Matters to a Degree

Hardly a week goes by when I don't receive an email from a graduate student looking for ways to gain international experience, whether it's wanting to volunteer in the wake of a natural disaster or seeking collaborators for a cross-cultural study. Today's psychology graduate students know that they are living in a world that is getting smaller every day.

If an international education is a priority for you, too, here are some ways you can make it happen:

Consider Training and Coursework That Apply to International Settings

If you are interested in a particular country or region, take a course in the relevant foreign language. Even though I considered myself fluent in Spanish, I took a Spanish class in grad school and it was incredibly helpful in reminding me of the confusing verb conjugations I had forgotten. For those with clinical interests, you may want to seek practicum that will expose you to international issues, such as working at a counseling center where you can see international students or at a community mental health center that serves refugees.

Look for Unique Training Opportunities

Several graduate schools offer training opportunities through which students live and work in foreign countries for a semester. For instance, Alliant University offers a Spanish language immersion program in Mexico City. You can find similar training opportunities in fields such as public health, medicine or education.

Attend an International Meeting

This is a great way to meet international colleagues and lay the groundwork for research collaborations and other projects. Consider traveling to the International Congress of Psychology in Cape Town, South Africa, July 22-27, or check out a list of other international conferences. If you can't travel abroad, consider attending Psychology Day at the United Nations, in New York City, where psychologists promote the ways our field can help solve global issues.  Or attend APA's Annual Convention for programming sponsored by Div. 52 (International) and APA's Committee on International Relations.

Apply for a Grant to Support Your International Training

APA's Office of International Affairs has funding to support travel to the International Congress of Psychology, as well as other international conferences. APAGS's David Pilon Scholarship for Training in Professional Psychology can also fund an international training experience. Graduate students as well as recent grads may want to apply for Fulbright scholarships, which have funded more than 100 international research projects on psychology topics (PDF, 1.86MB). More information on international funding.

Join an Internationally Focused Division or Section

Students can join APA's Div. 52 for $15; its newsletter publishes research articles (some by graduate students) and discusses current issues around the world. If you're already a member of an APA division, see if it has an international section or interest group. You may be able to find other organizations that more specifically reflect your interest, such as the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies or the International Society of Developmental Psychobiology. Joining a specific group may help you develop the relationships necessary to facilitate international research or a unique training opportunity.

Follow Your Own International Interests

Of course, you can always explore international issues writing papers for your courses or through extracurricular reading. Several helpful sources of international information are the magazines The Week and The Economist, as well as Fluent News, an app that compiles articles from numerous international sources.

I hope this inspires you to expand your horizon and look at some international opportunities. It may be challenging to follow some of these dreams, but the payoffs are worth it.