The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

School or travel, Why not do both? Here's 5 things you need to know to get your ticket to fly and learn.

“Do I want to go to school or satisfy my wanderlust?” Many students ponder this question as they arrive at university. The good news is, they can do both!

Most students are unaware of the many programs that allow you to travel while getting an education. But before taking flight, here are five things to consider.

1. Get ready to have your world blown

Many people learn about different cultures by reading about them or watching TV, but it is a completely different thing being immersed in one.

As a second-year student, I had the opportunity to travel on a Mount Royal University field school to Guadalajara in 2017. It was there where I saw Mexico as a raw and real place for the first time.

Despite the overwhelming feeling of being destabilized, I felt supported by the host students and MRU staff that came along.

MRU is not the only Calgary school offering your ticket to fly and learn. The University of Calgary offers internships, exchange, research and group study international education programs.

2. Multiple ways to immerse yourself

  • Mount Royal University offers four types of international education experiences.
  • inbound (students who come here)
  • outbound exchange (MRU students who spend a semester abroad)
  • field schools (short stays in the field becoming immersed in culture)
  • international work experiences. (students who take their practicum/internships abroad)

Since mine was a documentary field school for broadcasting and journalism students, I was immersed in Mexican culture and spent the majority of my time running around the streets filming and interviewing Mexican people rather than simply reading about them in books.

Yasmin Dean, a professor of social work at MRU, is co-leading a field school to India during the spring 2018 semester. She highlights the importance of experiential learning in a global community.

“The opportunity to explore this beautiful world of ours is something that is a true gift. Learning in a community, global or local, is the best education there is.”

map image alexMount Royal University offers many international exchange programs with partners around the world. Infographic by: Alexandra Nicholson. 

3. The real costs (and benefits) of taking flight

When I was first approached with the idea of studying abroad I was hesitant because of the price tag. The bad news? My field school cost over $5,000 in tuition and housing fees for six weeks. The good news? I was able to pay in Canadian dollars in three installments, I got two courses under my belt and had I needed to I could have applied for student loans as international education opportunities are eligible.

Even so, an experience like this adds to your debt. Other costs include:
● Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
● Travel health and medical insurance
● Flight costs
● Passport
● Visa
● Travel essentials
● Personal spending money

Despite the costs, Dean, who has led multiple field schools, says things seem to work out.

“I know that it might seem easy for a professor to say, ‘Don't worry, the money will come,’ but in my experience of watching over 120 students find the money, this is a true statement.”

In the beginning, I was hesitant because of the cost, but if I were to go back in time I would talk sense to myself because this was probably the best part of my life.

Guanajuato alex 1During a field school run by Mount Royal University in June of 2017, we travelled to Guanajuato to experience Mexican culture. Photo by Alexandra Nicholson.

4. You’re here, now where are you gonna live?

There are many different types of lodging options for travelling students, including homestays, apartments or flats, hotels and university dormitories. I was in dorm and shared a room with another student, which at times was difficult, because one of us was a night owl and other was not, but this challenge could surface abroad or at home.

Some more interesting housing options happen on field schools where students stay in villages, ashrams and even orphanages.

The MRU India Field School’s partnership with the Sri Ram Ashram, a permanent home for orphaned and abandoned children, means Canadian students are welcomed like family every time.

Dean calls the partnership with the ashram, “the cornerstone or heart of the field school.”

No matter where you live, you will make lasting memories.

5. This ain't your average classroom scene

I feel I learned more about Mexico in six weeks than I did during my schooling. Having the academic support to backup my experience really enforced my love and knowledge for this country and its culture.

For example, when I was in Guanajuato, I saw the exact building, Alhóndiga de Granaditas, where Father Hidalgo's head hung. He was a leader in Mexico’s war of independence. I felt as though I was stepping inside a part of history where war and stories began.

Dean says observations like these are huge in changing students’ perspectives.

“It also offers an opportunity to shift world views and once that happens, commitment to peace also happens.”

 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Editor: Mackenzie Jaquish | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.