Are you the type of student who goes on exchange?

I have lots and lots of informational advising appointments with Dalhousie University students who are considering applying to the exchange program. Not all of those appointments turn into applications, and lately, I have been wondering why not.

I have asked for insight from a few of our students who have returned from their time abroad. One comment struck me: “Some people are just not the type of person that goes on exchange. “

It struck me because my own nephew who is looking at launching his post-secondary career also made some crack that alluded to the “type” of student who goes on exchange.

So, here is the myth I plan to dispel today: Exchange is for the wealthy, artsy hipster types.

It is not a boutique experience anymore. Opportunities for international education abound for an array of programs. You might be thinking about language acquisition, or maybe International Development Studies, but outside of North America programs taught in English very often include science, technology, engineering, and business. Canadian institutions have established many international education opportunities in these areas. Now all we need are interested students.

Don’t get me wrong, we do get applicants in those fields, but they are in the minority. Science students often think that they can’t fit in a term abroad, not realizing that a term abroad does not mean they would be taking French and Art History electives for an exchange term or year. In reality, they have the opportunity to gain new insight into their field, to see where other countries are breaking new ground, and how culture impacts thinking in the same majors they are pursuing in Canada. Science students – you are the type of person who goes on exchange.

Small town kids and students who did not leave home to go to University – hear me out – you are the type of person who goes on exchange too. Sometimes the most growth is in the students who have never been away from their home province or have elected to study in their hometown to avoid as much student debt as possible.

Established exchange programs offer some level of security for students going abroad for their first time, and bursaries and grants can sometimes make that time abroad more affordable than you realize. The impact these students later have on their communities is incredible. They bring back new perspectives that can really make a difference back home.

Ignore the nagging question about whether you are the “type” to go abroad and put out your feelers for a program that suits you. You won’t have to look far.

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