U of T students benefit from studying abroad
Studying abroad can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. It opens up a whole new world of culture, customs and connections.
Glenda Gillis’s son returned from a year abroad fluent in German and with great academic credentials. “Richard came back filled with enthusiasm for his studies, but also more self-reliant and confident,” says Glenda. “His time in Germany gave us a preview of what it will be like when he actually moves away from home. We appreciate him even more now.”
Most students discover it’s the best thing they’ve ever done and return with renewed enthusiasm for their studies and a clearer understanding of their academic goals. Nathalí Rosado, a fourth-year student specializing in Modern Languages and Literatures is a perfect example. “Career-wise, going to France taught me that I can do virtually anything with languages,” she says.
Study abroad participants continue to earn credits towards their degree. They also build confidence from real-life interactions in a new country. Tiffany Ng did a teaching internship in Beijing and spent time in Korea. "Going to Korea made me more culturally aware, especially through the ‘home-stay’ at a Korean student’s house,” she says. “I learned to make Korean food, played cultural card games, and explored the rich history of the area.”
Overseas programs offer opportunities not typically available in Canada such as a field course in biodiversity in Singapore or marine biology in Australia. Exposure to a variety of teaching methods can also enrich learning and inspire new academic or professional pursuits. Those who study a second language often benefit more from a single academic year abroad than from four years of study in Canada. “We take care to advise students on the best program and location for them. This helps them to get the most out of their time away,” says Miranda Cheng, Director of U of T’s Centre for International Experience.
Foreign experience stands out on a resume. In a global economy, graduates with demonstrated cross-cultural competencies are more marketable, both to employers abroad and in culturally diverse cities like Toronto.
Seeing how people in other countries learn, work and play allows students to view the world in a new way. This often translates into improved teamwork and problem solving as well as enhanced tolerance and empathy.
Miruna, a student in Peace and Conflict Studies, describes how studying in Israel helped her realize that learning from a purely intellectual point of view is very different from experiencing real life situations. “While touring the hills of Jerusalem we were exposed to the Israeli and the Palestinian narratives, explored in an objective manner, with empathy to both world views,” she says. “This changed our outlook on the barriers to and the necessity of peace.”
The adventure and challenge of faraway places can create special friendships that, thanks to the wonders of technology, can continue well beyond a program’s end. At the same time, students increase their independence and maturity. For many, it’s their first time living away from family and friends.
And it’s not just the student who benefits. Many parents also enjoy learning about the new country from the comfort of their armchair at home. Keeping a map of the study location at hand and sharing in the enthusiasm of your student’s discoveries can make study abroad an educational experience for the whole family.
The University of Toronto offers hundreds of opportunities for study abroad. If the student in your family is interested, you can find details about programs, financial aid, pre-departure training and safety on the Centre for International Experience website.
► Centre for International Experience
► Monthly newsletter
for international students
► Resources for international experiences at:
University of Toronto Mississauga and University of Toronto Scarborough
U of T Career Centre staff can also advise students on their program choices.
► Campus Career Centres St. George