Growing up, I had the blessing of being the child of refugees. Yes, I consider it a blessing—because of my family’s mass exodus from Iran in the 70’s 80’s, I now have a family tree that spans the entire globe. That being said, as a child growing up in Wisconsin, my life seemed pretty ordinary. Despite my parents’ past, I did many normal things during my childhood, like visit my grandma—although to see her I would have to travel to England (where she could then pinch my cheeks and overfeed me!).
It wasn’t long before I began traveling the world on my own. First, I spent the summer after my freshman year of college in France, and then a semester in Spain during my junior year. After finishing my undergraduate, I did the “smart” or “reasonable” thing and got a good job related to my degree. Everything was perfect…or would have been, had it been what my heart wanted. So I did what anyone in our generation would do: I went to Google for help.
After hundreds of desperate keyword searches, I discovered that I could earn a master’s degree from multiple (that’s right, I said multiple) European universities and live in Europe again—this time, for longer term. I had stumbled upon what all career-minded travelers would call “the jackpot”: Erasmus Mundus (EM).
5 Steps in Winning the Erasmus Mundus “Jackpot”:
1. Learn More About What Schools Offer Erasmus Mundus
In a nutshell, European university programs awarded an EM label must be offered in at least three different countries. Additionally, the responsibility of internationalism lies not simply with the range of institutions: students who enroll in an EM graduate program are obligated to study/research at least two of universities, with the option of more.
2. Research Program Offerings
Before you apply, take a look at the complete lists of joint masters and doctorate programs offered in the areas such as:
• Agriculture and veterinary medicine
• Engineering, manufacturing and construction
• Health and welfare
• Humanities and arts
• Science, mathematics and computing and
• Social sciences, business and law
Don’t worry if you can’t speak any other language asides English. The details of each program differ and while some may require additional language skills, some programs are offered completely in English (like the one I attended). You’ll likely have to visit each program’s website to find out more specifically about languages and other requirements.
3. Compare Costs
If you’re thinking about attending graduate school and you are from the United States, you should definitely consider EM programs. A common misconception is that studying overseas is expensive—especially compared to the cost of acquiring a masters in the USA. By contrast, EM programs are offered by high-ranking, accredited institutions and cost the same or actually less than US programs. For example, my program costs approximately $25,000, whereas a comparable program in the US would have cost me approximately $20,000.00.
This stage might be long and tedious, but is well worth it. Be sure to note that there are different deadlines for students who wish to be considered for scholarships and those who are self-funded—so definitely check the deadlines early on and avoiding missing any. In fact, as soon as you make the decision to apply, I suggest you start gathering your necessary documents. They will take a while to notarize, gather, and assemble.
5. Wait for Your Winning Ticket
While this might be the most difficult stage of all—have patience. In 2007, my golden ticket arrived in the form of my acceptance letter to the Master’s in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management (MA LLL) program. It was offered by the Department of Education at Aarhus University (Copenhagen, Denmark); the Institute of Education at the University of London (London, United Kingdom); and the Faculty of Psychology and Education at the University of Deusto (Bilbao, Spain) and only required English language skills.
After my acceptance, I was given a choice been a first year (semesters 1 & 2) in Copenhagen or London (I chose Copenhagen). Halfway through second year, all of us students from Copenhagen and London met in Bilbao for a semester abroad. Finally, we had to choose where we wanted to complete our master’s thesis (London, Copenhagen or Bilbao) based on their academic goals (I returned to Copenhagen for my thesis).
I really enjoyed learning the European perspective on education, engaging with students and faculty from around the world and all while having the opportunity to live in different countries.
Winning the EM Lottery was Better than Winning Money
As a result of my decision to enroll in the MA LLL program, I not only earned two master’s degrees (yes, two!). I additionally:
• Developed the new student and pre-departure orientations for the MA LLL program;
• Developed the official International Student Handbook for the University of Deusto;
• Worked as researcher on an international project funded by the European Commission (I got $5,500.00 just to write a 20 page paper!);
• Met people from all around the world (we were 20+ students from 17+ countries!);
• Learned Danish and improved my Spanish (free classes!);
• Made lifelong friends from all corners of the world and
• Solidified my interest in international education
After my graduation, I stayed in Denmark to work for Copenhagen Business School as a researcher before moving back to the US to work as the first (and only) International Student Experience Advisor at Purdue University’s College of Engineering. In this role, I internationalized the curriculum within the College, designed and implemented transition programs for international students, and helped faculty, staff and domestic students adjust to an increasingly diverse university environment.
My Life Today
With 4 continents, 6 languages, 23+ countries and countless memories under my belt, it’s no surprise that as of February of 2014, I took off again for yet another adventure—this time the destination Turkey to teach English to adults. The best part of this adventure is that I now get to experience life overseas with my husband. Together, we can now together grow our careers and our family while exploring the world.
Pouneh Eftekhari is passionately inter-cultural and a travel expert. Born to Iranian refugees but US-raised, her curiosity for all things global started when she acquired her first passport at the age of 5. Three passports later, she has traveled to 23+ countries, speaks 4 languages (soon to be 5) and has lived abroad for nearly 5 years! She studied abroad in France and Spain; earned her master’s degree in Denmark (with a semester abroad in Spain); and worked as an international education professional in Denmark, Spain and the USA. She is now an English language teacher in Turkey and says: “when I travel, I feel at home”–and it’s obvious why! You can follow her adventures through her blog.