Study Abroad

Grad School Experience in Chicago, IL

When I was getting prepared for grad school applications, there were several reasons why I preferred schools here in the United States. One, and perhaps the most obvious one is simply being fluent in the native language. Although I take this for granted most of the time, understanding and speaking the language has made my adaptation here way easier than it would be otherwise. Another reason is the fact that the US is home to many well-known, senior, successful researchers, both in developmental psychology and also generally in the field of psychology. In addition, seeing that many PhD programs were fully funded further influenced my decision to pursue a grad program here. I wanted to come to Chicago specifically – I studied here for my exchange semester during my 3rd year of undergraduate, so I already knew what it was like to live in this city.


I have been doing my PhD in developmental psychology at Loyola University Chicago in the United States, since 2018. I started my PhD right after I finished my bachelor’s in psychology at Koç University in İstanbul, Turkey. Talking about my academic experience here so far, I should mention that a direct transition from bachelor’s to PhD is not easy, and it really forces one to adapt to many novelties.

One thing different here from most of the universities in Europe is that many PhD programs in psychology offer a master’s degree on the way. For example, as a third-year student in the program, I am currently collecting data for my master’s thesis. Once I complete my coursework, the defence of my thesis, and complete my qualifying exams, I will continue the program as a PhD candidate. I find this to be an advantage, as it is time-wise practical if you know for sure you want to do a PhD. However, if you are not, a 5-year commitment can be a lot, and getting a master’s degree beforehand can be more suitable.

For my research, I work with and collect data from infants. More specifically, I am interested in cognitive development and the specifics of visual attention and face processing. Normally, I would be using EEG and ERPs to collect data from our participants, but we are unfortunately not able to collect data in person due to the pandemic – so this had to shift online. Yet still, I am excited to be finally running my study.

Social life

Of course, in addition to my schoolwork, I am always trying to explore the city of Chicago. One of my favourite things in this city is that there is always something to do. On a typical year, Chicago has hundreds of music events, whether it be a music festival, hosting worldwide known DJs, concerts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, jazz, and blues clubs… So there really is something for everyone!

As a sports fan, I must say that Chicago is a big sports city and has several professional sports teams. Although football (or ¨soccer¨ as they call it here), one of my favourite sports, is not very popular, Chicago does have a team. Also, as a basketball fan, I try to go to the games of the Chicago Bulls as much as I can. In addition, I have been to baseball and ice hockey games for the first time in my life here.

Last but not least, I have to talk about the food and restaurant scene. Even on a simple 3-day trip to any city, I compile a list of restaurants and things to eat there, so the food can be the make-or-break it of my trips. I can tell that Chicago does not disappoint in this sense. Although it is known for its deep-dish pizza (just think of a pizza that is stuffed and really more like a pie than pizza), Chicago offers so many other options for good food, fast food, or fine dining. I have tried Hawaiian food for the first time here, was introduced to authentic Chinese and Mexican food, and had one of the best burgers I have ever had in my life. One thing I might complain about is that I still have not found good, authentic Turkish food, though I am still hopeful I will someday – so fingers crossed.


Author: Aslı Bursalıoğlu
PhD in Developmental Psychology at Loyola University Chicago


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