As we prepare for the second-half of the semester, plans for travelling to new cities and exploring new cultures seem to be stories of a summer gone by. Although travelling and school appear to be ever-conflicting, students signing up for the UTM Abroad programme are planning to bring them together.
“UTM Abroad was developed for students who have a passion for travelling but are unable to do so, due to their studies and their inability to commit to a year/semester-long program,” says Veronica Vasquez, the UTM Abroad co-ordinator at the International Education Centre. The program allows students to travel abroad and experience living in a different country and attending a new institution, along with learning about local cultures and practises.
“The program is geared towards students who would like to learn from experience and are interested in applying their knowledge in the field, along with enthusiastic faculty members wanting to internationalize their curriculum,” Vasquez adds. Due to its success in the past three years, the program has grown from its original destination in Guatemala, to include seven new locations.
The program offers trips to Belize for culture and ecology, Peru for learning about traditional health care, Guatemala for fair trade and Thailand for voluntourism. Vasquez explains the program is further split into two categories: UTM Abroad courses and UTM Abroad co-curricular experiences. UTM Abroad courses are UTM courses that have an added international learning experience as part of the curriculum. Students, accompanied by a faculty member, travel to a country that corresponds to the theme of their course. SOC485H5F: Cambodian Society and Politics in Cambodia, ANT335H5F: Anthropology of Gender in Tanzania, and ITA235H5F: Italian History in Italy are examples of courses that include an optional course section to be completed abroad.
“UTM Abroad Co-Curricular courses are non-academic opportunities, where students travel during their study breaks to learn about a particularly globally relevant theme, and are accompanied by a UTM faculty member and partner organizations—Operations Groundwell, for instance,” says Vasquez. The costs of the programs vary depending on the country, the duration of the program, and the experience.
Trip costs are inclusive of the flight, transportation in the host country, activities, accommodation, and meals. They range between $2,500 and $3,800. Vasquez also mentions bursaries that are available for students to help reduce these costs.
“Gaining a learning experience in a different country or place can allow students to gain more exposure and enhance their skills,” says Vasquez. She also reveals that students who took part in this experience have often described how travelling has played an important role in shaping their personal, professional, and academic skills.
Apart from meeting new people and interacting with the environment and people abroad, Vasquez explains that students have also commented on the exposure they gained through learning outside the classroom as an integral part of their experience: “In an increasingly globalized world, developing intercultural awareness, becoming a global citizen, and understanding the interconnectedness of the world we live in are key aspects that students need and travel can help develop.”