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ISEP Student Stories: James’ Life as a Graduate Student in Nicaragua

July 4, 2016

The majority of students who study abroad with ISEP tend to be undergraduate students. James N is an exception to the norm. He is a graduate student from Arkansas State University spending a full year studying history at Universidad Americana in Nicaragua. James shares a few snippets of advice on how to prepare for a year abroad as a graduate student, manage homesickness, and have fun in your host country.

As a graduate student studying abroad, I think I have had a very different experience than I would have as an undergraduate. Study abroad for non-traditional students is just not that common, especially at my school. I have to say that there were a lot of unknowns before I left. Even after I arrived there were days in which I was not sure that a year abroad as a graduate student was the best idea. That being said, I am happy that I decided to go through with my studies here in at Universidad Americana (UAM) in Nicaragua. The country never fails to amaze me with its beauty and diversity. My experiences are giving me new perspectives on my field of study every day. So, I would like to share three pieces of advice with future graduate students who are thinking about studying abroad.

“Make sure your studies abroad will be beneficial to your program at home.”

Isla de Ometepe, and island formed by two neighboring volcanoes in Nicaragua
Isla de Ometepe, and island formed by two neighboring volcanoes in Nicaragua

1. First and most importantly, make sure your studies abroad will be beneficial to your program at home. It can be especially hard for graduate students to get credit for all the courses they want to take abroad. In my case, I am receiving credit from my home institution for half of my courses, but I am receiving a postgrad certificate in my field from my host institution.

2. Second, do not think just because you are a graduate student that you will not experience homesickness and culture shock. Homesickness and culture shock happen to all of us, and both get better once you make friends and find people you can talk to about these things. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to your fellow international students — even if they are undergraduates. You are all in the same situation, more or less, and they will be more helpful than you may realize.

“Have fun exploring another country and make yourself more employable while you are at it! It is worth it.”

James on a bus to Selva Negra forest.
James on a bus to Selva Negra forest.

3. Lastly, do not lose sight of why you are studying abroad. If it is to supplement your research, then start working on it right away, but do not forget to have a social life. Studying abroad is one of the best ways to compliment your graduate education. Have fun exploring another country and make yourself more employable while you are at it! It is worth it.

Interested in studying abroad as a graduate student? Many ISEP institutions offer programs for graduate students via both ISEP Exchange or ISEP Direct. James has the right idea — start planning your year abroad early! The application deadline for Fall 2014 and Full Year 2014-2015 programs is February 15.

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