Oh the places you'll go! — Dr. Seuss.
No matter what grade you're in, the time to start thinking about your plan following graduation is approaching. Will you go to college or university? Will you stay close to home or move away? What will you study? For many, these are the only questions going through your head right now. Considering how you're going to study or what ways you can enrich the next few years even further have probably not even crossed your mind.
Planning to participate in a student exchange is likely one of those things.
I think the biggest thing for high school students that I see is it seems like a big enough jump just going to university, going away from home and starting something new. That's a big leap, says Amy Braye, study abroad and exchange advisor at Dalhousie University.
Student exchanges are available through many colleges and universities across Canada and allow students to travel and study at a partner institution in another country. That partner would in turn send one of their students to the school here in Canada to study in their place.
According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, an estimated 17,850 full-time students enrolled in Canadian universities have participated in a form of study abroad for credit in 2006. Since the survey was last conducted in 2000, that number has tripled.
What program is right for me?
At Dalhousie, students can spend a semester in Australia, Spain, Hong Kong, and many other locations while still paying all their tuition fees to their home school.
Universities and colleges also often have unique opportunities that may be more suitable for different students. For example, Dalhousie offers two types of exchange programs to their students. One is university-wide while the other is departmental.
The main advantage to doing a university-wide, from my perspective, is that students can take a wider range of classes, says Braye. Depending on where you are in your degree, this option is a great opportunity to open up your areas of study.
Students who choose the departmental program must take courses in their chosen department or faculty only. If a student is going to go through a science exchange, they'll only be allowed to take science credits at the institution, she says.
Generally a cohort of students would go over to the Harlow program from the faculty of business, says Victoria Greey, international program officer with the faculty of business administration at Memorial University.
Memorial's Harlow Campus offers programs in fields such as biology, business, education, history, arts, and fine arts.
I normally recommend this program if students are a bit nervous travelling on their own, or if they want to take advantage of our courses that are offered over there, she says. This would be a good opportunity for them.
Why should I go?
There are so many benefits! says Greey. You'll get exposed to a much larger variety of courses that will be taught by different professors from different places. I just think the opportunity to expand your knowledge is one of the benefits of going on an exchange.
Greey went on an exchange herself to France through Memorial University. She was able to take courses like French in the 21st Century and French architecture.
Those are all courses that I wouldn't have been able to take back in Canada, she says. Depending on the institution you're attending, they won't necessarily focus in on different regions like that.
Greey also receives a lot of positive feedback from many students after returning from their exchange. Taking a course outside of Canada, and actually being in an international environment, made the topics more relevant to them. They were able to have a better understanding of the cultural topics or the cultural side of that focus in business because they were living somewhere else and seeing firsthand what they were learning.
Can I afford it?
High school students or at least their parents may not realize that it can be quite affordable, says Braye. Yes, there are added expenses but there are a lot of bursaries and scholarships and programs to make it more affordable.
Be sure to talk to your advisors at your college or university in order to see what options are available to you at the location you'd like to study at, she adds.
I'm in! What else should I know?
Be sure to keep in mind that, depending on where you go, you could get the opportunity to take classes and be immersed in a totally different language.
Braye says not to let these kinds of factors deter you from travelling where you truly wish to go. A student can go to Sweden without knowing Swedish and be just fine, especially considering we have partners that teach a lot of classes in English and they would find that in a lot of places there is a high level of English.
Planning ahead is also important. Since you're going to be applying about a year in advance for your exchange, the sooner you consider it, the more prepared you'll be, says Braye.
I always tell [students], ÔÇÿregardless of where you go, you will love it!' Says Greey. I've never had a student who was unhappy with their chosen location. They all say it was an experience of a lifetime and that they learned so much about themselves and made so many memories and friends.
As a last thought, by the wise Dr. Seuss: You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the [one] who'll decide where to go.