UCL Study Abroad Fair
21 November 2008
UCL's annual Study Abroad Fair, organised by the UCL International Office, took place in the South Cloisters on 18 November, and showcased UCL's numerous exchange programmes with universities in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the US, as well as many European countries.
The Fair gave students the chance to meet the UCL Study Abroad team, find out about their options, and to talk to both returning and current exchange students. More than one in five UCL students currently spend part of their undergraduate degree programme on an overseas placement, but UCL would like to see this number increase by 3% every year. As Dr David Stevens, Head of the International Office, explains: "We would like for every undergraduate to at least have the opportunity to study abroad." Though this is not yet possible in some departments, the Office strongly hopes that all departments will provide such opportunities in the not-too-distant future.
UCL recognises that spending a period abroad as part of a degree programme is an intrinsically valuable experience and that, in providing such opportunities, there are benefits for both students and the institution. As the flyers describe it:
"Studying abroad offers exposure to a different cultural and academic environment. Spending a prolonged period in another country can be challenging and rewarding - it can improve self-confidence and give you the chance to hone a variety of skills which are highly regarded by employers (and as such it is a good way to improve your CV)."
All this also falls within the 'global citizenship and leadership' agenda at UCL, which articulates the college's desire to produce graduates who are more than academically excellent - that is, who are culturally aware, willing to embrace leadership, ambitious yet ethical and professionally mobile. "In short," says Dr Stevens, "they should have distinctive qualities which will come to be associated with a UCL education. Providing opportunities for our students to study abroad will be a key element in the development of this unique 'UCLness'."
The students' view:
Elizabeth Smith, who attended the Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, Argentina on an exchange, says: "Buenos Aires is a fascinating city with a diverse and vibrant cultural heritage. I made a great effort to explore the city, immerse myself in its culture, interact and socialise with local citizens which in this sense was both rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable."
Lenka Hewardova, who attended Uppsala University, Sweden, echoes Elizabeth's enthusiasm: "Being able to live in a foreign country, especially with the comfort of being an Erasmus student, was a rewarding experience. Seeing how people live, what they laugh at, what they eat or watch on TV has been an indispensable part of my learning a foreign language and it has contributed to my understanding of the country's culture and mentality. It has equipped me with sufficient knowledge and confidence to face the demands of the final year at UCL."
An employer's view:
Keith Dugdale, Recruitment Director at KPMG, believes that international businesses increasingly seek graduates who can be flexible and work in a wide variety of countries and cultures. As he explains, although KPMG happily recruits graduates from the UK, "to remain competitive we want to see more UK graduates developing a global perspective through international experience. They will have to work with global clients and mix with a range of people from different cultures. They have to be at home with cultural differences."
If you are currently a UCL student and would like to find out more about studying abroad, please click here.