“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
Humans make decisions all the time. Since we wake up, we decide what to eat or what to wear. We decide with whom we want to spend time, what to buy or where to go. But for me, the most exciting and the most frightening decision is what to do in the future. It’s exciting because you have the power to choose where you want to put your time, your energy and all your resources for the next years. And it is frightening because paying the consequences of our decisions is not easy, especially when we fail.
Choosing a career path is not easy. I know about it because I have been collaborating in the design of professional strategies for young people. In my country, only 14 people out of 100 that start elementary school have the opportunity to study a bachelor’s degree. Only 8 of them will finish their program, and only 3 will practice their profession because the other 5 didn’t like it. One of the main reasons this happens is because people don’t know how to make a decision of this kind. Through different activities, I help those young people to know themselves better and evaluate the possibilities they have for their future. Choosing between so many options is not easy, but it is even worse when you don’t understand the real reasons why you are making these decisions.
The discovery of your passion and your vocation is a very personal process, and as all personal processes, each person has his or her own timing. Some people know what they want to be in the future at the age of 5, and some 70-year-old people haven’t found what makes them feel happy. I personally believe that to find it you need two things: 1) try, taste, experiment everything that you can. How do you know which is your favorite ice-cream? Because one day you tasted it and you liked it. You will not know what do like if you don’t try. 2) Be aware of what is going on with you and with your environment. Sometimes you will find inspiration in the simplest things that occur in your daily life, and you can miss them if you don’t pay attention.
If you decided to start the journey of being a Chevening Scholar, it is very important that you choose wisely what to study and why do you want to study it. A master’s degree is not an end, it is a means. If you want to study it only because you will have a better job or make more money, you are not doing it for the best reasons. Money, success, and fame are the consequence of your decision and hard work. There are no magic master’s programmes that will give you those things if you are not willing to work hard. Malcom Gladwell found out in his book “Outliers” that you need to spend 10,000 hours doing an activity to gain the necessary expertise to consider yourself professional and successful. You will not be able to dedicate so much time if you don’t like what you are doing.
I would like to give you some tips that were very useful for me and my students, and that can help you to choose your master’s programmes:
Learn to know yourself, what you like, what you are good at, which are your personality elements, what are your passions.
- Identify a problem
If you want to study a master’s programme, I strongly recommend that you have previous work experience. This will give you a better perspective of the main issues of your environment, and what is needed to be done to contribute to its development. Choose a real problem that can’t let you sleep, and that you would like to find an answer to.
- Identify if a master’s programme will help you with that problem
Not everybody likes to study. Some people hate going to class, doing homework, or doing research. Ask yourself if you are willing to stop working, get out of you comfort zone and return to student life.
- Identify possible courses
Look for the programmes that can help you find the possible solution to the problem you chose. Sometimes they will be very different options, or maybe they will be similar. It doesn’t matter. Write them all down.
- Experience your options
Learn more about the objectives of each course, what are the modules or units. Read, watch videos, or assist to lectures about those subjects. Do a very deep research of your options. Identify which course makes you feel excited, which course leads you to be more curious, which course inspire you to dedicate 10,000 hours. Look for the abilities you need for each programme and do a list of the ones that best fit to your profile.
- Research (a lot)
Find out which are the best countries to study your options, and what are the possible career paths where you can apply your knowledge. After that you can decide where to study it: look for universities and scholarship options. Each university has their own approach and teaching styles. Find the one that best fits you.
Note: I personally believe that first you should choose your course options, then look for the best countries and universities to study them, and then look for the scholarship options. Study in the UK, Germany or Australia sounds amazing, but maybe your subject is better developed in another country.
Find out the entry requirements and prepare yourself in those you need to be better. You take more or less 1-2 years since you start the research of courses and you actually begin to study, so start as soon as possible.
- Don’t give up
Studying a master’s programme in other country is not an easy road. Even if you do not make it in the first attempt, try it again. When you are sure why do you want to study a postgraduate program, and the answer makes you feel excited and motivated, be sure that all the work will be worth it in the end. Remember that studying a master is not for feeding your ego, it should for you to become a better version of yourself, personally and professionally speaking.
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect that of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), its partner organizations or any scholarship awarding institution.