University is the perfect time to take advantage of the exchange and international opportunities available to you mainly at this time of your life. York offers all students the possibility to take part in an exchange program, and you will also have a variety of study-abroad opportunities such as international internships specific to your program. It doesn’t matter what program or year of study you are in–exchanges are possible at any time.
Although I didn’t pursue an exchange, a good friend of mine, Aniko Zaha, took advantage of the opportunity and went to Europe in her third year of university in the Psychology program! Coming from an Argentinian family and raised in Canada, she thought it was high time to improve her native language (Spanish), so she decided to go to Spain for ten months!
Choosing Where to Study Abroad
York International is the central resource, for students to find information about international opportunities. York has 280+ exchange partner universities around the world. You can check out information sessions hosted by York International to help you decide to which country appeals to you for an extended stay away.
“Attending an information session and meeting someone who had gone on exchange the year prior, helped me make my decision to complete my study abroad at the Universitat de Valencia, Spain” Aniko shared with me.
Plan Ahead But Be Prepared to Make Changes
Below is a picture of Aniko’s room while in Valencia! Seems much larger than regular university dorm rooms, right? I asked Aniko how she landed this space. “I initially moved into a dorm, but I realized there were apartments closer to the university that were cheaper, so I cancelled my contract and rented an apartment which had a bigger room instead for half the price!” she told me.
It’s important to be strategic when you’re studying abroad. If you plan ahead, you can find a place to stay that is within your budget, close to major amenities and most importantly, close to your university! By thinking strategically, Aniko even landed her own balcony.
What I really wanted to know about Aniko’s time in Spain is how it was different from studying in Canada. “I had a variety of friends from all sorts of countries. I joined a student club that was for international students to experience Valencia and Spain, so through them I met many students. The campus was really really small compared to York. York has more than 100 buildings; my campus had four buildings in total. This particular university had three campuses within the city, but they were all relatively small,” Aniko told me.
Getting involved can really put you at an advantage when you are in a new place. Joining relationship-building student clubs like Aniko did, is a great way to meet other students who are away from home to form a support system for yourself. You’ll also be more aware of the resources that the university provides for its international students.
Take Advantage of Travel Opportunities
Something you might not immediately consider is that studying in one place can also open the door to visiting other places. Here’s Aniko: “What I enjoyed most was the traveling! I visited twenty-seven cities in ten months, mostly in Europe, but I also went to Africa. I am quite the history buff, so visiting these historic sites I’d studied for years was an awesome experience. As well, all of my trips were with different people! Since I never traveled with the same person twice, I enjoyed getting to know a city at the same time as I got to know a good friend. Truly, the traveling was my favourite part of it all.”
Make Time For Yourself
Studying abroad is not necessarily an easy feat. You may get overwhelmed and/or homesick. Being away from family and friends was difficult for Aniko. She said studying abroad was a great way to gain a variety of skills such as learning to be flexible, adaptable and able to problem solve. “I don’t think going on exchange is just for academic gain. It also helps you grow socially and emotionally. Most of all, it’s for our own life learning and experience,” she revealed.
Besides being an academic experience, university is where we all learn more about ourselves and learn to achieve our goals. Studying abroad is a privilege that allows for even more of that same learning. A life experience that not everyone has the opportunity to take. So if you can, take the time to do this. During your undergraduate years, it is, usually quite affordable and practical to travel, and courses taken abroad typically count towards your degree. Besides, you can put that international experience on your resumé–it will look great!
“Interestingly, it was during my exchange that I decided what I was passionate about and what I would end up choosing to pursue in graduate school. On exchange, you have all this freedom to make so many decisions about life (where you’ll live, how you’ll spend your time, what you miss or want the most from home) and all this exposure to new ways of thinking about life, its truly a great time to reflect,” shared Aniko.
Don’t Hold Back
I asked her if she had any final advice for students interested in studying abroad during their degree at York:
“GO! Do it! Enjoy the entire experience. But most of all, keep an open mind. Whatever city in the world you decide to go to, you’ll have the opportunities to see a whole new way of life. Embrace it! It’s a great chance to immerse yourself into something new, and who knows, you might even find something new that you love.”
Thanks for the advice, Aniko! If you are interested in going on exchange make sure to check out all the awesome resources York International offers. If you have any questions about this post, feel free to comment or tweet me @yorkustudents and we can chat more about exchange programs and the like!