Supporters say study abroad programs push students out of their comfort zones while experiencing another culture, language, environment and education system. It teaches diversity and ultimately leaves them with cross-cultural communication skills necessary to succeed in the global economy.
Each year, more than 1,100 undergrads embark on a UCalgary Study Abroad program to experience a unique learning and potentially life-altering adventure. The range of international learning experiences offered include student exchange programs with partner universities, group study programs led by our faculty, internships, practica, international co-ops and research projects. Two of the most popular are student exchanges and the 30-plus faculty-led group study programs that attracted more than 500 students in the 2016-17 academic year. Seven past participants in UCalgary’s Study Abroad programs share memorable highlights, impressions and advice:
Treat an exchange abroad as a chance to be anyone or anything. No one will have any preconceived notions about who you should or shouldn’t be, making the exchange the perfect opportunity to find a niche you’ve never known about. You’re in a unique environment where other exchange students are looking for new friends and new experiences. The usual rules for social interaction are replaced with fast, adventurous friendships where the monotony and obligations of day-to-day life don’t get in the way. My exchanges in Sweden and South Korea were some of the happiest months of my life and I was able to carry that joy and sense of adventure back home.”
Emma Walsh, BSc’18 (Cellular, Molecular and Microbiology)
Studying abroad has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. During the semester in Sweden, I faced numerous fears, gained independence, became more culturally aware, and met amazing lifelong friends. I feel I have gained a lot of new insights, not only about the world, but about myself and who I want to be.”
Beth Verhelst, Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Communications and Media Studies
I participated in the African and Development Studies Field School in Ghana in 2011. What I wish I’d known beforehand is also, I think, part of the reason that I went: some of the most beautiful learning wasn’t in the classes I took but in the unplanned, in-between moments, like spending a night in a tree fort in Mole National Park. I knew that’s why I wanted to go, but I wish I’d been intentional about keeping
that perspective every day.”
Brittany Vine, BA’14 (Development Studies)
My favourite moment on the Hawaii photo safari experience was being able to watch the Milky Way rise up in the starry sky while being 9,000 feet above sea level on top of Mauna Loa. Our whole group shared this collective silence because we were all in awe that such an amazing phenomenon was happening. I will always remember this moment, along with all the new friendships and bonds I made with my classmates.”
Mariah Wilson, Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Urban Studies
Doing an internship in Washington, D.C., was key to making contacts and gaining experience that have led me to where I am today. Studying in Seoul was the first time I had been abroad for any reason other than to travel. Being able to make a new city my own was such an exciting experience, particularly through exploring the city’s vibrant culture and nightlife with Korean students, as well as students from all over the world. Both experiences encouraged me to move abroad after graduating. Since then, I’ve lived and worked in London and in the South Pacific, and I think both of my study abroad experiences really impacted this decision.”
Lauren Babuik, BA’13 (International Relations)
In my 10 years as a member or leader of the field school in Tanzania, I’ve learned that most students are fantastic to work with, are passionate and want to make a difference. I’ve also learned that it is much more rewarding to engage with community members in a very personal way than to just rush in to get some research data. The long-term relationships with the communities you work with have the most impact on your personal and professional life.”
Dr. Frank van der Meer, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
The students met with people from rural communities in Peru and were able to see what their lives were like and the importance of sustainable water. They asked thoughtful questions, listened, learned, shared knowledge, shared food and visited community water projects. For many students, this was the first time they had visited a rural community and it can be an emotional experience when they see such hardships and fortitude. Co-leading the group study deepened my resolve to be a good global citizen and assist the people of Peru.”
Dr. David Bethune, PhD’15 (Environmental Engineering), co-leader of a group study program in sustainable water management in Peru
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