Studying abroad isn’t as hard as students might think
By Christian Kindrachuk, Contributor
While studying abroad might sound like a difficult thing to do, MRU is making it more accessible for students to have that unique educational experience. However, many students are unaware of the support that the university offers students who want to study elsewhere.
The university is currently working towards its goal of sending five per cent of overall students from the school abroad by 2025 as outlined in MRU’s strategic plan. MRU wants to have 20 per cent of students who are graduating each year to have studied abroad, said Trinda Guillet, who is the coordinator for international exchange at MRU.
Common tropes about studying abroad are the costs associated with classes, time commitment or just lack of traveling experience. Guillet said the cost is not much different from what some students are already paying in Calgary.
“Particularly with the exchange, like full semester, if you are a student living in Calgary paying for your apartment and paying all your insurance and everything on your own anyways, sometimes going abroad is not signi cantly more expensive,” Guillet said.
The school, in an effort to try and increase the number of students studying abroad, incentivizes student participation through scholarships and grants. Last year, they started the International Mobility Award.
“We are guaranteeing every student who goes abroad will receive a grant from our office now, and we guarantee at least $1,000 to each student,” Guillet said.
That is not the only grant students can receive if they are looking to study internationally. Through other grants such as the Scotiabank Student International Experience Fund and the Experiential Learning Fund through SAMRU, there is more money available to anyone who is looking at studying abroad.
Not to say those are the only awards either — they also offer awards and grants more specifically to students looking to do a field school, international exchange or work experience abroad. There are also scholarships available once students have returned.
While the economic costs are getting easier for students, working around the time commitment necessary is something that depends on the individual who is wanting to travel. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t options for students who can’t afford to be away for long.
“A field school often is a good opportunity for students like that, because they may only need to take two weeks off, or three weeks off and then they can come back, but to study abroad for a full semester you’re leaving for a full four months at least,” Guillet said.
Field schools specifically have seen a lot of growth recently. Guillet thinks part of the reason is due to the fact that they “are high impact and high-quality learning experiences, but it’s also shorter term.”
The benefits of studying abroad can be far-reaching, but it’s important to remember to get a sense of what you’re getting into beforehand. Full-time international student and volunteer for the international student support centre on campus Hao Luu said: “It’s better to prepare ahead of time.”
One of the issues that he didn’t prepare for was the language barrier, which was something he had to study from the beginning. “It was a little bit dif cult at rst because sometimes you want to say something, but you don’t know how to say it to other people.”
Luu, originally from Vietnam, has worked in the office long enough to see what international exchange students are like when they come here to study.
“They’re only coming here for one semester to experiment with what it looks like to study abroad, […] there’s a big community in that because most of them live on residence so they can have bonded really well with each other as a group,” Luu said.
“Our students who go abroad tend to form a very tight cohort with the other exchange students who are there, because you’re going through similar things, and so you support each other,” Guillet said.
Achieving the goal of having five per cent of students studying abroad is opening opportunities for all students to try something new. MRU wants students to know about this and to know that students are supported for this.
“Come and chat with us and we’ll see what type of options we can find that will be the best t for you and how we can make something work,” Guillet said. “Because you want to ensure that every student that would want to go abroad gets the information they need to be able to make an informed choice and decide if they’re going to go ahead with it or not.”