Lessons in Applying to European Programs

By Olivia Haas

The prospect of graduating is scary and, somehow, the semester is already almost over. And the feeling of approaching a finite end without a clear plan for what comes next, especially in light of upcoming holidays and inevitable questions from family asking what your plans are, is just shy of terrifying. And working on applications, despite its seeming productivity, does not seem to circumvent the unsettling nature of its lack of certainty. However, lining up well with my international affairs degree, I have decided to dedicate my time and energy to pursuing international programs, specifically in Europe. The prospect of working or studying abroad for ten months to two years following graduation is extremely enticing. However, for me, the process has been different than I anticipated. I’m not entirely certain what it was that I was anticipating. But, in light of my European pursuits, here are some lessons that I’m learning as I go through the international application process.

Lesson 1: Accessing and completing international applications is different than American applications

From my applications to European universities, I found that most of the applications were not accessible by an open portal, but that access to the portals must be requested by the student pursuing a program at that university. For many of them, they appear to be accessible, but clicking on the portal link listed on the websites (in my experience) leads to a login page, with no “start an application” option. What I found is that, generally, you must call or (since the time difference is likely to be substantial) contact the university in some way to gain access to the portal by demonstrating interest in the program. Another big roadblock I faced once I got into the applications was that some, even though their programs were taught in English, had applications in another language. This clearly is a barrier to completing applications in the case where one doesn’t have a good (or any) command over the language used. In that case, reach out to the university again and ask about options for an English application.

Lesson 2: European CVs are not the same as American resumes

So, as I found out, many European graduate programs require a CV (Curriculum Vitae), rather than a traditional American-style resume. European CVs come in a variety of formats, a generally accepted style is known as the ‘europass’. The europass is a specific format of CV that compiles a broad base of experiences and skills that would not typically be found in familiar, American resumes. As a CV, the europass is much longer than a resume. While a resume (or at least the ones with which I am familiar) tend to include work experience, education, and broad skills and awards, the europass expands this significantly. Principally, the europass requires an analysis of one’s own language skills. It uses a specific system of grading for areas of language knowledge – speaking, listening, and reading. The europass gives additional spaces for projects, conferences, seminars, and a variety of skills (with specific subsections). The format for the europass can be found in a simple internet search. So, if you are looking to apply to European programs, this is something to consider. 

Lesson 3: Reach out to People in SPIA and the Honors Program

As I began to fill out these international applications, I quickly realized that they were more different from American applications that I originally thought. Structurally, they require slightly different pieces and formats. For this reason, in order to tactfully and successfully navigate the applications, reaching out to SPIA staff for advice or recommendations as well as other on-campus persons with knowledge of specific programs or protocols, should be a top priority. Additionally, the Honors Program has resources specific to the pursuit of international programs.

 

Happy Application Season!