Prospective Program: Master of Earth Sciences
Prospective University: ETH Zurich
As an undergraduate student at The University of Melbourne, Australia, Matthew Gatzoubaros had the chance of attending an exchange program with the University of New Brunswick in Canada. It was then that he understood the benefits of studying abroad. “It made me realize that there is more to university than academic study. There are cultural and social aspects of development that students are thrust into when studying abroad. This is the challenge that interests me most about studying abroad.”
As a prospective student, due to attend ETH Zurich this September for a Masters in Earth Sciences, Matthew feels that going overseas to work or study shouldn’t be seen as “the great leap” like in the past. He believes that in today’s global world where distances are melting, one should consider studying abroad as an “essential” rather than “recommended”.
Matthew, 26, is undaunted by the idea of having to live away from his family and friends as he feels it is a part and parcel of studying the subject of Earth Sciences. After completing his undergraduate degree, he worked as a geoscientist with the mining company, Rio Tinto, for three-and-a-half years. “It has been an exciting time, with extensive travel and challenging work,” he says, insisting that one must be willing to go to remote places and take a global perspective of things.
He says that having heard his elder sister discuss her experiences of teaching English abroad helped him gain an insight into the emotions one goes through when away from home. “From the initial excitement to tackling cultural shock, from the yearning to return home to the feeling of stability and comfort—it was a good warning for me,” he says. Having experienced the same emotions as a working professional staying away from home, he feels he is ‘getting into the groove’. “I have no doubt I will experience it again at ETH, but at least now I will approach it with less trepidation.”
For Matthew, who completed his Combined Bachelor of Geomatic Engineering and Science in 2007, opting to work before embarking on a Master’s degree was a conscious decision. “I made a strong commitment to being able to support myself financially, at least in terms of start-up costs of moving and relocating.”
Although he received an offer from the University of Cambridge to do a PhD, he had to let go of it purely because of lack of funds and his inability to secure a scholarship. “ETH was the more affordable option and my motivations at the time were more in line with doing a Master’s program rather than a PhD,” he says, adding that he isn’t sure what his choice would have been between ETH and Cambridge had he been successful in securing the required funding to study in the UK. “Both were equally good opportunities.”
He was lucky enough to be granted The Excellence Scholarship and Opportunity Award for International Masters students at ETH, which made his decision simpler. The scholarship was granted to him for the quality of research proposal he had submitted and will partly cover his tuition fee, while offering a monthly stipend to cover his living costs.
But it wasn’t just the funding bit which made him zero in on Switzerland. He knew that he would be happy spending two years studying his Master’s program in Europe than anywhere else. However, he took his time to discuss and be recommended by colleagues and contacts at both The University of Melbourne and within the industry on which university and course to choose. “ETH happened to have the best mix of coursework and research with a strong links to industry,” he says. He applied to the top universities in the subject of his choice only after deeply investigating the courses they were offering. He also studied the university rankings.