Studying abroad was the best decision I made, and is an opportunity I would recommend each student to consider
Realizing the Disconnect
Reflecting upon my academic studies at the University of Manitoba, I am reminded of my initial objective: complete a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree, a degree that as I understood it, provided the foundational skills and business acumen to enter the competitive workforce. As I began taking courses and immersing myself in the commerce program, I knew early on I wanted a unique experience. I understood my strengths and weaknesses, subjects of interest and areas of an organization where I would likely fit best and yet something about my experience felt incomplete.
Academic courses taught us fundamental theories and their application, but the learning occurred within a vacuum. With an ever-changing business environment and the increased interconnectedness of the global economy, the added layers of complexity had created a disconnect in my learning. The disconnect was evident in the lack of personal development to become agile and adaptable in a changing business environment.
Personal Development & the Big Picture
Academically I was challenged but personally, I was experiencing nominal development. Therefore, I thought about the big picture. Around this time I was first introduced to the international exchange program offered through the I.H. Asper School of Business. It was a program that could bridge the educational gap I was experiencing.
I enjoy travelling and have always been drawn to the thought of living abroad. However, it did not seem feasible – an aspiration without a foundation. Upon learning about the international exchange program, I immediately focused on incorporating the program into my studies. While also a co-operative education student, I was able to complete two exchanges: Leeds University Business School in Leeds, United Kingdom and WHO – Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallender, Germany. Both Universities provided experiences that were challenging and stimulating, and aside from numerous personal accomplishments, I was able to expand on my business and economic studies.
The international exchange program allowed me to demonstrate three core objectives: a willingness to take risks by moving abroad, an expanded learning horizon by being placed in a challenging academic environment, as well as stretching my personal comfort zone. International learning propelled my understanding and acceptance of differing cultural perspectives and built an awareness of alternative approaches to learning, which is in addition to the personal development and heightened social poise that extends into the workplace. Finally, the experiences I had while studying abroad allowed for me to break out of my comfort zone and learn deeper about who I am as an individual. I have gained independence through living and travelling alone which I believe to be highly valuable in early adulthood and will forever cherish the friends and memories I made in the process.
Final Thoughts on Studying Abroad
As I reflect upon the outcome of my undergraduate studies, it is far more encompassing than my initial objective. The decision to move abroad to gain experience in an international setting was fundamental in my undergraduate experience. It was the best decision I made, and is an opportunity I would recommend each student to consider. Having the chance to live abroad opens your eyes to new languages, cultures and ways of living that impacts the way you view the world. It truly is a life changing experience and I believe the benefits of the program will follow throughout ones career and life.
Four years on and after three years of working in the banking industry I find myself in a similar position. Currently, as a post-graduate student at Imperial College London in the UK, I am re-exploring what it means to be an international student, while exposing oneself to the challenges both of a new academic environment and life abroad. This time, however, it is different – London is now home and the place where my girlfriend and I – who is also Canadian, plan to build our future. Little did I know when I applied for my first academic exchange 5 years ago that I would find myself in the situation that I am today.