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How to study abroad

Thinking of internationalizing your degree? Here’s what you need to do to make it happen
November 14, 2013
By Aviva Engel

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and cavorting with kangaroos may be adventures you’ll never forget, but communications studies student Marie Dubeau-Labbé is taking something even more valuable home from her exchange in Australia: an education. 

“I’m getting to experience a similarly dynamic and professional program to the one I got at Concordia, but in a completely different cultural mindset,” Dubeau-Labbé says.

Thanks to Concordia International’s study-abroad programs, RMIT University in Melbourne is one of dozens of options available to students. The university is partnered with institutions across Europe and Asia.

According to Dubeau-Labbé, the exchanges provide unique academic opportunities. “As a communications student, you learn that knowledge is enriched when you become aware not only of your own surroundings, but of other social contexts,” she says. “A student exchange allows you to do precisely that by applying the concepts and information you know in a variety of settings that you are not used to back home.”

Marie Dubeau-Labbé
Concordia communication studies student Marie Dubeau-Labbé is currently participating in an exchange at RMIT University in Australia. | Photo courtesy of Dubeau-Labbé

Here are the basics of how to study abroad at Concordia.

1. Explore your options

In partnership with 150 universities in 35 countries, Concordia International offers a host of study-abroad opportunities, from internships to exchange programs to field schools.

The field schools are designed and led by Concordia faculty. They are often language-based, and are suited to students pursuing any major.

2. Get started right away

Even if you’re only toying with the idea of studying abroad, start looking into Concordia exchange opportunities immediately.

Applications for programs and bursaries have deadlines: applying too late may cost you the experience.

Many exchange programs also have Faculty-based eligibility criteria, which require you to complete a number of credits and obtain a minimum GPA before you apply.

3. Be prepared to work

Although travel is definitely a key part of the experience, the programs are 100 per cent academic.

“You need to work hard and get good grades,” says Lian Duan, a senior lecturer in Concordia’s Department of Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics and coordinator of the summer field school in Chinese language and culture hosted by the Communication University of China in Beijing. “You need to be highly motivated, because this is not a tour — it’s a study program.”

4. Attend the information session

Before applying to study abroad, you must participate in one of three weekly Concordia International info sessions, which cover such details as the application process, financing opportunities and visa requirements.

5. Be open-minded

When selecting a program, “Don’t choose a destination based on where you’d like to spend a vacation,” advises Andrew Lang, director of Concordia International.

“You might have images of spending a winter semester in a warm location, but consider instead the skills you’re going to take away from the experience and how you’d use them on your CV or in a job interview later on. Be brave — some of the places that are good for you might surprise you.”

6. Consult others

Before deciding on a program and location, it’s good to get an idea of what might be the best fit for you. Talk to faculty members, Concordia International liaison officers, your family and friends.

Sometimes the most valuable information comes from other students who have studied abroad. “When I left for Australia in July, one of my close friends had just come back from an exchange,” says Dubeau-Labbé. “He gave the simplest and best advice to follow: never say no to any opportunity, even if it is unexpected.”

You can check out Concordia International’s Facebook page, Flickr stream and YouTube channel for further insight, or attend one of the 16 workshops, information sessions and student meet-and-greets for International Education Week (November 18 to 22; see the details below).

7. Plan your finances

Concordia International’s study-abroad programs are designed for students in all income brackets.

If you’re not able to put your hands on $1,000 CAD per month for living expenses — the estimated amount for an exchange student — then visit the funding page for more information about financial support.

Watch the video Marie Dubeau-Labbé made about her experiences at RMIT University. It won a $5000 award from the university's Education Abroad Office.

For International Education Week (November 18 to 22), Concordia International is offering 16 workshops, information sessions, and meet-and-greets with students who have studied abroad and exchange students from its partner universities.

The following events will all be held at Room X-103, Annex X, 2080 Mackay St., unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, November 18   
11 a.m.  to 12 p.m. Information Session for Studying Abroad in the Americas, special focus on Mexico
1 to 3 p.m. Meet and Greet: United Kingdom
3 to 5 p.m. Meet and Greet: Australia
Tuesday, November 19   
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sir George Williams Campus Study Abroad Fair, Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building), Atrium, 1515 Ste-Catherine St. W.
3 to 4:30 p.m. General Information Session
Wednesday, November 20  
10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Meet and Greet: Europe 
12  to 1 p.m. Information Session for Studying Abroad in France 
1 to 3 p.m. Meet and Greet: France
3 to 4:30 p.m. General Information Session 
Thursday, November 21     
10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Loyola Campus Study Abroad Fair, Atrium of the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex (SP Building), 7141 Sherbrooke St. W.
10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Meet and Greet: Ireland and Scandinavia 
2 to 3:30 p.m. General Information Session 
4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Information Session for Concordia Summer Field Schools
Friday, November 22  
10 to 11 a.m. GradProSkills Information Session on International Opportunities and Bursaries for Graduate Students
1 to 3 p.m. Information Session for Studying Abroad in Germany
3 to 5 p.m. Meet and Greet and Information Session for Studying Abroad in Asia

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