Why I did my postgrad overseas: Dr Siobhán McElduff

Siobhán McElduff completed her MA in the University of Victoria in Canada, and her PhD at the University of Southern California

How did you choose your postgraduate course, and why did you go abroad?

I’d done my undergraduate in classical civilisation and biblical studies at Trinity College Dublin. For both my MA and PhD, I only picked places that were funded. So I did my MA in the University of Victoria in Canada, and my PhD at the University of Southern California. There was no other option for me, given my working-class background: I could only afford to do these degrees because they were fully funded and I had chances to do other work – mainly research – to fill any funding gaps.

What was your experience of studying abroad?

In US PhDs, you get taught and examined in various subjects as well as writing a thesis, so you end up better-rounded. Socially, it introduced me to a much wider array of backgrounds in terms of class, ethnicity, national origin and so on than I’d ever have encountered in Ireland.


I also got to teach a lot, though I had a fairly thick Sligo/Donegal accent that I had to work on removing. That makes me sad still but, along with the Hiberno-English, it was far too hard for people to understand.

Do you feel that your experience of studying abroad opened up your horizons?

I’m an associate professor at the University of British Columbia. I’d never have been able for that job without all that time outside Ireland. It made me so much better at understanding a bigger range of people and their experiences, and exposed me to concepts, ideas and differences [that] I don’t think I’d have had in Ireland.

Ireland was a different place when I graduated from Trinity. We’re much more global now, although there’s still the issue of class: the funding in Ireland is so poor that you really need some outside support of some sort, given the cost of living.

Would you recommend moving abroad to study, or have the advancements in online and hybrid learning open up more opportunities for students to access a wider range of courses without necessarily having to move abroad?

If you want an academic job in, say, North America, I think you do need to move away. The systems are very different and, overseas, the worlds are bigger.

That’s doubly true if you aren’t fluent in another European language and can’t get experiences at conferences and events in Europe.

With Brexit the UK has closed down so much and they’re hammering their education all over, so chances are fewer.

Hybrid helps with events, but not so much with entire programmes or courses. I’ve taken a few courses online myself – one at Texas A&M, pre-Covid – and I think it works for just the bare bones, but not for all the networking and extras that really make learning more valuable.

If you do get funding though, you should go where the funding is. It’s a leap, for sure, but I’ve found that colleges increasingly understand that and try to do better for foreign graduate students. When else would you get the chance to go and live in Los Angeles or another city like it and have a built-in structure and support system?

  • Dr Siobhán McElduff is associate professor of Latin literature and Roman culture at the University of British Columbia in Canada