Global students

Students discuss the ups and downs of studying abroad

Spending a year at Herstmonceaux Castle can be a great experience, but it’s not for everyone, students say.
Spending a year at Herstmonceaux Castle can be a great experience, but it’s not for everyone, students say.
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There are a plethora of international opportunities available for those who prefer to do their travelling in an academic setting. From the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle, to course-specific summer trips, to a traditional exchange—one would be hard-pressed to find an option that wasn’t appealing.

An exchange in the fall or winter semester of third-year is the most common choice. According to the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), Queen’s has exchange agreements with 110 institutions in 35 different countries, which means that you can go on exchange in a wide array of countries, including China, Australia, Russia and Argentina. There’s an obvious price advantage to the exchange option, as you pay your tuition to Queen’s, rather than at the foreign institution; but there are other benefits beyond the chance for cheap travel.

Emilie Gauthier, Comm ’11, spent Fall 2009 studying in France at the ESCP Europe, a European business school with five campuses across the continent. She said that about 70 per cent of commerce students go on exchange in their third year.

She said she particularly enjoyed the chance to adapt to a different learning style.

“Here at Queen’s, the commerce program is quite hands-on and involves a lot of assignments,” she said. “In France, we generally did things more independently, had class discussions and then were evaluated in exams at the end of the course.”

Spending one’s first year at the BISC—or “the Castle”—in England is a slightly more daunting prospect for some, as it involves spending your first year far away from home.

For Adam Sprott, ArtSci ’12, however, the choice was clear.

“I got to stay in a castle rather than Vic Hall. Enough said.”

Sprott extolled the virtues of the program.

“The field studies are amazing—I took an Art History course and got a lecture about the Mona Lisa while standing in front of it in the Louvre,” he said, adding that he doesn’t feel he missed anything by not being in Kingston for his first year, except for Orientation Week.

“When you get to the Castle, everyone is pretty jetlagged, so it’s less intense,” he said. “But once you get back to Kingston in second-year, NEWTS Week makes up for anything you feel you may have missed.” Deanna Schmidt, ArtSci ’12, said that while she wanted to do international study in undergrad, she was hesitant to give up time at the Queen’s campus. She knew first year at the Castle or an exchange weren’t the right choices for her, but that a summer program was. Queen’s offers spring and summer terms at the Castle, the Venice Summer School, a course on-location in Havana and several other study abroad opportunities in the summer.

For Schmidt, an art history major, there was a definite draw in enrolling in a course-specific program, which is why she will be attending the Venice Summer School in May.

In art history, she said, it’s really important to be able to see art in context, which is something difficult in Kingston.

“Traveling and viewing the works first hand provides a completely different perspective since you can contextualize the work, see how it interacts with its environment and study it in true detail,” she said. “The value of studying abroad for art history students may differ from that of other disciplines in that respect, because it is so based on the sensory experience.”

Schmidt, Gauthier and Sprott all said they hope to pursue jobs that involve international travel.

Gauthier credited her exchange with inspiring her to pursue a degree in global management in Fall 2011, and hopes to work in international finance.

“Going on exchange, you see Canadians working in international fields that you never even considered as options—there are so many things that you just aren’t exposed to in Canada.”

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