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5 Reasons to Consider Graduate School in Europe

5 Reasons to Consider Graduate School in Europe

Have you ever thought about going to graduate school, but decided against it because $40k is too much money to spend on a master’s in representations of dragons in medieval Italian literature?

Or maybe you’ve imagined going to live in Europe for a few months, but it seemed too complicated to find a job that would sponsor your visa.

Whether you’re not ready to jump into the 9-5 “real world,” want to live abroad, or just want to get an education for less money, there are lots of reasons to consider graduate school abroad.

Here are five reasons to consider getting your master’s degree in Europe:

1. Save thousands of dollars on tuition.

The average cost of a master’s degree from a public university in the United States is $28,000, and at a private university, it’s more like $38,000. That’s a lot of money.

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And while student loans are available for accredited degree programs, the result is often compounding your student debt from your undergraduate education and taking years to pay it off.

In the rest of the world, though, education is generally taxpayer-funded and a lot cheaper. While foreign students may pay a premium on an undergraduate or graduate degree in a foreign country compared to local students, a year’s tuition costs nowhere near five figures.

In France, for example, tuition for one year of a master’s program costs €462 – and that includes a year of student health insurance.

Of course, there are downsides to the low price tag, like bigger classes and less-modern facilities. And while any university in the world can apply to be eligible for federal financial aid using a FAFSA ID number, few universities outside of English-speaking countries have completed the paperwork. This means that you won’t be able to get a subsidized student loan for your education abroad or defer your student loans while in school.

If you’re saving 95% on the cost of a degree, though, it may be worth it to try and make it work.

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2. Perfect your language skills.

With the creation of the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS) that allows students to easily transfer coursework between European institutions, and the opening of the European Economic Space, it’s gotten easier for European students to study outside of their home countries, and universities have adapted to an influx of foreign students.

You may be surprised to know that you don’t need to speak a language fluently in order to enroll directly in a foreign university. Most European schools require a B1 or B2 level – low to upper intermediate – in order to enroll directly without intensive language classes. That means that unlike American study abroad programs, which typically have you take one or two classes in the local university while spending all of your time taking classes in their program with other Americans, you get to jump right in to classes with local and international students.

You may have the option of taking an intensive language class before the semester begins, but even if you don’t, you’ll get a lot out of being forced to communicate in language for everything from the enrollment procedure to discussing homework with your fellow students.

3. Travel.

Living in another part of the world to study can also be a great opportunity to travel and explore other places, both as an expat living in a new country and as a tourist, passing through for a few days.

Whether you prefer overnight trains, carpooling, or discount airlines there are lots of ways to travel cheaply, especially in Europe, where students and anyone under 30 often get great discounts.

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With a university calendar comes generous vacation time, and it’ll be expected that you use some of it to see the sites in your host country and the surrounding areas.

In France, university students have seven to eight weeks of vacation during the academic year – a week or two every six weeks – plus half a dozen holidays that always get turned into long weekends.

Plus, if you make friends with other international students in your classes or in your dorm, you may even get invited to stay with your friends in their home cities – a great way to get to know a country and a culture from the inside.

4. Gain international work experience.

In most European countries, foreign students with a student visa have the right to work part time to help pay rent and cover their bills, so it’s likely that you’ll want to find a job or internship during your year abroad. Students in France, for example, can work up to 964 hours per year, which works out to about 20 hours per week.

Not only does this mean you won’t have to take on debt to pay your bills (most European students are self-sufficient, even if some of them live at home during their studies), it also means you’ll have a great opportunity to work on your resume while abroad.

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Whether you try your hand at teaching English, land a job as an English-speaking tour guide, or get an internship working at a bank, international work experience and using two or more languages fluently in the workplace will show you’re a great asset to a future employer in any country. No matter whether you return to the US after getting your degree, stay in your host country, or move to a new place entirely, your ability to navigate the business world in two languages and cultures will give you an advantage at any company that wants to develop internationally.

5. Use generous student discounts.

In the US, many companies consider that students are rich, since parents and loan companies are often footing the bill for education and padding students’ pockets, at least temporarily.

Not so elsewhere in the world.

In Europe, everyone knows that students have no money, and social and business policies cater to students by providing steep discounts. The idea is that students who appreciate the discounts during college will continue using the same companies once they’re older and earning a regular salary.

Student discounts are available on everything from monthly transportation passes to movie tickets, free entrance to museums and even sandwiches at the corner bakery at lunchtime.

While the nature of student discounts obviously varies according to place and age, you can expect to get about half off what a “normal” salaried person would pay on most necessities.

Bonus reason: It’s an adventure.

Your twenties are a great time to explore the world and live abroad, and to do things you can’t do as easily once you have a family and a mortgage. Enrolling in a master’s program overseas is a fun, inexpensive way to see the world and experience a new culture while you’re still young.

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Last Updated on June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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