Students reflect on the meaning and depth of their experiences studying and working abroad during an in-person Global Learning Fair. The application deadline for the next cycle of international opportunities for students is Jan. 23, 2023.
By Elaine Smith
“‘Explore, Engage and Experience’ is the message our Global Learning Fairs aim to convey to students,” said Ashley Laracy, associate director of global learning for York International (YI). “Since we recently held our first in-person fair since the pandemic lockdown, we want to make students aware of the opportunities that abound. We hope that this will spur them to begin their applications, submit them by the Jan. 23 deadline and prepare to study or work abroad in the 2023-24 academic year.”
The in-person Global Learning Fair featured a number of York student exchange programs, some of York’s exchange partners, summer abroad programs and internship opportunities, and current and former exchange students eager to share their excitement about the experience. Representatives from the Faculties of Environmental and Urban Change, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Science also took part.
The event held at Vari Hall was followed by two virtual sessions to link students with program and university representatives based around the globe. Laracy noted that YI has funding available for students who are interested in traveling abroad to off set the cost of participation.
Studying abroad is beneficial to students in a number of ways, Laracy added.
“Our world has become increasingly global, and students who take advantage of study abroad opportunities experience this first hand,” she said. “Spending time in another culture allows them to experience and understand different perspectives on the world, gain skills for the global workplace and increase their employability, since global experience is always desirable. In addition, they may experience a different education system, make friends from different cultures and learn to navigate their way through a new locale. It is an enriching experience, both personally and professionally.”
Farzana Rohit calls her 2022 summer study abroad course in Greece “the best experience in my life so far.”
The fourth-year student went abroad for Greece: A Modern History and can’t say enough good things about the course and the trip, enthusiasm both she and fellow student Simon Younan shared this month with interested students the in-person Global Learning Fair. “I wanted to do something different and it was the best decision I ever made,” said Rohit, a philosophy major.
The students had classes at York University for two weeks, then embarked on the trip, which had a packed agenda.
“It was experiential learning, visiting historical sites and museums and immersing ourselves in Greek culture,” she said. “Every day, it was as if we were in an alternate universe. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
In Summer 2023, there are more than 20 YorkU courses and programs that students can explore and choose from. Faculties, in collaboration and with the support of York International, offer immersive education experiences in Colombia, Czechia, Ecuador, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States and in the Las Nubes EcoCampus Costa Rica, among others. Led by faculty members from across York University, these programs allow students to study in a different country for several weeks with a group of their known peers and no credit transfer is required.
Ritwika Gupta represented Brunel University, located in London, England, at the fair. She said the university is best known for its medical school for international students and for its sport science program.
“We are a new partnership with York,” she said. “We have three York exchange students this year and the interest will only grow. We want to hear accents from all over the world on our campus.”
Ontario Universities International is a provincial program that provides students with the opportunity for exchanges with universities in the German state of Baden-Württemberg (OBW) and the French Rhône-Alpes (ORA) region.
“Our program is supported by provincial funding and there are scholarships up to $3,500 available for all York University students,” said Agnes Poleszczuk, the program’s York-based co-ordinator and an alumna of the program herself. Students can study for a semester, undertake a research project, or learn a language during the summer at one of the programs’ partner institutions.
Exchange student Mathilde El Ogb is spending a year at York University as part of her bilingual bachelor’s degree program in history at the University of Toulouse in France and was eager to share her enthusiasm for student exchange programs.
“I’m very glad to be here because it is an opportunity to take courses that they don’t have at my university,” said El Ogb, who has classes in 20th century Canada and Latin American history this semester. “I’ve made a lot of great friends and it’s cool to be surrounded by such a big landscape.”
Kaitlyn Celentano, a second-year York media arts student, is exploring opportunities for studying abroad.
“I always wanted to do this; it’s super cool to be able to travel through school,” Celentano said. “Film is a very global business and there’s history about the way film is being made in different places, so you can see what goes on. I’m looking at places where English is the main language; there is a huge film business in the United Kingdom, for example.”
During the online sessions, students had the opportunity to dig deeper into the opportunities at many individual schools worldwide.
Malmö University in Sweden is a new York University partner institution, said Maria Pihel, the university’s international co-ordinator.
“We’re here to recruit more interest,” Pihel said. “Our main educational programs are professional, so it’s harder to find matches, so we are also looking at internships and placements to give students international experience in different ways.”
Laracy of York International noted, “With more than 300 global partners worldwide, I am confident that we have a program for all York University students.”
She encourages students to explore stepping outside of their comfort zone, engage in one of York’s global learning programs and gain skills through the experience that will set them apart from their peers on the job market.