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Enhanced understanding

Encouraging students to explore international opportunities

Teaching and Learning

By Jennifer Batten

While formally welcoming new students to campus last fall, Memorial’s provost and vice-president (academic) shared a few words of advice to the group of new matriculates.

“Way too few Canadian students travel abroad, and yet we have tons of opportunities to facilitate that activity,” said Dr. Noreen Golfman.

Dr. Noreen Golfman encouraged first-year students to go abroad as part of their university education during last fall's matriculation ceremony.
Dr. Noreen Golfman encouraged first-year students to go abroad as part of their university education during last fall’s matriculation ceremony.
Photo: Chris Hammond

“Just do it. Employers love to see that students have experience out in the world; in fact, they are looking to hire students just like you, the ones who have shown a willingness to travel, to take risks.”

While interest in learning abroad opportunities has increased over the past year, the number of students from Memorial travelling internationally as part of their programs continues to be low.

About two per cent of Memorial students take part in learning abroad opportunities, fewer than even the Canadian average of three per cent.

From German language field school in Heidelberg and a summer program in St. Petersburg, Russia, to field study programs in a variety of disciplines at Memorial’s Harlow Campus in the U.K. and elsewhere around the world, and opportunities for exchange with the University of the Arctic, there are opportunities for everyone willing to take on the adventure.

Memorial University has more than 140 student programs, exchanges and research partnership agreements with academic institutions all over the world, and significant opportunities to study, collaborate, work and live during semesters abroad.

From left, Memorial student Sylvia Unimna and University of the West Indies student Shantal Cover at a travel abroad popup information booth at the QEII Library.
From left, Memorial student Sylvia Unimna and University of the West Indies student Shantal Cover at a travel abroad popup information booth at the QEII Library.
Photo: Chris Hibbs

‘Enhanced understanding’

Memorial is one of 91 education institutions across Canada taking part in Learning Beyond Borders: A National Conversation on Learning Abroad and Canada’s Global Engagement Challenge, a national campaign launched recently by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) to encourage more Canadian students to seize opportunities to participate in learning abroad experiences in other countries.

“Students who go abroad return with enhanced understanding of the struggles of settling into a new context, as well as increased curiosity and sensitivity to cultural difference and different worldviews,” said Sonja Knutson, director, Internationalization Office.

“These students make better employees as they gain confidence in dealing with new situations and contexts and also make better citizens as they develop their understanding of different cultures.”

According to CBIE, just 3.1 per cent of full-time Canadian undergraduate university students have an education abroad experience. The number is even lower for full-time college students, at 2.5 per cent.

Participation rates are low, despite reports from students on the transformational nature of the experiences, the contributions to their academic and career achievements and the value in enhancing their communication skills, self-awareness and adaptability.

International education

The goal of the CBIE initiative is to make learning abroad an integral part of Canada’s education.

CBIE is calling on institutions to address barriers for Canadian students in learning abroad (e.g., credit recognition, on-campus promotion); students to gain an understanding of how learning abroad opportunities can be personally enriching and enhance their employability; and the business community and government to emphasize the need for Canada’s youth to engage with the world, both for the country’s economic competitiveness and image.

Memorial’s Internationalization Office offers numerous opportunities to learn more about learning abroad, including Learning Abroad @ The Library, an informal popup information booth in the lobby of the Queen Elizabeth II library every Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. throughout the fall and winter semesters. Chris Hibbs, international programs co-ordinator with the Internationalization Office is available at the booth to talk with interested students about learning and travelling abroad.

To learn more about the CBIE Learning Abroad Challenge, visit the website. For more information about Memorial’s learning abroad opportunities visit the Internationalization Office website or get in touch via email.

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