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How studying abroad can change the world

Testimonial by Erin Pehlivan, York University student

     There are many reasons why a student does not want to or cannot study abroad. Finances hold us back, our marks are not good enough, or maybe we never knew that it was even an option.

     Studying abroad can provide a wealth of opportunities to prospective students, no matter where in the world. How can studying abroad impact your life, and the world around you?

     Perhaps you are interested in learning a new language, adding an experience to your resume that makes you stick out from the crowd, or living a different way of life in a completely new setting.

     It might sound extreme – going to Canada just to learn English, or maybe Guatemala to learn Spanish. Learning a new language and navigating a new campus can be stressful, and is not some people’s idea of a “fun time”.

     These types of experiences breed tolerance, though. It is never easy leaving home to go somewhere you’ve never been before. When it’s all done, you will see a change in yourself. You may learn that you have matured or have become more free-spirited as a result of studying abroad, or you may learn that you do not enjoy spontaneity. You may have lived with these traits your whole life and you are just starting to learn about them now.

     Studying abroad can make you a more understanding person, whether you want to be or not. When you see the world with your own eyes, you form opinions, you compare, and you judge. This is normal. Studying abroad removes individuals from their comfort zone. It puts a human face to people and cultures we hear about in the news but have never had the opportunity to meet.

     When you study or live abroad, you begin to break down stereotypes. By the same token, you understand why stereotypes exist in the first place. Studying and living in Canada is not just about the CN Tower, maple syrup and large trees. There is so much more to a country; its culture, history, politics, and the way that people live. The human face suddenly feels real and accessible.

     When you begin to look at your host country as individualized instead of one homogenous mass, it will change the way you study and perceive things back home. You will return as a completely different individual and this will reflect how you participate in the classroom, transforming classroom discussion and shaping paper topics in ways you never expected.

     Students return from a study abroad session with plenty to contribute instead of remaining passive. They may start demanding more from their faculty, or they may start a new school club. They begin to innovate and create, and they become globally engaged in a way that cannot be learned through textbooks.

     The skills acquired through studying abroad or taking an international gap year are valued by future employees. These life skills cannot be gained through reading books and studying hard, but are gained through experience. The list includes adaptability, resourcefulness, mutual decision-making and compromise, taking risks, and it doesn’t stop there.

     Ask yourself why you could never study abroad, and then ask yourself how you can change that. Choosing Canada as a study destination will not only reflect in your marks, degree, or classroom participation but it will also impact your life experience, personality and skills.