How Studying Abroad with SAF Prepares International Students for US Grad Schools

graduates celebrating

When U.S. News World report contributor Anayat Durrani asked SAF if short-term study abroad prepares international students for success at US Grad Schools, this is what we said:

Do you think semester abroad, summer school, or exchange can be a good way for a prospective international student to test out grad school in the United States?

YES! Study abroad provides the ideal low-stakes environment for international students to test the realities of studying abroad while developing their readiness for a graduate studies application. When facilitated through a nonprofit organization such as The Study Abroad Foundation (SAF), students also benefit from a team of support personnel during this phase of learning.

55% of SAF Scholars who participated in our summer programs, chose to do so specifically to enhance their competitiveness to graduate schools internationally

"My ultimate career goal is to contribute to the development of personalized medicine in cardiovascular diseases and to bring these methods to my home country, Kazakhstan, which has one of the highest cardiovascular disease mortality rates in the world."

-Mansur Zhussupbekov, Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate, Carnegie Mellon University | SAF Alumni Berkeley Summer Sessions 2016

What may be some of the potential benefits? 

Last year, we learned from our SAF program evaluations that:

SAF Scholars Improve Their Language Skills

For example, 90% of SAF Scholars from China who studied in the US during the academic semester/year said their language skills improved, and nearly as many (87%) felt that the experience would benefit their future academic pursuits.

SAF Scholars Obtain Letters of Recommendation

One of the most frequently cited benefits for study abroad students aspiring to graduate studies is the opportunity to develop personal relationships with professors and academics in their field of study. Our students aspire to develop mentorship relationships to guide them forward in their study and career pursuits, and benefit immensely from personal letters of recommendation during the graduate admission process.

Roughly 60% of these students solicited letters of recommendation from their professors at their US university, and an astounding 88% of those who did were successful in obtaining letters of recommendation – a key aspect of most post-graduate applications requirements in the US

Nearly 70% of students who studied in the summer and solicited letters of recommendation from their US professors were successful in obtaining recommendations.

SAF Scholars Fast-Track Their Transition to US Graduate Studies

A proper comprehension of the nature of US teaching and learning through an undergraduate study abroad program can help to fast-track a student’s transition into graduate studies. SAF Scholars gain insight into assessment methodologies in US curricula, and a more evenly weighted workload over the course of a study period compared to the style they expect from their home university undergraduate experience.

"[At Berkeley Summer Sessions], I took a lab course, and I am now TA-ing for a similar one. The lab course is quite different from what I experienced at my previous college: Chemistry principles are taught via videos by the professor, but the lab is totally in the TA’s (teacher's assistant) charge. This bring us closer with the instructor."

-Yichen Yu, Ph.D. Candidate at Duke University | SAF Alumni 2015 - Berkeley Summer Sessions

SAF Scholars Gain Intercultural Fluency

Outside of the classroom, SAF Scholars receive a sampler of culture that can reduce the shock-factors of first time arrival at a graduate level. This ranges from factors of time and place, to city, climate, and culture. For example, students are often surprised at their need to adjust to US housing standards, the popularity of twin, triple and quad shared rooms, and the nature of meal plans and cuisine options available here.

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