Challenge of studying abroad completely worth it, student says
By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer
English literature student Jacob Halpenny (Artsci’14) has no hesitation in saying that living and studying abroad is difficult. But, he says, it’s that difficulty – those challenges of being completely immersed in another culture – that makes it so worthwhile.
“When you uproot yourself, you open yourself up to growth,” says Mr. Halpenny, who spent 10 months studying and living in Germany last year. “There is so much learning that comes with the experience of living in another culture. I think I have a greater perspective now, of myself and the world.”
Mr. Halpenny’s exchange to Universität Mannheim was made possible through an exchange partnership between Queen’s and Ontario Universities International (OUI), which links Canadian universities with institutions in Germany, France, China and India. The program, a partnership between Ontario universities and the provincial government, gives students the chance to study abroad for up to one year. Each participating student, either undergraduate or graduate, is offered a stipend of $2,000.
Alan Harrison, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), says that providing international experiences like the OUI exchanges is a priority for the university.
"Queen’s wants its students to develop the skills to operate successfully in global societies, and providing opportunities to go abroad helps develop new international and intercultural perspectives,” says Dr. Harrison. “Experiences like an international exchange can be transformational for students and open up doors to new opportunities.”
Laura Esford, Exchange Coordinator in the International Office, says the OUI program gives students an ease of access to international exchange opportunities, particularly to countries that are not as easy to navigate, such as India and China.
“As a coordinator and former provincial administrator of the Germany program (Ontario/Baden-Württenberg), I will always advocate passionately for these opportunities,” says Ms. Esford. “They give Queen’s students valuable international study and research opportunities, along with the resources and financial support they need to make it possible and satisfying.”
Mr. Halpenny says once he adapted to the social culture in Germany and worked with his homesickness, he was able to sink into his experience. He developed an appreciation for how different cultures look at education, and a broader international perspective has allowed him to see “the truly global nature of our existence.”
His experience has also already led to some exciting opportunities. This year, he is one of several Young Ambassadors for the German Academic Exchange Service, based in New York. He spent an all-inclusive week in NYC in August training for the position, which has him helping the exchange service to market programs, scholarships and internships available in Germany.
“I would recommend to any student to go abroad – to go and do what you’re afraid of,” says Mr. Halpenny. “You’ll come back with a whole new outlook.”