Applying to Study Abroad: Tips, Taking Risks & Avoiding Those Pesky Red Bull Wings.

It’s February already and I think it would be a complete understatement if I told you that I’m in overdrive. Two months till the graduate exam ‘of death’, two months till my first scholarship application deadline. On the plus side, I’ll be back full time at university from next week and my dissertation supervisor is pretty badass with the knowledge. I’m keen for all the psychoanalytic critical theory she’s going to throw my way. Just in case you’ve been thinking I’m cool…


 Right now my life can be summed up using Rory Gilmore:

Existential crisis outbursts in the kitchen to my cat…
Ignoring humans…
Oh, did I mention the reading part???

To add to that, I’ve now wormed my way back on the Red Bull train (OK not wormed, I ran happily and jumped on it). It has always been my study drug of choice (and yes I’m aware of the increased heart palpitations, possible heart attack outcomes and heightened depression side effects). It does give me a great shower singathon boost though.


Don’t judge me.

I think if you know you need caffeine boosts during your study sessions, then maybe stay away from the 355 ml cans. That never ends well. The 250 ml is passable (but it all depends on how much your body can sustain or how much you’re willing to put it through). I definitely would recommend you find a healthy alternative if the heavens that be permit you to. I’m open to suggestions…even though (for me) I’ve tried everything else with little or no success.


OK, so we’re talking about studying abroad!  I sure as hells didn’t take into consideration the turmoil, outrage and violation of human rights that are currently sweeping through the world. My timing may be terribly wrong or perfectly fated (watch this space). So, instead of accepting obvious obstacles or thoughts on possible failure, I am going to call people’s attention to something they desperately need reminding of right now : if you don’t (at the very least) try to change your circumstances, then you’re pretty much wasting space on this beautiful earth of ours. Every breath we’re given is a chance to start again or make things better. If you’ve been standing still for too long, or your mind is a natural habitat for fear, then maybe it’s time to carve your way out of that. Carve, sculpt, paint, write -hell, dance – your way to a brighter future through hope, kindness (to others but also to yourself) and the power of dreaming.


Are my cheer pom-poms visible here? That said, I attended an information seminar on Monday at the Durban National Science Museum. The seminar was held by Education USA, an advising service, that gears students toward study in the U.S. Susan Knowles, who works as an advisor for the center and as an education specialist for the U.S. Embassy in Durban, provided a comprehensive introduction to the procedure of applying and funding your study abroad. I was one of two graduate students in a sea of eager high schoolers, all planning their future education somewhere where potential has proven to outweigh circumstance. I left feeling rather exhilarated. I may have done a little Jess dance…



The first step, if you’re considering international study, is to make a choice. Do you really, genuinely want to do this? Yes? Then you got this…


After you’ve made that initial decision that you want to study abroad, do the necessary research. Which country? What universities? One of the mistakes I made was buying into the hype that only top ranking private institutions will satisfy my PhD needs. Since doing my homework, I’ve found some decent public universities (with pleasing rankings) that are doing exciting research in the field I wish to pursue. Ultimately, it’s the program and the mentors that should be the major appeal.

The institution you choose should reflect something of yourself too. Will you be happy there? If you’re applying for a graduate program, you can expect to be spending about 6 years at your chosen university (that’s not taking into account post-degree job opportunities that may be offered). Is the institution likely to give you that ‘I’m where I’m meant to be’ Disney feeling, or do you foresee yourself struggling and fading into the shadows of the nearest corridor?

One of the best parts about studying abroad is the opportunity for cultural diversity. Go somewhere where you can surround yourself with different cultures, different ideas, different languages. Life is too short to exist in a tiny little bubble. Remember, you’ll also have a chance to represent your own country. As an international student, you have the privilege to share tales from the place that birthed you, so that the world can clear up any preconceived notions or stereotypes they may be holding onto. The dismantling of stereotypes is essential given present predicaments found the world over.


Wherever you choose to go make sure that it’s the right fit for you.

If funding is an issue, like it is for most of us when dealing with foreign currency, the internet is swelling with information about the latest scholarships, fellowships, grants and student exchange possibilities.


Check out for study options across the world.

Some of the things that you need to pay attention to when applying to universities or funding programs:

  1. Try to maintain good grades. Although, some universities look beyond academic aptitude for talent in other areas (like sport).
  2. If you’re applying to American universities: SAT, TOEFL (if English is not your first language) and GRE (for graduate students) are important required exams for entrance. Prepare for them and do your best.
  3. Try to have at least 3 letters of recommendation (by teachers, professors, people that have worked with you and can vouch for your sincerity and work ethic).
  4. Be honest and dedicate time to writing your personal statement (who you are, what you’ve done and why you want to pursue your studies overseas) and research objective (detailed essay on what you propose to study at a graduate level). If you’re passionate about your studies and choice, let that reflect in well thought out, grammatically correct essays.
  5. Have a sample of your academic writing ready. Pages required vary according to level of study and institution.
  6. Believe in yourself.There’s really no room for anything else!


So that’s all the wisdom I have to share with you at this stage of my journey. Stay inspired!



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Kamalini Govender

I'm that girl that looks badass in her black boots reading Gothic Psychoanalytic Lit but really just wants to pew pew pew with someone.

11 thoughts on “Applying to Study Abroad: Tips, Taking Risks & Avoiding Those Pesky Red Bull Wings.”

  1. Wishing you great success on your graduate exams! Yes someday this will only be a vague memory. I remember I used caffeine pills (this was pre Red Bull) to make it through some serious marathon paper writing. I did feel terrible with the crash afterwards! Studying abroad sounds awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha! I suppose pics/ GIFs help naturalize my writing. In person, I’m quite animated 🙂 Caffeine pills?! Hmmm…I’ve never had those. I used to crash really badly (from energy drinks) but I’m quite proud now that I avoid that part somehow. I do feel restless though on the days I don’t have Red Bull. The first day I burst into tears for no good reason. It was totally ridiculous! But it only lasted like 3 seconds. 🙂 Thanks for the positive study vibes…gonna need all I can get!


    1. If all goes in the direction fate seems to be gently nudging me in, you can bet a crazy moonlit hike dance by the end of next year 😀 Not so far away seeing as though we’re suddenly already in the 2nd month of 2017! Hope you’re having a fantabulous week 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow that is fantastic, congratulations. I think things that are meant to be will always find a way and I’m dancing right besides you in excitement. Xoxoxoxo. Enjoy your celebration and soar high my beautiful sister.

        Liked by 1 person

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