Ever since my first semester abroad in England, I’ve been passionate and proud of the study abroad experience; the adventures, life-long friendships and endless travels. In the rush and tumble of stories, I often overlook the academic experiences, but they were exciting, life-changing and are worth more than the limited words that I am using today.
I have found that students don’t always take the time to reflect on their experiences. So I’d like to share the highlights of the academic-side of study abroad for students who participated in the Ontario-Baden-Württemberg Student Exchange Program and later volunteered to be part of my Master of Education thesis on the study abroad experience.
1. The classroom abroad 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 our home institution. Our professors encouraged us to explore new avenues to gain experience such as working in a psychology lab or assisting in a language course.
2. A sense of community and acceptance blossomed from the classroom.
Our professors and classmates welcomed us, recognized our contributions, and encouraged our development. Wonderful, life-long friendships developed within the classroom. They formed quite naturally with the classmates that we studied with. These classmates invited us out to the local bar, and over for a traditional German/Canadian meal.
3. Friendships positively influenced academic engagement and motivation.
We sat around the dinner table discussing course content and different worldviews. Our interactions improved language proficiency, making our readings and lectures easier to follow and developed our understanding of both our host and home cultures.
4. 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.
We have a world of experiences. And I hope that you take the time to reflect, understand, and share how your international and intercultural academic experiences have shaped your own development.
-Amy Jung, York University alumna