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Study Abroad and Exchanges in Canadian Universities

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Study Abroad and Exchanges in Universities in Canada

For many students, studying abroad is the ideal way to enhance their education while at the same time seeing the world, learning a new language, and experiencing other cultures.

Study abroad

A study abroad program is designed for students who wish to study at a foreign school that their home school doesn’t have a formal exchange agreement with. There are several major differences. Tuition fees are paid directly to the foreign school rather than to the home school, which allows the student to study at almost any school they wish to. Also, credits attained at the foreign school may not necessarily be transferable back to the home school, or perhaps only a portion of them. The advantage to this program is that the student gets a wider choice of schools to attend and is not restricted to the limited number of spots available to exchange students.

Exchange programs

This is what most people think of when they hear of study abroad. Many schools have reciprocal agreements with foreign schools (or other schools in Canada), in which a certain number of students are exchanged between the schools. This number changes every year, which affects the number of available spots for students.

In this type of study abroad the student continues being registered at their home school for the duration, pays Canadian student tuition fees, and remains eligible for scholarships, bursaries, and Canadian Student Loans. In fact exchange programs are not as expensive as many people think, since you are not paying the “international student supplement fee”. What the student usually does have to pay, however, are the foreign school’s student fees (gym memberships, student union fees, etc.), airfare, accommodations, food, etc. However, most schools that offer an exchange program will also offer specific scholarships for exchange students.

For both study abroad and exchange programs, duration is dependent on the program and the school. Typically exchanges run from 1 semester to 1 academic year, although there are several schools that offer short-term programs (2 weeks to 1 month).

Credits and course-load

While on exchange, you are expected to take on a full-course load at the foreign school. Each school has their own interpretation of what this translates back to home credits, but generally 1 semester of full-time studies abroad will equal 1 semester of full-time studies at home, so in theory an exchange program will not add to the time it takes to complete a degree.

Credits attained at the foreign school are transferable back to the home school, although the grades attached to them (if provided) are not used for the calculation of GPA’s, scholarship eligibility requirements, and the like.

Eligibility requirements

In order to qualify for an exchange program, students must achieve a specific academic average (typically at least a B average, although this varies amongst schools, and indeed amongst faculties). You must also have completed at least 1 year of your degree before undertaking the exchange, in order to achieve the necessary grounding in the subject. With regards to languages, usually you must be able to demonstrate at least a rudimentary understanding of the foreign language before you can go on exchange, either by a language exam or taking the necessary courses at your home school prior to leaving. You also cannot study abroad during the last year of your degree due to certain graduation deadlines that conflict with the fact you are abroad.

Some school exchange programs are restricted to certain programs. For example, North Island College and University of Lethbridge exchanges are restricted to Business students, and University of King’s College exchanges are restricted to Journalism students.

When applying for an exchange program there may be an application or administration fee. This fee can range from $25 (UNBC) to $500 (MHC) depending on the school. However most schools have a free application policy.

Financial aid while on exchange

As an exchange student, you continue to pay fees to your home school as a Canadian student (and avoid international student fees) and maintain your status as a student of that home school. Airfare and housing are the 2 main other costs, in addition to smaller costs like personal entertainment and food. Depending on what arrangement your home school has with the exchange school, housing may already be arranged via homestay (staying off-campus with a host family) or residence housing. Airfare will depend entirely on the destination. The most expensive destinations are Africa and the Asia-Pacific area. The cheapest destinations tend to be within Canada and the USA.

As an exchange student, you maintain your regular student status and thus have the right to apply for and retain scholarships. However, in addition to the usual scholarships, some schools provide financial assistance specifically for exchange students, either academic scholarships or needs-based bursaries. These awards can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars per exchange.

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