Jump to content

Has anyone moved out of country to pursue graduate work?


Recommended Posts

A couple of people (faculty and classmates alike) have suggested to me that I shouldn't limit myself to applying to PhD programs only in the States, especially given the fact that I'm all about continential and the ideal place to study that would be, well, the "continent". I keep wavering back and forth on whether to consider that an actual option... It's fine and exciting in theory, but I've never vacationed outside of the Eastern US, let alone lived somewhere else, and my mind keeps trying to weigh academic advantage (if indeed there even is one) against all the anxieties that such a move suggest (homesickness, loss of support systems, etc.).

Has anyone left the country for graduate work, and if so, are you happy with your choice? Is there anything you would suggest to someone thinking such a transition over? Maybe any advice you wish you had had?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me preface with the disclaimer that I'm merely an undergraduate, so I cannot say I've left the country for graduate work. Nevertheless I hope I will not be begrudged this advice I can't help but offer. 

Something in particular struck me in your post:

It's fine and exciting in theory, but I've never vacationed outside of the Eastern US, let alone lived somewhere else

On the basis of this information alone I would almost recommend that you go somewhere else for the sake of not being where you've spent your whole life. But I'll spare you the "be an adventurer" rhetoric and try to speak as objectively as possible about things.

Almost inevitably, if you want to succeed in academia, you're going to have to move away from home. Whether it's for your undergrad (as it was for me), for graduate studies, or when you finally land a job, you don't have an aristocrat's picking of location. Even a miracle-worker of a scholar who receives pleas from every good university in the world to join their faculty will need to choose from among those universities - and it's practically inevitable that the choice will take them away from home.

As for support systems, the ability to build and maintain these networks wherever you go and whoever you're around is critical to a healthy life. It is with no intent of harshness that I say now: your current support system will only last as long as the people in it happen to still be around you. And once someone leaves for whatever reason, you have to replace them. That is, for better or for worse, how the world runs.

Life comes with anxieties. Delaying them is an exercise in futility. Learning to cope with and overcome them is, on the other hand, a vital skill to develop. And who knows? A lot of anxieties are fear of unknowns. It may turn out not so bad in the end.

A lot of my classmates dealt with their separation from home very comfortably. For many of them it was almost a relief. Most now might call back weekly. I'm very attached to my mother so I still call her several times a day, and it was at first tough adjusting to her absence, but I got past it quickly enough and now the distance doesn't bother me (though I can't say the same for her, alas).

My point being, eventually you'll have to deal with homesickness, loss of support systems, et cetera. You don't achieve much by trying to set those ineluctable events aside for their later appearance. There is ultimately not a net profit for you there. But moreover, if you rule out graduate study abroad because of your anxieties, you risk losing so many opportunities which may otherwise open for you a plethora of doors. The pain of leaving home may last a few days, weeks, or even months, but education at an amazing institution specializing in your field will last you your lifetime. You would not regret it.

Edited by gughok
a proposition with false presuppositions cannot have a truth value
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is not exactly an answer to your question, but something to take into consideration nonetheless: the continent is not as continental as you'd think. (This is coming from someone born and raised on the continent with a background in continental philosophy). Scandinavia is almost completely focused on analytical philosophy, with the continentals retreating into literature departments. The Netherlands are moving in that direction as well. Even France is getting enthralled with Wittgenstein and Quine, and students at the Ecole Normale Supérieure are using formal logic to criticize Meillassoux (see here).

Manfred Frank recently raised an alarm over the disappearance of continental philosophy from Germany - Heidegger's old chair in Freiburg has been shut down to make room for a philosophy of language chair, and it's increasingly difficult to do serious continental philosophy in Germany. A good English language article here, and Frank's article in FAZ in German here. Frank suggests that the USA is now a better place to study continental philosophy than Europe is.

If your only reason to go to the continent is to do continental philosophy, you might be disappointed. Now of course there are exceptions, and just like in the States, there's some good universities that have a very strong continental department (Louvain and Essex come to mind, and there are certainly more).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

You will have to go to other city, I doubt that all the universities you are applying to are located near your family's town. It will not be very different if you go to Europe, the real difference will be that many people will not be speaking English, and that it will be harder for you to travel home. But, there are many advantages. You will get the chance to get a broader vision of philosophy, instead of being USA centred -as many students in the USA seem to be-.

I am sure you are accustomed to the USA's living circumstances, but life in other places of the world is not so terrible, specially in Europe, where many countries have higher living standards than the USA. You will find a different living ideology, and, if anything, it will help you develop a better cosmopolitan personality. I have travelled only 2 times outside of my country, which seems like very little abroad experience. Nonetheless, those 2 travels made me realise many things about the world and the society. Going abroad is nourishing, and more if you are a philosopher, you will be able to directly experience all those things you only theorized about, like other political systems, other languages, other moral, other priorities.

I personally think that you would enjoy going to Europe, you will find a very different ambience, with a different architecture, etc.

And do not be fooled by the rankings, and what is said in your near circle. It is obvious that if you live in the USA, your academic circle will be from the USA and they will know better about the USA than about anywhere else. So they probably does not know a lot about European universities, but that does not mean that the universities there are bad or of less quality than at the USA. There are prestigious and fantastic universities there too, they actually started there.

If I were you, I would try, and take the chance. You will not regret it. And if you do, you can return home and try to get into a national university.

Also, consider that you will have to apply to a master, not to a doctorate, because the European system requires you to do so. But that is good, you could go there and make the master, and if you don't like it, it will only last 1 or 2 years, and you will be able to come back, with an awesome European title, which is a rarity that not many will have at home.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.