Busting myths about studying abroad

February 6, 2018 | Campus Life

Getting an international education is more accessible than you thought


Student exchanges, field schools, international summer programs, internships and conferences … the world could be your classroom. Every year, students from across the university take part in education abroad opportunities – exploring new places, experiencing different cultures and expanding their horizons in countless ways – while collecting credit toward their MacEwan degree or diploma.

Maybe you’ve dreamed about doing the same thing but are worried you can’t afford it, feel nervous about language barriers, or just don’t know where to start.

Good news: Meghan McKinnie and Nina Delling of MacEwan’s Education Abroad team say the opportunities are highly accessible, and there are plenty of supports in place to get you where you want to go—even if you don’t know where that is yet.

Here, the duo bust the biggest myths about taking your talents elsewhere for a term.

Myth #1: You can’t afford it

“The biggest perceived barrier is cost,” says Meghan. “But the cost of living in Edmonton is actually quite high. So if you’re living on your own, your cost of living will likely be lower when you’re abroad.”

Yep, that’s right. You might actually save money by studying abroad for a semester.

“The only country we send students to with a similar cost of living to Edmonton is Switzerland,” adds Nina. “Every other country we work with is, on average, cheaper to live in.”

MacEwan’s agreements with their international partner universities ensure tuition is the same as a semester at home, so no additional tuition costs are incurred. Tuition is paid directly to MacEwan, and if you use student loans, the application process won’t change. It’s like you’re not even leaving!

Scholarships, awards and bursaries are also often available to further reduce costs. Talk to an Education Abroad advisor for more information.

Myth #2: You have to know a second language

If the only language you speak is English, your travel options aren’t limited to England, Australia or the United States.

“Even if you don’t speak the language of the country you want to go to, it doesn’t mean you can’t go,” explains Nina. “Most of the programs don’t have a language requirement because the courses are taught in English, and our colleagues there speak English, so you’ll be fine.”

Myth #3: It doesn’t fit into your program

“We have either a full-semester exchange or a summer program that can work for any student across campus who is in a diploma or degree program,” says Meghan. “You can go to Korea for three weeks and learn Korean, you can intern at the Smithsonian Institute—there’s something for almost everybody.”

Studying abroad doesn’t have to add any extra time to your program. According to Meghan, it all comes down to leaving yourself enough time to plan. “Students often think this is an extra semester, but it’s not necessarily the case,” she says. “If you carefully plan, a semester abroad can directly count toward your degree. It’s still a MacEwan semester. And if you do a summer program it doesn’t affect your timelines at all.”

“If you start planning a semester abroad later in your studies, it might mean having to add a few more courses at MacEwan,” Meghan adds. But, she says, it’s still not the end of the world. “Believe me, students who do that don’t regret it. Even if it is extra time, it’s time well spent.”

Myth #4: It’s too complicated to plan

Yes, studying abroad requires a little more preparation than packing a bag and hopping on a plane. But the process is probably more seamless than you think, and you’ll have lots of help along the way.

“Attending an info session is the first step,” says Nina. “That’s where you learn the basics. If you’re still interested after that, you can come to us for an advising session where we help you find a program that fits your studies, your timing and your circumstances, and benefits you most academically, professionally and personally. Then you can apply to that program.”

But don’t just take our word for it. “Students also have the opportunity to learn from other students,” adds Meghan. “There’s a drop-in program called Ask About Abroad where you can chat with a student who has already participated in a program, because a student can give you much different description of the experience than we do.”

Your support doesn’t end once you’re accepted into an international program. The team at Education Abroad is still available to answer your questions. “We do extensive pre-departure training,” says Nina. “We can assist if there are any problems abroad, and we also offer re-entry programs to help you settle in once you come back.”

Of course there are matters you will have to deal with—booking flights, getting your visa in order—but Nina points out that those are all good things. “It’s all part of the learning experience—if you have to do a Japanese visa, you can do a lot of things once you’ve mastered that process,” she says.

Myth #5: It’s frivolous

Just because travel is fun, it doesn’t mean it’s a frivolous way to learn. Excitement and adventure are surprisingly practical.

According to Nina, even if the academic outcomes are similar, there are advantages to studying abroad. “You learn skills like speaking another language, or learning how industries operate differently overseas,” she says. “You gain a better understanding of global issues. You learn compassion, negotiation skills, communication skills.”

Nina adds that in addition to those technical skills, travellers emerge with valuable personal outcomes. “When students come back, they have a better understanding of themselves,” she says. “Their identity, who they are, how they fit in, what they want from life is much more defined. They are more confident, more independent, better able to make decisions, and able to put themselves in other people’s shoes.”

In addition to the life-changing, perspective-altering, character-building benefits, Nina points out some much smaller benefits that make the experience extra sweet: “Ice cream flavours are different around the world.”

Details on information and advising sessions can be found on the Education Abroad webpage.

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter 

Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter