Studying abroad is a life changing experience. While Covid and Brexit may have altered the landscape for student exchange programmes, Louisa Stratton from the University’s Go Abroad team explains how studying abroad is still achievable, the benefits it can bring and the new funding opportunities available.
“You might think that a global pandemic eliminated student opportunities to study elsewhere. But while last year was a year like no other, the University’s Go Abroad team still supported more than 130 students to take up international placements”, says Louisa, who heads up a busy team which provides guidance through every step of the process.
“While Covid had undoubtedly created extra barriers, it is important to remember that these are not insurmountable and, if you’ve ever thought about studying abroad, our message is ‘don’t give up on that dream’.”
Data shows that studying abroad offers many benefits which continue well beyond the excitement of travel, meeting new friends and studying in a new place. According to research by Universities UK, those who take part in international exchange programmes are more likely to achieve top degree grades and earn higher graduate salaries.
While 2021 may not seem the obvious time to be considering an international placement, the University of Aberdeen has applied for funding from the UK Government’s Turing Scheme, which will eventually replace the Erasmus scheme, and is expected to provide new opportunities for students.
“Over the coming year, students can take advantage of both Erasmus and the new Turing Scheme, Louisa explains.
“From September 2021 to August 2022, the Erasmus and Turing Schemes will run concurrently. This means that additional shorter placements, from as little as four weeks, are available, as well as funding for new international destinations.
“Of course, Covid has put up additional hurdles but last year Aberdeen students undertook successful placements all over Europe including to Finland, France, Germany, Ireland and Spain, as well as South Korea and the USA.
“And that’s what we are here for, to help guide students through every part of the process from information sessions to showcase opportunities available, to the application process, providing assistance throughout their time abroad and on their return.”
Like all University departments, the Go Abroad team quickly had to adapt to new ways of working but as well as challenges, Louisa says the pandemic has also provided opportunities.
“Changes in the way we work have actually made us more accessible to students as we now offer more options to get in touch, such as bookable one-to-one appointments with a member of the team, as well as dedicated online chats.
“Some of the bureaucratic aspects of studying abroad, such as all the paperwork that has to be signed, has moved online which has made it faster and easier - in most cases - to get documents signed off.
“The University’s senior management team has supported our approach to continue to allow student-led mobility, taking each individual’s personal circumstances into account, where students still wish to travel.”
This has meant some very busy periods for the team as they have dealt with often last-minute changes to travel rules, but Louisa says this has been well worth it for the excellent feedback they have received from those able to take up their places.
“Some of our exchange partners cancelled all outbound and inbound exchanges, so we had to work closely with our international colleagues to find alternative destinations, sometimes very late in the day in order for students to have an international experience.
“Sometimes it wasn’t possible to find an alternative, and we understand that was disappointing for the students affected. But in many cases, it is possible to defer for a year or look into summer and even post-graduation options.
“While studying abroad during a pandemic isn’t easy, it is still possible, and we got a lot of positive feedback from both our incoming and outgoing students that, despite the challenges, they still found their exchange enjoyable and worthwhile.
“We’d encourage anyone who wants to go grow academically and personally, gain new language skills and improve their future career prospects to look at our range of international opportunities to find the right one for them.”
To find out more about international opportunities sign up to the Go Abroad mailing list or follow the Go Abroad team on Facebook.
In addition to travel abroad, there are also virtual exchange programmes for those who do not wish to travel at this time.
For those who missed the January window for applications, a clearing style application round will run from 2-6 August for remaining exchange places for the second semester.
A new opportunity for a fully-funded research internship in Canada for summer 2022 is also now available. Students must register their interest by 9 August.
Many thanks for this great update