Studying abroad wasn’t something North Island College student Jennifer Kortlever thought would be possible. She’d long wanted to live abroad, but figured it was something she would do after school, once her loans were paid off.
But with the opportunities she had while studying at NIC, Kortlever said she was able to save money and spent a semester abroad in Paris.
“I got to spend time in a culture where the people spoke a different language, had a different way of thinking, and most importantly in which I was uncomfortable in at times,” she said in a July post on NIC’s website. “Adjusting to a new set of social norms taught me a lot about accepting people from other backgrounds and increased my confidence in talking to people I might have otherwise thought I wouldn’t have much in common with.”
Study abroad opportunities are proving to be valuable to graduates.
A 2017 report from the Institute of International Education (IIE) found that study abroad helped students develop valuable job skills and expand career opportunities. More than half of the survey respondents believed that their study abroad experience had at some point contributed to a job offer.
In addition to its previous international opportunities, NIC has added more opportunities this semester in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Mexico and France.
An agreement signed in the spring with University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific (UMAP) also comes into effect this year and includes 35 countries including Australia, Ecuador, Japan and the Philippines.
Agreements with schools in Turkey and Hawaii are still being finalized.
“Studying abroad is a life-changing experience for students,” said Mark Herringer, executive director of international education at NIC. “It not only allows students to immerse themselves in another culture, but also provides them with many important life skills that serve them well throughout their education and career.”
Kortlever’s experience in Paris changed her plans for school.
“I realized that is was possible to both pursue an education and see the world without being born wealthy,” she said.
Her goal is to complete her economics degree at a public university in the European Union.
NIC aims to continue increasing the types of international study programs available to students.
“Study abroad can take many forms,” said Herringer. “Everything from instructor-led field studies, to short-term exchanges, to long-term visits and even double degree opportunities. There’s so many different ways students can go global with their learning through NIC.”
And now with a new International Education Strategy, the number of opportunities for students could continue to increase. The strategy was announced by Global Affairs Canada at the end of August and includes an Outbound Mobility Program pilot project. According to the press release, the project “will give more Canadian post-secondary students opportunities to study and work abroad — particularly students who are less likely to have the opportunity to do so.” The federal government estimates that up to 11,000 Canadian students will benefit from the pilot project over its five-year length.
It’s estimated that 11 per cent of Canadian undergraduate students study abroad and that number is thought to be even lower for college students.
“Providing young Canadians with more opportunities to gain education and experience abroad will ensure that they are better equipped for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour.
Herringer is hoping that through this new federal strategy, the college will be able to “broaden and deepen” international learning opportunities.
For local students wondering if study abroad is right for them, Kortlever has some advice: “If someone is even a little bit curious about an exchange … make the first step and talk to somebody about what the options are — there may be something that’s right for you, and it never hurts to ask.”