’s degree is a great idea, but there are steps to be taken before taking off.

3. Discuss other potential options.

There are a variety of options out there for getting your master’s degree. While most are two-year, full-time programs, some students look to extend their program over a longer stretch of time while working part-time.

We all know college isn’t cheap, especially in some countries where an education is unfortunately linked to incurring an obscene amount of debt. (This is when you can glare at the U.S. on a world map, Americans). The same goes for getting your master’s degree. Some countries even require you to prove that you will be financially solvent for the duration of your program with no opportunity to work.

Some can pull it off, but the vast majority of students need to find ways to supplement their education with some income no matter how much they’ve saved. Perhaps your current employer would be willing to let you do some work remotely. Sure, it won’t be salary work, but it’s something. Plus it’s a way of maintaining an important professional relationship. If nothing else, your employer will likely appreciate the gesture, leaving him or her with the impression that you truly did value your time with the organization.

Another option might to go on a sabbatical, meaning your job will be waiting for you when you get back, should that be something you wish to pursue again. Some companies will even pay for your master’s degree if you can make the case that it’s a valuable investment for a prospective long-term employee.

Of course you need to make sure it’s a path you want to pursue, but the larger point stands that there are a multitude of options out there you may not have considered yet. It’s not always as simple as deciding you want to go abroad to get your master’s degree. For some it is, but it ultimately makes sense to be prudent and ensure that you’ve discussed all your potential options before leaving for good.

4. Be prepared for pushback.

As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone thinks moving abroad for any reason at all is a good idea. There could be family ties or generational differences that simply don’t value an international experience. Older generations also tend to be a bit more nationalistic in some countries, which can lead to assumptions that one never needs to leave to get what they seek in life.

Obviously you’re not like that, so you could be crashing some pretty stringent worldviews by announcing that you’re going back for your master’s degree in a foreign country. It might be difficult, because getting your master’s degree in a foreign country is, indeed, objectively awesome and comes with a slew of advantages, but try putting yourself in their shoes. 

Knight armour

Be prepared for blowback

There’s the parent whose terrified with the notion of not seeing their son or daughter for a long time. Then there are some whom may have thought (or hoped) your big announcement would revolve around marriage or kids.

For older generations, it was completely normal to be married, having kids, and moving to the suburbs by this time in their lives. And here you’re thinking of blowing up conventional wisdom by going abroad to get your master’s degree. It still is normal for some families, but if those ideas make you sweat a bit, then you’re just getting a sense of how large the generational gap can be at times.

In cases of blowback, it’s all about respect. If a friend or family member reacts with anything less than 100 percent support, then try to stay positive and (in a nod to the first point) confident in your decision. If you’re confident, they’re more likely to see your point of view. If you show you haven’t thought it all the way through, then they might question your maturity and reasoning for making such an important life decision they don’t happen to agree with.

It’s entirely possible you’ll never get them to see your way of thinking. In that case, reiterate your confidence and how much you appreciate them. Extend an invitation to visit and suggest frequent Skype calls to keep in touch, because you know how important maintaining that relationship is. They might not be happy at the end of the conversation, but it’s on you to do everything you can to ensure they at least see that you value your relationship and want to maintain it despite the blowback.

Remember, folks, we’re all adults here.

Take a deep breath, own your decision, and step forward with courage.

Hopefully you’ve already thought much of this through and are not intimidated by the laundry list of conversations you’ll need to have before you even start packing your bags. While going abroad for your master’s degree might seem entirely glamorous, it isn’t. Aspects are, but you’re bound to hit some potholes along the way. The best thing you can do, from the beginning and throughout, is to be an effective communicator and remain confident in your decision. Do that, and you’ll be off to a good start for getting your master’s degree abroad.