With an increasing number of students embarking on a year of study abroad, Sisi Rabenstein looks at the implications of such a decision.
Since its conception in 1987 as part of the EU’s ‘Lifelong Learning Initiative’, the Erasmus program has allowed 1.6 million students the opportunity to study abroad, in any one of 31 countries involved. A corresponding international programme also developed catering for students who want to travel further afield; to the US, China and Australia among others. This academic year sees more international students fill our halls than ever before and more UCD students taking advantage of the programmes of study offered abroad.
The international programme offers 300 exchange places across the university for Erasmus students and 200 for non-EU exchange students for the year beginning September 2008.
International Study Coordinator, Ruth Redahan credits the rise in interest among students to UCD’s recent signing of the ‘Universitas 21’, a treaty between 21 of the world’s leading research-based universities.
Different treaties with various universities around the world mean that depending on their course of study, students Rabensteincan go on exchange to a wide and diverse range of European and International countries, including Cyprus, Czech Republic, Iceland, China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore.
The Erasmus programme has an international counterpart called Erasmus Mundus (standardised in 2004), which allows students from countries outside of the EU, to study within it, and conversely students from European countries to study on another continent. Most programmes of this type are called EuMAS and contribute towards a joint or double Master Degree.
Redahan comments that there are numerous and varied reasons for students to take advantage of international study opportunities.
“If they are a language student, it is really important for them to improve their language skills and even if they’re not, they get all sorts of opportunities,” says Redahan, adding, “from a personal point of view students develop and mature. They experience new cultures in a new environment.”
She also says that the divergence from a regular degree that studying abroad “makes students stand out for employers when its on your CV.”
However as enticing as the programme may seem, it is important to note that such drastic changes to lifestyle and environment can have an adverse affect on both study and social life.
While most students come back from a year out with great stories, an impressive CV and perhaps a good tan, there are a number who fail to meet the requirements of the foreign university course.
Redahan details these requirements as “if a student goes to a university where the course is offered through English… they are required to take a full course load, like the 60 credit courses they would take in UCD.”
This can be challenging in places like America, where Redahan says “they tend to have a real study and work ethic” due to high tuition fees. Countries where students take classes in a foreign language have different requirements, with the course work being less onerous but students must overcome language barriers.
Should a student have difficulties, Redahan is confident of the inter-university support network, explaining that she is in “constant contact with the university departments about incoming and outgoing students and if there is something… we do hear back in that way.”
So while the prospect of picking up and starting new in both a different university and another country may be daunting Redahan states that most students say “that it was the best year of their lives.” However thats not to say it should be taken lightly, after all it is an academic qualification, the results of which will stay with you and your CV, forever.