From North Andover to London My Year Abroad

By: Vipsania Pimentel – August, 2015

abroadWhile most of my classmates were getting ready to enter the real working world after our college graduation, I was packing a suitcase, and getting ready to move thousands of miles across the

Atlantic Ocean. After studying abroad in Florence, Italy as an undergraduate, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to live in Europe once more. However, during my senior year of college I made the decision that I wanted to continue my education, and go to grad school for my Masters. When a friend told me she had applied to graduate schools in Dublin, I began to consider a postgraduate degree abroad. After several months of researching schools and programs, I finally decided to obtain my Masters at Richmond, The American International University in London.

Although I had studied abroad as an undergraduate, it felt different moving to London as a postgraduate student. I was older, more mature, and felt a larger sense of independence from that of my first year in Europe. Not many college students are aware of the possibility and benefits of going abroad as a graduate student. In fact, many Americans identify the lack of sufficient funding, and a degree not recognized in the United States to be the main factors deterring them from pursuing a postgraduate degree overseas. Several factors influenced my decision of course, but these were the top reasons why I chose to obtain my Masters degree in London.


Most postgraduate programs in the United States require the GRE, or other standardized exams, as a part of the application process. UK universities, however, do not oblige students to take any form of standardized tests, making the application easier and quicker. I’m terrible at standardized tests, so this was definitely one the aspects that attracted me to apply in the UK. While most of my friends spent hours studying and stressing out about the exam, my application process was rather simple.

One-Year Masters Programs

Although most graduate level programs in the United States are two years, a British Masters is one year, saving a student time and money.

Lower Cost

Many students believe that a degree abroad is a pricey investment, but tuition prices at foreign universities are often much lower than at American schools, even after including the price of room and board. Additionally, most universities in the UK accept United States Federal loans, and a UK student visa allows you to work up to 20 hours a week.

International Qualification

According to the United States census, today over 36 million Americans posses some graduate education. A postgraduate degree abroad makes a student stand out. In fact, a survey commissioned by the British Council in 2011 recorded that 73% of employers surveyed in the United States and Canada consider degrees earned in the United Kingdom to be equal or better to those earned in North America.

Ability to Travel

London’s central location makes it easy to travel to other cities in the UK, and Europe. With budget airlines, such as Ryanair, and Easy Jet, and affordable public transportation, I was able to visit several cities across the United Kingdom and Europe all on a student budget.
Experiencing a New Culture

Adjusting to a new culture can sometimes be the most difficult, yet rewarding aspect of going abroad. Despite a few distinct differences, I found both the British and American cultures to be quite similar in many ways. I was however, surprised to see how strong the Pub culture is in London. I would pass by Pubs on Sunday mornings to find large groups of people socializing and drinking pints. I also learned about escalator etiquette rather quickly on the tube: you stand on the right and walk on the left. Failure to follow the unspoken rules results in very angry Englishmen.

Now, only two months away form obtaining my Masters in Communications, I am grateful that I made the initial decision to pack up and move across the pond for the year. Experiencing a new culture, and having the ability to explore new cities was one of the most rewarding aspects of living in London. Plus, I will always have the privilege of being able to call the beautiful city of London my home.

Vipsania Pimentel is a North Andover local, and current postgraduate student at Richmond, the American International University in London.