Although I think that it’s okay to study abroad without a clear purpose while you are an undergraduate student, it is certainly inexcusable to study abroad while you are a graduate student without a clearly defined purpose. I don’t understand why people are so random these days. As an undergraduate student, studying abroad without a clearly defined purpose can potentially have great benefits for you. As a graduate student, you should not be wasting time studying abroad if it does not have anything to do with your degree program and with what you plan to do when you graduate. It is my guess that many of these graduate students who are randomly studying abroad now are doing so because they think that this looks or sounds good. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that there is nothing that looks or sounds good about you wasting a whole bunch of time on something that has nothing to do with your degree program, or that is not going to help you to obtain a career in your field.
With the amount of time that some of these graduate students who are randomly studying abroad are consuming, they could be devoting this time to starting another degree program. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t think that you are going to be successful in your current degree program—just admit it! Go ahead and finish the degree program you are in, so that you will have the degree under your belt, and then start a new graduate program—it can be a master’s degree program or doctoral degree program. If you are a graduate student who is studying abroad randomly, don’t try to fool smart people about why you are randomly studying abroad—we see right through the lies! Duh! Many of the graduate students that I know who are randomly studying abroad are using their study abroad experiences as vehicles to escape failure and to compensate for so much of what they lack.
People worry too much about what others think about them. As I have long advocated and have written consistently and persistently about, just be yourself! So many people are always talking about how REAL they are, but these are some of the main people doing things that they don’t want to do just to please others. Being random is not cute—no matter how you try to dress it up.
If you don’t have anything better to do with your time, participate in some of the selfless acts that I do: mentor disadvantaged young people, volunteer with organizations that focus on improving the lives of disadvantaged people, raise money for unfortunate children and adults, volunteer for community service programs at a local church, and etc. These aforementioned selfless acts will prove more beneficial than random study abroad trips.
I could see if you are a graduate student and you get a chance to study abroad through the Fulbright Program—no one will turn this offer down. If you get to be a Fulbright Scholar, then you don’t have to worry about whether or not the opportunity fits your degree program—it’s so prestigious to be a Fulbright Scholar. However, for you graduate students who just randomly decided to go study abroad without a purpose, how dumb!
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison