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I have a completely introverted personality. I am seriously struggling with interpersonal relationships with my colleagues, to a point that I am actually at the brink of quitting my job. If I go abroad for a research degree, would there be any problem that may jeopardize my endeavor? My family is constantly warning me against leaving the current job and going abroad for a higher degree; they say that I will surely return without completing my course as soon as I face any rudeness, animosity, or harshness, be it from the adviser or the environment.

A relative of mine in the USA has told me that she has been experiencing harsh behaviors from her PhD adviser due to her religion. One of my cousins in France has complained that he can never get any attention from his instructors because of his ethnicity. He is in service with UN.

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    I think this question as currently stated is too broad to get good answers. Can you edit it into a specific, answerable question? – ff524 Mar 7 '14 at 6:57
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    Note that in France it's not uncommon not to get any attention from instructors regardless of ethnicity (not saying it can't be a factor, though). – Relaxed Mar 7 '14 at 7:14
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    Your edit did add some context, but "Can you outline issues" is still very broad. See academia.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask for more advice on fixing your question. – ff524 Mar 7 '14 at 7:21
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    Perhaps you could make the question: can an introvert make a good academician? – mkennedy Mar 7 '14 at 17:29
  • Maslow's hierarchy of needs to a large extent? Of course, some of the items may have to be switched with others such as language barrier, cultural barriers etc. – dearN Mar 18 '14 at 21:51
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I looked at your other questions, which were quite enlightening. Given that you had already publicly revealed other relevant facts about yourself, e.g. How will a "local" master's in CSE look when I apply for a Graduate funding in the USA?, I don't know why you didn't include them in your question. Any such details are highly pertinent, and would help people give better and more "customized" answers.

To summarize from your previous question, you are 32, live in Bangladesh, have an IT background, work in a bank, and are afraid your job is taking you nowhere.

I'm Indian, and left India to study in both the UK and the US, at different times. So my background is not so dissimilar, and I can relate to some extent. However, the fact remains that your question is so broad that it is difficult to give useful information without knowing you.

Given that you are from Bangladesh, I'm guessing that part of your interest in further studies abroad is to get away from Bangladesh. Also, there are presumably not that many routes out of Bangladesh besides being a student. If so, I sympathize. However, from your previous question it sounds like you were planning to get a degree locally before going abroad. If so, it sounds like your question might be premature. If you aren't currently associated with a university or do not already have a relevant higher degree, then going abroad as a student would be very difficult. Are you still planning to enroll in a local Master's program? Or have you decided to go for a Master's degree abroad?

The answer by shane, I think, covers some of the issues you will probably run into as an Asian student in the West. How good or bad a situation you find it depends on a complex set of factors including:

  1. Your area of study
  2. Your university and location
  3. The local community from your area/country. (Assuming you get on well with people from your background)
  4. How successful you are at your subject
  5. What kind of advisor you end up with
  6. How much you dislike your native country. If you really dislike it, you may have an easier time adjusting to a foreign culture.

If you happen to be from a very "sheltered" background, which is not uncommon in traditional Asian cultures, then living away from your family and culture could be good for you. In many ways the West (which it seems you are contemplating) is much more open culturally then a place like Bangladesh. However, how you respond will be up to you. You may find it frightening rather than empowering.

In my case, I was from a sheltered background, and had a difficult time. Grad education is a rough business, and study abroad is not for the faint-hearted. However, I can say that I do not regret it at all. It was (I think) very good for me. I learned to be much more confident and independent. I am now quite a different person than the person I would have been if I never left India.

Having said that, as shane says, grad school isn't the ideal way to go about self-improvement, if you have a choice. Of course, as I have observed above, you may not have a choice.

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It is not going to magically solve your problems. You will undoubtedly face similar issues. People outside often think that Academia is the life of the mind and the ivory tower. It is not. A successful career, including tenure, often depends on how well you interact with your fellow academicians never mind your students.

Being an introvert can be very difficult. You can take this opportunity to re-invent yourself. You'll never not be an introvert but you can work on skills to minimize its impact on your life and career. Search out some books on the subject (there have been some popular ones published recently like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking).

Very carefully consider who your advisor will be. You don't need the prima donna, but someone with whom you can work with successfully.

Join Toastmasters or a similar organization where you are now or where you end up. Look for social, cultural, or technical organizations for your interests--and get involved. That may help you find connections and friends who can help you when the going gets tough.

You might also look into counseling, not to become extroverted, but to learn techniques to mitigate your introversion.

On a personal note: go for it! I'm introvert who's fine with friends. I'm a SME (subject matter expert) so knowing my stuff makes it much easier for me to speak up in a meeting, raise my hand in class (when I was in class), and so on. Don't let imposter syndrome get you either.

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I am an american who studied in europe for several years. Here are some things I think you might want to consider.

  • It is always difficult to move to a new cultural environment. If you already find social situations difficult, then these difficulties are likely to intensify in a new setting. You will have to communicate primarily in a foreign language, you will have to learn a new set of customs and manners, and you will have to make all new friends in your host country. This can be hard, depending on the country. In my experience Americans are usually quicker to befriend foreigners than Europeans.

  • Think about where you want to live. If you want to live in america, then maybe doing a Ph.D. in American isn't a bad idea. In general though it is hard for people who do their degree in one country to get a job in another country, unless the degree is from somewhere really famous like Harvard or Oxford. (See my post here for an explanation why.

  • Dealing with academic advisors is really difficult, even for people with excellent social skills. This is a subject that deserves its own separate consideration. Your advisor will have a lot of control over your future career and this fact can sometimes make one be overly deferential. Some advisors use their power over their students in bad ways. It is very common for advisors simply not to do their jobs. It is also possible for your advisor to steal your research, although this is less common. The proper way to deal with your advisor is as a senior colleague who is paid to help you. You want to approach him or her with reasonable questions, and you want to insist on frequent meetings to discuss your work. You need to be comfortable making these kind of demands, even if you aren't the person in charge, otherwise you run the risk of a bad advisor taking advantage of you. This is true outside the academy too, but it remains a real factor even in universities.

  • Do not go into debt to do a graduate degree. It's almost always a horrible return on investment.

  • Scrutinize your motives. Why do you really want to do this? Do you really have a burning research question that you want to answer? It doesn't sound like it. It sounds like you are in a bad situation and want a lifeboat to take you somewhere else and try something new. If that is your mindset, I strongly encourage you to reconsider graduate education. Graduate school is a very difficult environment, and when you get to the point of academic hiring it becomes absolutely viciously competitive. Graduate school isn't a good way to find yourself, or explore and adventure in a foreign country--it's professional training for a very difficult, very stressful job that doesn't tend to pay very well. If you don't love the material itself, you probably won't last.

I wish you the very best!

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It is just not true that your problems always return back to you wherever you go. I have seen people who feel lots better after they have changed the position. For instance, if the laboratory used to focus on exhausted topic or gets much less funding than before, unable to continue existing projects, or the new supervisor is trying to push some weird concepts, it may be very difficult climate that is not your fault at all.

From the question looks at least you are self-critical enough. Try to be careful at the new job, remember lessons you think you have learned and do not repeat the mistakes. Take this into consideration and go.

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