While international students from all over the world are flocking to Canada at record rates, Canadian students are staying put at home. Only 2 percent of Canadians now study abroad during their undergraduate years.
Being a very multicultural society where diversity has been an official government value since 1971, you would think that Canadians would be very worldly and internationally experienced. Yet that’s not the case at least among students: in 2015, only 2 percent studied or did research abroad. By comparison, on average about 10 percent of American students complete at least a part of their studies in another country, as do 13 percent of Australians and 30 percent of Germans.
This is sad news for Canadians, as living in another country for a period of time has many benefits. Here are five good reasons for more Canadians to study abroad.
Studying abroad can help you get hired later
In today’s super competitive working environment, you need to stand out from the crowd. Studying abroad in the UK, Australia or UAE is one way to differentiate yourself from others. According to a survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 90 percent of students said that studying abroad had contributed positively to their career achievements. Also, a 2015 survey by Léger Marketing for Universities Canada found that 82 percent of Canadian hiring managers in small and medium-sized companies valued applicants with cross-cultural understanding and knowledge of a global marketplace. As international trade accounts for 60 percent of Canada’s GDP, students with foreign experience are sure to be valuable in the business world.
It’s not as expensive as you think
For most Canadian students, it’s not the lack of motivation that is keeping their passports in the drawer gathering dust. It’s money concerns. According to a CBIE survey of more than 7,000 Canadian students, 86 percent said they would like to study abroad. An almost equal number said they don’t think they have the finances for that.
But studying abroad doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny, particularly if you choose to do your whole degree in another country. You can apply to either a free or very affordable English-language degree program in many Nordic countries, like Norway and Finland. France also offers education to everyone for a nominal fee of a couple of hundred dollars.
Some countries where the annual tuition fees for international students are around CAD$5,000 or less include Taiwan, Germany, South Africa, Malaysia, Poland and Mexico. An added bonus is that living expenses in most of these countries are a fraction of what you would pay back home.
Even if you would prefer to study in an expensive country, not all is lost: You can apply for a range of scholarships to make your foreign schooling cheaper. Funding is available for studies in the US, the UK, and even for Australia.
The Canadian federal government has also promised to create an international mobility plan by 2022 that would send 50,000 Canadian students abroad per year. Some steps in that direction have already been taken. For example, since 2014 the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship has given 1,500 Commonwealth students the funding to study in other Commonwealth countries.
CBIE has also launched a new website promoting studying abroad, along with the online campaign #LearningAbroad. The idea is to make international experiences a reality for a critical mass of Canadian students.
Additionally, individual Canadian universities are trying their best to help students make the leap overseas. Ryerson University and the University of Regina, for instance, are offering $1,000 awards for students who go on exchanges. Tuition fees are often no higher during your semester abroad than they are when you are back in your Canadian home institution.
Your credits from abroad will count towards your degree
A fourth of the students surveyed by the CBIE cited concerns about foreign study credits not transferring easily back to Canadian institutions. The students thus worried that studying abroad would delay their graduation date.
While this is a valid concern in some cases, many universities are tackling this issue heads-on. The University of Alberta, for one, had 2,300 students participating in its education-abroad programs over the past two years and the students received transfer credits that counted towards their degree.
Then there’s also the option of studying abroad in a Canadian institution, such as the Canadian University Dubai. As this university has Canadian accreditation, it’s easy to transfer your credits to a school back home. Many CUD students actually take advantage of the option of doing their degree in two countries: after their second year in Dubai, CUD students are given the option to finish their studies at any of CUD’s partner schools in Canada.
You can escape winter
Canada is the coldest or the second-coldest country in the world, vying for the top spot with Russia. The average yearly temperature is just -5.6 Celsius. Much of the country has to deal with very cold weather for 4-5 months, and lows of -30 Celsius are common everywhere except for the southwestern parts of British Columbia. With these facts considered, wouldn’t it be great to skip winter for a couple of years? If you studied in a warmer environment, you could kiss goodbye to Seasonal Affective Disorder and other weather-related mood swings. Up to 15 percent of Canadians are said to experience some type of winter blues. This means your studies would probably progress better in a place like Dubai or Sydney, as you would feel energized by the year-round sunlight.
You can experience what easy travel looks like
Being the world’s second largest country, it’s not easy or cheap to get out of Canada. If you drive 5,000 kilometers from Vancouver towards the west on your spring break, you will still be in Canada. Try driving 5,000 kilometers west of France’s Bordeaux, and your passport will run out of space for stamps: besides European countries like Switzerland, Hungary and Romania, you would get to visit places as exotic as Armenia and Azerbaijan before ending up in Kazakhstan. That would be one school vacation to remember for life. Alternatively you could hop on a Ryanair or easyJet flight and fly to any number of European countries for less than CAD$50. Sometimes flights within Europe can cost as little as a few dollars, as the continent is the main battleground of several low-fares airlines. This means that if you studied in the UK, for example, you could spend every weekend exploring a new country. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, eh?
Mirva Lempiäinen, Schoolapply.com
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