Jacklyn Chen and Gabrielle Muzzi chose different countries, participated in very different programs and travelled abroad at different times, but when asked to describe their international learning experiences, they both had the same answer: “life changing.”
“I wanted to live abroad by myself because I wanted to be independent, spread my wings and learn to do things on my own,” said Chen, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies who spent five months on exchange at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
“I learned so much about European culture, learned new skills and had experiences that have really shaped who I am now.”
Chen says she found that there were many opportunities to build connections, including invitations to attend events specifically for international students and exchange students.
“It was really easy to meet people. The best part for me was how many people I met and the friends I made. It’s been months since then and I still talk to them every day. Having those connections across the world is so valuable,” she said.
For Muzzi, having an opportunity to go abroad during her degree was one of the reasons she selected Western when choosing a university. She was part of the Aging Globally Program offered by the Faculty of Health Sciences in her third year.
Aging Globally is an international course that introduces students to health-care systems in three Scandinavian countries: Norway, Sweden and Denmark. After completing their coursework in the winter term, participants travel to Scandinavia for a 10-day study trip.
She initially saw the program advertised at a promotional fair she attended in high school and then “jumped at the chance” to apply when she was able to.
“I’ve always wanted to travel the world and I’d never had the opportunity growing up,” said Muzzi, who also incorporated a six-week internship in Stockholm, Sweden, before returning to Canada.
“When I saw that course, I felt like if I could see what they are talking about in person, my learning would be so enriched, versus just staying at home and learning through lecture slides. Seeing things in practice was a full-circle moment of my learning.”
Now working as a teaching assistant for the Aging Globally program, Muzzi says she hopes to inspire others to do things that challenge them.
“I don’t think I would be the person I am today without the experience of going abroad. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone and it changed the way I liked to learn.”
Now back at Western, both Chen and Muzzi are committed to spreading awareness about the value of going abroad. Chen signed up to be a volunteer for Western’s International Learning Ambassadors program to help promote programs and answer questions for students considering international learning opportunities.
On Nov. 21, Chen and Muzzi will join six other student panelists to speak about their international learning experiences as part of Western’s annual International Week, a celebration of diversity, global learning and international activities.
Other events related to international learning taking place include the Go Abroad Virtual Fair from Nov. 20 to 24, featuring information about partner universities and international learning opportunities, as well as an information session related to scholarships and funding and a drop-in event hosted by Western International staff and volunteers.
International Week 2023 will include more than 60 events and activities for students, faculty and staff including:
- Western Goes Global Cultural Showcase and Kick-off Event
- Global Café: Special Edition with President Shepard
- Power and Global Health Day
- Virtual Go Abroad Fair & In-person Sessions
- Passport Contest