Laurier International sending more students abroad

Wilfrid Laurier University, as well as the rest of Canada, is hoping to send more students to study abroad in the next couple of years.


Graphic by Shannon Millar
Graphic by Shannon Millar

Wilfrid Laurier University, as well as the rest of Canada, is hoping to send more students to study abroad in the next couple of years.

“I think to have the international experience and the intercultural competence is no longer a nice add-on,” said Ben Yang, director for global engagement at Laurier International.

According to Yang, Laurier International is trying to get students to study abroad for the opportunity to learn about different cultures, rather than just because of programs, career development or job competitiveness. Lang explained that if students have the experience of a different culture, they could do a lot more in their future career.

Yang also explained that when he worked at the University of Toronto, less than six per cent of students studied abroad.

As a result of instances like these, Canada has a target of sending 15 per cent of post-secondary students abroad. Yang believes this is a low, but realistic amount compared to individuals who actually go abroad.

“For a Canadian reality, I think that is a reasonable and ambitious at the same time, target to achieve,” he said.

He explained why many students may not want to travel abroad.

“There are some circumstances, most students get summer jobs or a credited transfer but it is not very easy, no matter how you do it there’s still a bit of a cost or a big part of it is that our students don’t speak very many languages.”

Currently, there are over 1,000 international students at Laurier with 200 to 250 coming in each year. The most popular programs for inbound students at Laurier are business and programs within the faculty of arts.

As for outbound, 181 Laurier students went abroad in 2014. The most popular term for exchange was the fall 2014 term with 94 students studying abroad. According to Yang, the most popular destinations for students to travel to are France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and recently China and around Asia.

Laurier International also provides students with field trips, summer programs, international co-ops and internships and other programs students can go on without going on a full exchange.

“Whether it’s social work, global studies, faculty of education — they’re, at department level, all very active in terms of creating and establishing international opportunities for students. Even our career services and co-op also try to get more international opportunities for work as well,” Yang explained.

Colin Penstone, a Laurier ambassador and a fourth-year communication studies student, studied abroad for five months in Sweden last term.

“I think everyone needs an international experience in some context. It broadens your horizons like nothing else,” he said.

While abroad, Penstone studied communications with another group of international students. He and one other student were the only individuals from Laurier.

He believes studying abroad can give students an international perspective on everything.

“[The experience is] incredible. Everybody asks [how it was] and it is so hard to put into words … the time of my life is the best thing that I could say.”

Yang hopes when international students and Canadian students who study abroad graduate from Laurier, they will feel comfortable going out into the real world knowing how people living in different cultures talk and communicate. Yang also hopes more students will decide to study in countries they are less familiar with.

“The bottom line is that if you study business, you can be bilingual with French, but let’s say you speak English, French and Chinese, a whole door just opened up to you, so that’s a new opportunity,” Yang explained. “But for the emerging countries, whether they speak Portuguese or Russian, there will be much more opportunities.”




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