Exchange experiences – Breaking out of the academic routine

Be immersed in a different culture, feel the vibe of an unfamiliar environment, and embrace diversity to gain new perspectives. Learn a new language, develop valuable career skills, and be independent to challenge yourself. Make new friends, have fun and be excited – break out of your academic routine!

Whatever the reasons for spending a semester abroad, the benefits are seemingly endless. The impressions and experiences will be as diverse as the places people go to but connecting them all is the intuition that going abroad offers opportunities that one should not miss.

Mindwise now gives you the platform for sharing your exchange experiences and hearing your peers’ stories. Are you ready to get inspired for your next destination? Two students from the RUG write about their exchange experiences in the first of a series of posts.

 


Julian Mutz on exchange in England


Julian in London

Julian is a third-year undergraduate Psychology student at the University of Groningen who spends his final year at the University College London and Swansea University in the UK. He takes part in the RUG’s Honours College and has recently started a joint degree program in Affective Neuroscience from the Universities of Maastricht and Florence. His main interests cover a broad range of topics from Psychology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience such as suicide, (day)dreaming, brain stimulation, self-regulation, illicit drugs and research on emotions.

Should I spend my final year in Groningen or should I go abroad? Having completed my first year of undergraduate at the RuG and being almost halfway through my second year, this question came to my mind rather frequently as application deadlines were approaching at the beginning of January.

Busy with seemingly endless amounts of literature to read and numerous assignments to hand in, it was only in the middle of January that I decided that I wanted to spend a semester at McGill University in Canada. In the middle of exam period, I went to Germany to do an IELTS test to receive it just in time before the application deadline for the multi-faculty exchange programs.

“When one door closes, another one opens”

When I received an email a few weeks later, saying that the place for the study destination of my choice went to a fellow student of mine, I had somewhat mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was happy for the person who got the place, as I am sure that she deserved it; but on the other hand also a little disappointed that I did not get it myself. But hey! When one door closes, another one opens.

I had heard about the possibility of organizing one’s semester abroad oneself (I encourage everyone who is contemplating to go abroad for a semester to have this option in mind). So I thought that I could as well apply as an affiliate student at University College London. As the university’s Division of Psychology and Language Sciences undertakes world-leading research and teaching in a range of disciplines that I am particularly interested in, I was more than happy when I received my admission letter sometime in May.

As UCL is one of the top 20 universities in the world, where students from 150 different nations come together, I had high expectations with regards to the quality of teaching, being in a (hopefully) stimulating environment and, most-importantly, meeting many interesting people. As I had never been to the UK before, I was of course also very excited about experiencing life in a city as big and lively as London.

Whether these expectations were met will be discussed in my next post. You will also learn more about what it means to be a ‘fresher’, to live in London, to travel long distances between universities, and how all of this compares to studying and living in Groningen.

 


Pia Kreijkes on exchange in Montreal, Canada


Pia at McGill

It took Pia some time to figure out what she wanted to do in life, but after one year of travelling through New Zealand and a second gap year supporting plant reproduction in Germany, she fortunately decided to study psychology in beautiful Groningen. Pia is now a third-year Bachelor student in the English psychology program as well as in the University Honours program, through which she discovered her enthusiasm for research. She is spending the Fall of her third year as an exchange student in Montreal, Canada, taking courses at McGill University and completing a research internship at the CHU Ste-Justine Hospital.

When I began my first year as an undergraduate psychology student at the RUG in 2012, I already knew that I wanted to spend one semester of my third year abroad. That is not to say that I did not enjoy studying in Groningen, the contrary is true, but I had previously experienced how exciting, fun, and interesting living in a country far away from home is, so I decided to do an exchange. For me, it is the perfect opportunity to have a fantastic time while working towards my degree.

I did not know where I wanted to study specifically, only that I prefer an English-speaking country. Funnily enough, I am now studying in Montreal, which is in the francophone part of Canada – but more about that later. My choice was pretty much narrowed down to England, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As I have spent quite some time in the latter two countries already, I informed myself only about the other three.

“And one day, after a long period of nervous waiting, I received an email stating that I was nominated to go to McGill. I could not believe it!”

To choose between different universities was not easy and took me quite some time. I collected information from the course catalogue and international rankings, focusing on research opportunities in particular. Also, I spent hours and hours watching videos on YouTube from students talking about their courses and experiences. I moreover “walked” around each campus using Google maps just to get an impression of the surroundings. Apart from high teaching quality, courses that match my interests, and a good reputation, I hoped to find a university that “feels right”. Eventually, I applied to Queen’s and McGill University, which are both in Canada. I tried to keep my hopes for being accepted to McGill down because of the small number of available places. And one day, after a long period of nervous waiting, I received an email stating that I was nominated to go to McGill. I could not believe it; I was shaking for hours and had to read the email about a hundred times (no kidding). After all, I knew a couple of students who applied there as well and who would have deserved to go too. Fortunately, there are great alternatives; you can read about one of them in Julian’s post.

I had very high expectations about McGill and was thus extremely excited to study there. But of course, there is a lot that needed to be organized first. Things such as filling in forms for the Marco Polo application and the Free Choice Minor may not take that much time but you also have to apply at the host university itself. The most difficult part was figuring out which courses I wanted to register for and then actually doing so. Also, I never had any French lessons; so I decided to book a 4-week crash course to learn the basics. Even though McGill is an Anglophone university, English and French are the two official languages in Montreal.

All my preparations regarding getting to Montreal and finding accommodation were rather last minute. I therefore had a couple of very exciting weeks before I actually left. Equipped with only a large backpack and some hand-luggage, I could not wait to get on the plane that would take me to my new “home” for the next 6 months. I will tell you what awaited me on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in my next post.


 

 

It took Pia some time to figure out what she wanted to do in life, but after one year of travelling through New Zealand and a second gap year supporting plant reproduction in Germany, she fortunately decided to study psychology in beautiful Groningen. Pia is now a third-year Bachelor student in the English psychology program as well as in the University Honours program, through which she discovered her enthusiasm for research. She is spending the Fall of her third year as an exchange student in Montreal, Canada, taking courses at McGill University and completing a research internship at the CHU Ste-Justine Hospital. Pia’s main interests lie in developmental neuropsychology and educational psychology. In particular, she is interested in the influences of early childhood experiences on brain development and children’s motivation to learn and succeed in school. Besides her studies, she enjoys working as a student editor for Mindwise and a reviewer for the Groningen student journal Honours Review.


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