University of Calgary

Study Abroad 101: What you need to know

UToday HomeMarch 25, 2013

One way to get an internationalize experience at the University of Calgary is by getting involved in a Group Study Program (GSP) through the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad. Here, a GSP group visits Egypt.One way to get an internationalize experience at the University of Calgary is by getting involved in a Group Study Program (GSP) through the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad. Here, a GSP group visits Egypt.Students can internationalize their degrees by incorporating international experience ― study or volunteer ― into their academic careers. There are many opportunities presented to undergrads for such experiences, and studying abroad is one way to travel and earn credits at the same time.

University of Calgary International has a wealth of information for undergrad students exploring their options for studying abroad. But, the first steps on that journey of exploration can be overwhelming, even with online details at your fingertips.

Colleen Packer is manager of Exchanges and Study Abroad for the university’s Centre for International Students and Study Abroad, and had her own undergrad experiences in Germany and Japan. She is enthusiastic about supporting undergrads from start to finish through the study abroad experience.

“Living abroad is so much richer than just traveling,” says Packer. “It’s very rewarding to see how students grow, and become more mature and confident after international study experiences.”

UToday spoke with Packer about what undergrad students should know first before studying abroad.

UToday: Are there opportunities for all students?

Packer: There is something for everyone, programs suitable for students in any faculty or department. Opportunities range from one-week-block courses to full academic years. There is access to experiential learning not found on the Calgary campus (e.g., marine science in coastal areas) and study experiences where something or someone originated it (e.g., Shakespearian plays in England).

UToday: When should students start thinking about studying abroad?

Packer: Students are encouraged to think about, and plan for, their study abroad experiences as early as possible. The earlier the better, as it can help them plan for where they want to go, what courses they can take in another country, and what courses they must take at the University of Calgary. Students in all years of their programs have been able to take advantage of study abroad opportunities.

UToday: Is it expensive? How do undergrads pay for it?

Packer: There are programs for all price ranges. The majority of students that the university helps send on study abroad programs are on student loans. The tuition is the same whether here in Calgary or abroad, and students can take their student loans and scholarships with them. Depending on the country and its cost of living, some students have found that they can spend less than if they were in Canada. Special funding awards for study abroad are also available.

UToday: Is a second language needed?

Packer: A second language is not needed, though there are programs expressly designed for language learning. There are many programs that teach in English in non-English speaking countries.

UToday: What is Study Abroad 101?

Packer: Study Abroad 101 offers students the basic information that they need to consider. One-time, drop-in sessions are 45 minutes long and held throughout the fall and winter terms on Mondays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. and Wednesdays at 12 p.m.

UToday: Where is Study Abroad 101? Can people just drop in for other reasons?

Packer: Study Abroad 101 is held in the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to drop in to the centre in Mac Hall, room 275, on the west side down from the food court. The centre is open from 8:30-4:30 Monday to Friday to pick up resources, meet with volunteers and hang out with interesting people.

UToday: Who answers students’ questions or helps them refine their options?

Packer: Students can book time with advisors in the centre for individualized attention and services. Advisors will be involved throughout the entire experience from developing an idea, to support in the field, to post-experience follow-up.

UToday: Other than for academic reasons, what is the value of internationalizing a degree?

Packer: Study abroad experiences help students develop the soft skills valued by employers. The independence, confidence, creativity, problem solving, communication skills and intercultural abilities gained through international experiences can give new university graduates an edge in the job market.


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