Broaden your horizons

**Do you ever imagine yourself promenading through beautiful Parisian streets, eating a baguette and soaking in the culture around you?

Or do you ever dream of sauntering along the mile-long beaches of Australia, immersed in the hot sun?

As with most Canadian universities today, at Laurier, these opportunities and much more are available for students through Laurier International, which was founded in 1994.

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Laurier International administers the Laurier Student Abroad Program, which currently has more than 60 exchange partners with universities in 22 countries, including Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Russia and Spain, to name a few.

Exchange programs at Laurier make studying abroad easy by allowing travelling students to pay tuition at home.

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that affords a traveller the ability to transport themselves to another country where they can enjoy all the experiences of tourists while reaping all the perks of being a local.

“Whether outgoing or shy, I would recommend everyone do a semester abroad,” insists Ruhi Mamuji, a fourth year bachelor of arts student who spent a semester in Sweden last year.

“You learn so much about yourself,” said Mamuji, a thought that is often mirrored by many students who have taken the leap and left home for four months or more. Sometimes the thought of leaving the comforts of home and leaving friends and family is a daunting idea.

The experiences will be worth the momentary nerves and fears felt prior.
Many who have had the privilege of studying abroad agree that being involved in this type of experience broadens their perspectives inside and outside of the classroom.

“We tend to become self-obsessed in our small university bubble, and travelling abroad opens your mind to new things and cultures,” Mamuji expressed.
Joe White, a history major at Laurier, spent an entire year studying abroad in Germany. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “I would say it has been the best year of my life thus far.”

There are of course preparations that need to be made before leaving, such as getting a student visa, a residence permit and meeting the required grade point average (GPA) for your partner university.

The staff at Laurier International are friendly and willing to help students get started on the initial process.

They are helpful through the entire journey and like to keep in touch even while the student is on exchange, which makes the process easier for those who are nervous.

Each experience studying abroad is different and unique – particularly depending on the country chosen. Budapest, Hungary for instance, is known for its great nightlife and inexpensive room and board.

Scandinavian countries are known for their safe cities. Ireland is known for its fun-loving citizens and healthy Guinness beer.

In the end however, whatever the place one decides to travel in order to study is going to hold a special place in their heart for the rest of their lives.

It is important to realize that one gets what they put into their experience, much like anything in life. Whether you feel stuck in a rut and need a change, or you want to explore a specific country, travelling abroad gives you much more than anything a textbook can give.

Immersing oneself in another culture means there is ample opportunity to develop language skills.

During White’s year abroad he learned to speak German fluently. “Being surrounded by another language, it’s a sink or swim atmosphere,” he said. Not only did he master a new language, “I’m more confident with myself,” he said. “I learned a lot about who I am as a person.”

Not only will one get to experience a different culture and perhaps learn a new language, they will make friends and connections from around the world, all the while, attending a new school and earning credits toward their degree.

Learning outside the classroom is always being encouraged during university – and being a travelling student can help one achieve this goal.

“People around the world are actually very similar,” pondered Mamuji. “At the end of the day, everyone just wants to have fun and meet new people.”

There is a beautiful world out there waiting for you to explore it. Take advantage of your university experience while you’re young.

After all, life is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.