NOTE: Today we are re-blogging an excellent short post written for the Canadian Bureau for International Education called “Articulating the Academic Experience” by York University alumna Amy Jung and originally published on May 11, 2016. Amy spent some months studying abroad in the German Bundesland (province) of Baden-Württemburg, and in her piece wonderfully dissects the academic elements of studying abroad. Enjoy!
Whenever you hear the words “foreign exchange”, surely images of exploring a different country, meeting new people, and trying unfamiliar foods float before your mind’s eye. While this makes for a huge component of studying abroad, the academic portion, and benefits, of an exchange are considerable too, though they sometimes get neglected in reflections by foreign exchange students: Why talk about what you learned in school when you can reminisce about the time you missed your stop on the train and ended up in what appeared to be Narnia?
Not so for York alumna Amy Jung, who, writing for the Canadian Bureau for International Education, shared her thoughts on how and why learning in a classroom away from your home university can broaden your outlook and advance you academically, making the investment of time well worth your while. She took part in the Ontario-Baden-Württemberg Student Exchange Program, and found four points particularly worth highlighting. Take it away, Amy:
- The foreign classroom provided a space for new possibilities and perspectives. We had the luxury to engage with academic disciplines, culture-specific content, and teaching styles that differed from those at our home institution. And our professors encouraged us to explore new avenues to gain experience such as working in a psychology lab or assisting in a language course.
- A sense of community and acceptance blossomed from the classroom. Our professors and classmates welcomed us, recognized our contributions, and encouraged our development. And our wonderful, life-long friendships developed within the classroom. They began with the classmates that we studied with, that invited us out to the local bar, or over for a traditional German/Canadian meal.
- Friendships positively influenced academic engagement and motivation. We sat around the dinner table discussing course content and engaging in different worldviews. Our interactions improved our language proficiencies, making our readings and lectures easier to follow, and developed our understanding of both our host and home cultures.
- Courses from abroad internationalized and “interdisciplin-ized” our degrees. We added credits, minors, and/or majors to our already jam-packed degrees. We took intercultural and interdisciplinary approaches to our assignments and class discussions, which revamped and excited us. We honed our interests and passions and have chosen to pursue further studies abroad.
- Doesn’t that just make you want to pack your bags and go out into the world? Or maybe you already have, and came to York from other shores. We’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment below or tweet us at @yorkustudents.
In case you want to hear more about the experiences of Yorkies out in the world, read these companion pieces by me and Kren on the joys of working and studying abroad. Or read Arshia’s piece on her friend Shenique, and international student at York. See you soon!