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UCL and Santander celebrate five years of international opportunities

Since 2018, the Santander Universities Mobility Bursary has enabled 80 UCL students to fulfil their ambitions of experiencing a part of their higher education in another country and culture.

A map of central London with University College London under a magnifying glass.

13 February 2023

As London’s Global University, UCL is proud to forge connections with prestigious partners which enrich the lives of our students and enhance our research, teaching, and learning.

One of the central tenets of this international activity is the Study Abroad programme: a UCL initiative which provides short-term global opportunities, summer school and research placements, and volunteering openings at institutions worldwide.

These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are made possible by philanthropic partners such as Santander – which, over the last five years, has expanded its initial support for placements in South America to encompass host universities across Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

In the process, the Santander Universities Mobility Bursary has provided transformational experiences to a wide range of UCL students; today, it places a strong emphasis on widening participation in the programme amongst students from under-represented backgrounds.

“My time in Barcelona was nothing short of fantastic, and I am grateful to have been afforded the experience of going there for two weeks,” said Faith, who undertook a short-term placement at LinguaSchools in Spain.

“These skills learnt have been invaluable to me as a person: navigating a new city on my own, meeting people from across the world has developed my professional and personal network,” she added. “It has improved my Spanish greatly and allows an easier way into learning more about Latin American Histories and African Histories, which is very important to me.”

Internationalisation from home

Of course, the last few years have seen our ability to travel disrupted. Yet even with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the invaluable impact of Santander’s support was maintained.

“When I realised that the impact of COVID in combination with my health meant that I was unable to do a year abroad, I was devastated,” said BASc Arts and Sciences graduate Cleopatra. “My degree involved learning a foreign language. So, when I discovered the Santander Bursary, I was keen to apply so I could get real world practice of communicating in French.”

A virtual placement at the Institut Linguistique Adenet (ILA) in Montpellier followed, and Cleopatra thrived in her online learning environment.

“I have gained a lot of confidence in my ability to communicate in French and my speed of processing the French language has improved massively,” she said. “I would utterly encourage everyone who is considering doing a short-term global or virtual opportunity to go for it!”

And for those lucky enough to have been able to travel – before, during and after the restrictions imposed by pandemic – the experience does not begin and end in the classroom.

A cultural experience

“I have truly enjoyed the summer,” said Sandra, who undertook a placement at the Hygiene Institute at Medical University of Vienna. “I have appreciated the coffee and cake available on a daily basis to all staff and the classical innenhof gardens in the university facilities.”

Her view was echoed by Elio at the University of Iceland, who amidst a busy academic schedule was able to enjoy exploring the region outside the capital.

“My personal highlights were the seminars and the trips out of Reyjavik,” he said. “We went on several outings to Reykholt, Hraunfossar, Þingvellir, and Suðurnesja. We also visited the National Museum and the Nordic House.”

For the last half decade, the Santander Universities Mobility Bursary has allowed UCL students to overcome financial barriers and take on international opportunities that might otherwise have been out of reach. Whilst length and location can vary, our recipients often find that the experience has a profound effect on their skillset and outlook.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Faith, upon returning from Barcelona. “Thank you, Santander, and UCL for making my summer what it was.”

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