Have you ever wanted to travel somewhere but could never find the time because of school? Are you working towards an honours degree? Are you interested in doing something new and different while working towards earning credits for your degree? If you answered yes to these questions, then the Humanities Study Abroad Program may be for you.
I spoke with Kristy Smith, a third year Honours Theatre & Film and Cultural Studies major who is currently studying abroad in England at the University of Leeds, to discuss more about the program and her own experiences.
How did you find out about the study abroad program?
I already knew a few Mac students who had studied abroad previously, so after talking to them about their experiences I attended the Study Abroad fair and signed up for an information session to get an idea of how the program worked.
What attracted you to the idea of studying abroad?
I actually studied abroad in high school for three months in France where I lived with a host family, and went to school with my exchange partner, Elodie. It was such an amazing experience that I wanted to do something similar in university. You definitely experience culture differently when you live there, and it’s something you can’t get from only staying for a week on vacation.
How did you choose where to study?
I knew I wanted to study in the UK, and after researching a variety of universities and cities in England and Scotland, I felt like Leeds was the best city for me. Another priority for me was to be able to study in an English-speaking country. I absolutely loved my exchange to France in high school, but my French isn’t at university level, and I don’t speak any other languages. I considered going back to France but I thought it would be great to experience living in a different country.
What did you find different about England from Canada?
Well in terms of the school system, I have much more time off! My studies are more independent learning based, so I only spend about 6 hours a week in class! I have more reading to do though, so it does even it out. I like that I have so little class time for the semester while I’m here so I can travel on long weekends more easily.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve seen or done in England?
The students union organizes events called “Global Saturdays” where you meet on campus in the morning and they take you to another city in England. I’ve gone to Liverpool and Stratford-Upon-Avon on these trips. I also got to spend a weekend in Bath and Stonehenge with a company called “Don’t Be a Tourist”.
Although England is an English-speaking country, their English is not the same as ours. Did you find there to be a bit of a language barrier and how did you deal with it?
I haven’t felt like there’s much of a language barrier since most of the English is the same. The only difference I’ve found is picking up on slang and it’s pretty easy to catch on.
What were your biggest obstacles when faced with travelling abroad?
I think the biggest obstacle is just getting over the initial panic that sets in once you say goodbye to your family at the airport. I had never flown entirely by myself before, and I’m the kind of person who gets lost everywhere they go. I do get homesick every once in a while, but I’ve been keeping in touch with my friends and family over Skype. It definitely makes me feel like I’m right at home for an hour or so!
How would you describe your overall experience with the stud abroad program? ?
I think it’s been phenomenal. Studying abroad is such an amazing experience, and MacAbroad makes it easy to figure out all of your different applications. I love the fact that I can just pay my normal tuition to McMaster without having to pay international students fees at Leeds.
Would you recommend studying abroad?
I would definitely recommend studying abroad to other students. It’s a great way to experience the world, and now is the perfect time to do it! We’re young, and I think once you cultivate the desire to travel, it will stay with you for the rest of your life. This is such an amazing opportunity and I really hope more students at Mac will take advantage of it.
Anything final you would like to add about the study abroad program and/or your own experience with the program?
I can’t advocate enough for studying abroad. I definitely think more students should look into it! The coordinators in the International Students Services office are very helpful, and I just want to encourage other students to get informed about what opportunities are available to them.
If you’re interested in more information about studying abroad in the humanities, then check out the website: http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/exchange/index.html