Studying abroad can be the experience of a lifetime. It gives students the opportunity to discover the world for themselves — to experience a new culture and a new language, and to develop valuable life skills along the way. Studying abroad instills maturity, independence and confidence, and teaches students to view the world in a new way. And let's face it - it's an experience that looks fantastic on a resumé.
There are many options for Canadian students who wish to study abroad, including student exchanges, summer study abroad programs, co-op and research positions, and volunteer and field study placements. No matter what the program, students usually benefit enormously from the skills and knowledge they acquire while studying abroad.
Meeting the Challenge
Studying abroad is not for everyone. It challenges students to be aware of themselves and to understand their place in the wider world. Students will need to step outside of their comfort zone, to do things they have never done before and to understand customs and expectations that are foreign to them. Open-mindedness and a positive attitude are crucial, as students will need to cope with unfamiliar and trying situations, as well as isolation and loneliness.
That being said, studying abroad can help students to grow in wonderful and unexpected ways. Some will learn to share and communicate more easily; others will become more mindful of those around them. They might be introduced to a new hobby, sport or artistic pursuit that becomes a lifelong passion, or spend time in a place that helps determine their career. In many cases, being far away from home can be the opportunity a student need to really come into his or her own.
The most common route taken for studying abroad is the university exchange. The student attends an institution of higher learning in another country for a term or a full school year, thanks to an established arrangement between that institution and the student's home college or university. These arrangements are in place for Canadian students with universities across the globe, from Central and South America to Asia and Europe, with Spain being a particularly popular European destination. Students won't necessarily need to learn a second language in order to study at a foreign university. There are universities in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, China (Hong Kong) and the Czech Republic, among others, that offer a wide range of programs in English for Canadian students.
Most Canadian universities and some colleges have international exchange agreements. Large and well-established universities generally have the most to offer in terms of exchange destinations and programs of study. Students on exchange pay the tuition of their home university, so student exchanges are one of the most affordable ways to study abroad. Credits earned on exchange are, for the most part, transferable. All the same, courses taken on exchange need to be chosen in consultation with the student's academic program advisor to ensure that the credits earned will be applied toward the student's degree.