Why I Gave Up Grad School to Travel the World

Close up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbon --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Living in the states, you have access to dozens of opportunities, not all equal, but still there’s opportunity. One of those popular opportunities is graduate school. I myself was accepted to Northwestern University for graduate school but am making the conscious decision to decline the program to pursue my travels.

The process is expensive and long. You have to go to undergrad (maybe rack up $40k -$50Kin loans), take an graduate exam of sorts: MCAT, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, application process, waiting and don’t forget to pay tuition. One of the main factors that made me reconsider graduate school was the tuition. I just don’t think it’s worth to spend $100K over 2 years for a graduate degree that doesn’t guarantee job placement with a higher salary.  Don’t get me wrong, if this is your path and you are sure that graduate school is right for you, by all means GO!

From my perspective, graduate school is a platform for you as a professional to focus on a set of skills and also excel your current environment. Through my travels, I feel that I am currently obtaining the same skills through real world education and experience

Below is a list of skills that are suppose to gain in graduate school but also will definitely gain from traveling.

Interpersonal skills

Being able to work with a range of people from all different backgrounds is a common task in the business world. Culture shock will play a role in this development but also build your ability to work with people from completely different upbringings and culture. Ability to adapt and handle well under pressure: Getting established in a foreign country is one of the most frustrating and nerve wrecking processes out there. Once you complete this task, you will be able to handle any situation without stressing.


Probably the most important factor for attending graduate school. You’ll be exposed to a wide range of people from different paths and positions in their careers all searching to further themselves. But think about this, I live in Shanghai and my network extends way beyond the US. Daily I meet expats from Germany, Japan, South Africa, the UK and not even including locals that I have come into contact with.

Hard skills

Learning a foreign language in a foreign country will catapult your skills way beyond any US classroom. Also, mastering a foreign language is a hard skill that is always in demand. Now I’m studying Mandarin but as a native English speakers, my skills are in demand. Also, once I return to the US, Mandarin is among if not the most in demand foreign language for business.

Risk taker

What’s riskier than uprooting your lifestyle and moving across the globe. Removing all levels of comfort and complacency, and exploring somewhere different.

Though I’m only a year in, I’ve already obtained an marketing opportunity andlearning Mandarin Full-time, and at a fraction of the cost.


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