The Case for Higher Education to enable Expats

I am a purveyor of both The School of Life and academia.

There are some cases when academia takes the upper hand – and that’s the case for the serial and serious nomads.

First of all, my education (from primary education to Masters) is in Australia so I can only speak from my home country’s education system. Some take an additional degree and many go straight to the workforce and even return to undertake higher education while they also work.

One item to note is that I am seeing ‘anti-academia’ articles being written with good intent.  I do, however, see education in a different light that is otherwise colored by my own personal stories.  Education is a stepping stone outside of circumstance beyond one’s control- such as being born into poverty – which had been the case for my family who had been able to study engineering, business and law degrees all through scholarships.  For myself, higher education was a way for me to get out of the small country town that I grew up in.  I was able to get a scholarship at my university that is only available for those that have lived in rural areas.  Sure, there are articles and various rants out there that now perpetuate university education as a waste of time and money.  But for me, it was my way out of the country town existence that I did not want.  The Bachelors education that I had helped me pave the way to where I am in a way that I probably would not be able to.

However, I did have my doubts.  On my final year on my second final semester, I arranged a meeting with the university careers coach about wanting to drop out of university altogether.  By then, I was doing at least one internship, had left my job working as a developer in order to work as a contract Events Manager for a well-known national industry chapter (and contributing as a Committee Member), doing other freelance work, I was working on building the start-up that I founded and I was studying full-time.  I was barely making it to my classes.  I was overwhelmed and really wanted to drop out.  He talked me out of it.  After all, it was the second final semester of my final year.  There is no point in dropping out now.  I could have dropped out, but decided not to.  I ended up graduating and not only that, won an award for Entrepreneurship and since then had been profiled in my university’s degree book that they send out to prospective undergraduate students.

Now on to Masters education.  From 2014 to 2015, I went back and did my Masters full-time.  And yes, this meant making it difficult to obtain full-time work, which I would have gladly done but the circumstance made it difficult to obtain it in the first place.

Undertaking the Masters level education was a bit more of a challenge because I was constantly comparing what my life could have been if I was not studying full-time. I was feeling very negative about all this and I had a non-existent life outside of study.

On a personal level, things really spiralled down.  A lot.   It really bothered me that I was actually focused on just doing the one item.  I was not travelling.  I was not being a 20-something in some foreign locale.  I did switch off as much as I could on social media though, which led to a purge in 2014 and 2015.

To help me see the light, I was looking up profiles of others who have had to leave full-time work commitments to study.  I was not the only one.  In fact, there were many others also.  I was normal.

The other item is my motivation to undertake the Masters in the first place.  I wanted to move to another industry.  Take up another type of job role outside of the one that I had initially successfully carved a niche for myself even when I was still a teenager.  Why do I have to be on the same pathway in terms of career choices?  Why not change?  I want the time and the focus to do this.

On top of the professional development, I also know that the Masters was going to help me with goals of living around the world.  Across many countries, the pathway to being on a job that is on the occupation shortage lists usually require either additional or specialist education.  The requirements also lean in favour to those that have the Masters degree – well, depending on your choice of career it would either be the Masters and/or any additional certification that you require that is suited to the target country.  I do believe that a Masters education does open up more global doors for you beyond what a foreign Bachelors degree can do. Whether it is perception with international hiring managers that are otherwise used to seeing Masters level applicants to the quantifiable ability to obtain more ‘points’ when applying for points-based visas.