International exchanges open the world to Dal students
University centre offers more than 70 opportunities
October 30, 2012, 9:39 PM AST
Last updated November 12, 2012, 9:48 PM AST
George Woodhouse’s interest in Sweden goes back to seeing the Swedish chef on The Muppets TV show. Woodhouse says the memory of the children show character has always intrigued him about the Scandinavian country.
Aside from the Swedish chef, most people think of meatballs, Vikings, blondes, Volvo and IKEA – yet Woodhouse, 22, hopes to break some of these stereotypes when he goes to Gothenburg University in Gothenburg, Sweden for a semester in January.
“I’m looking forward to working with a blank canvas and filling it with new culture, new friends and a new way of seeing things.”
The sociology student’s opportunity is made possible through Dalhousie University’s International Centre, which gives students the option of doing a student exchange or study-abroad program. For the exchange program, students pay their regular Dalhousie fees while students wishing to do a study-abroad program pay the host university fees.
The application process for both programs is long and competitive. Prospective students submit a letter of intent and a recommendation letter from a professor. Students must hand in applications by January and they find out the results of their applications in March.
There are more than 70 international exchange opportunities available, from the University of Iceland to tropical destinations such as Jamaica and Barbados. There is even an opportunity to study in a castle: the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex offers students a chance to take in British culture as well as learn about the classics, including Shakespeare.
Last year, the most popular university for outbound Dalhousie students was the University of Glasgow, followed by schools in Australia and New Zealand.
The popularity of Scotland was probably due to the Scottish influence in Nova Scotia, says Gillian MacDonald-Petty, the centre’s study abroad and exchange advisor.
Funding a trip can be a challenge for many students and the centre offers bursaries and contacts to outside financial aid.
Jessica Hutchinson, 21, returned last summer from a full year in Sweden, where she took kinesiology courses at Umeå University in Umeå. Her monthly expenses, in addition to Dalhousie fees, were $800 to $1,100. This included living costs, going out for coffee and movies once or twice a week.
For Hutchinson, her Christmas Eve involved doing something very Swedish: watching Donald Duck on TV. She also tried traditional bread and pickled herring and sang and danced the night away with a Swedish family.
Hutchinson’s felt right at home within the first two months of her exchange. “For the first time in my life, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.”
Hutchinson also acknowledges the support available through the International Centre that includes a
24-hour hotline, email and newsletter updates. All of these resources are aimed at helping students who may get homesick or want to stay connected to the Dalhousie and Halifax community.
Students come back to Halifax with different perspectives and “learn new things they weren’t able to here at Dal,” says MacDonald-Petty. Students who were shy before they went abroad, usually return to Dalhousie University more extroverted and excited to give back to the international community.
For students who are unsure about going abroad to study, MacDonald-Petty is confident about the decision.
“Do it. Don’t contemplate it. Just do it.”