Thinking about studying abroad? It might be easier than you think

Australian beach

Have you been thinking about what it would be like to study abroad? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to travel in Europe, South America, Asia or Scandinavia but you’ve never been able to figure out how to make it happen. Or maybe you’ve been wondering if it’s really worth it. In addition to the costs of studying abroad, it can be daunting to try to find housing in another country, or to leave behind the familiar supports of family and friends and be alone in a strange new place. So why should you do it?

According to a study done by the Canadian Bureau for International Education in cooperation with Universities Canada, “almost 90 percent of education-abroad alumni agree that [their experience of studying abroad] contributed to their career achievements, and more than 80 percent of Canadian hiring managers feel that cross-cultural understanding and knowledge of a global marketplace are assets to the competitiveness of their companies.” Additionally, “alumni of the European Union’s Erasmus student-mobility program … have an unemployment rate 23 percent lower than their peers, five years after graduation,” (University Affairs, 2016). That’s an astounding figure.

Many of you have heard of our Florence Off-Campus Studies Program, but did you know OCAD U also has 60 partnership agreements with institutions around the world? You can choose from five different universities in Jiangsu province in China, for example, or study at the National Institute of Design in India, just to highlight a few of the many options. Under these agreements, you pay your OCAD U tuition (not the tuition of the partner campus.) Most students maintain their eligibility for OSAP and OCAD U has bursaries to help with some of the additional costs.

Complete eligibility details are outlined on our website, but OCAD U’s mobility/exchange program is open to full-time students in third year or the first semester of fourth year, and because application deadlines range from 6 to 8 months in advance, it’s never too early to start planning to apply. Information sessions — open to all students — are being planned for the fall term (with exact dates TBA).

To encourage you to consider an international education, we thought it would be helpful to share the experiences of some of our students who had recently taken the leap to study abroad.

Kristi Giambattista

Kristi Giambattista in Australia


Kristi Giambattista studied for a semester at the Queensland College of Art, part of Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia during her third-year as a photography student. The College offers programs in Animation, Art Theory, Digital Design, Film and Screen Media, Game Design, Graphic Design, Indigenous Art, Industrial Design, Interdisciplinary Painting, Interdisciplinary Print Media, Interdisciplinary Sculpture, Interior Environments, Jewellery and Small Objects, Photography, Product Design and Visual Communication Design. The semester abroad also allowed her to spend some time travelling the region.

Q: Why did you want to study abroad? How did you decide where to go?

KG: I chose to study abroad because I’ve always wanted to travel the world. I had been to Europe and studied in France when I was 15 for a summer, but studying on the other side of the world in Australia was a big dream of mine, ever since I went there for vacation 5 years ago. The weather, the beach, the community, and the art were large factors in my decision.

Q: What was the application process like? How did you prepare for the move?

KG: The application process was not difficult, keeping my grades above 70 percent was the first consideration. Then getting teachers to write letters of recommendation (which is easy when you create great relationships over the semester). And lastly, getting fellow artists and creators to look over your portfolio is crucial; remember, you only want them to consider what you are applying to study for. For example, sending work you did from wood shop or bronze-casting class isn’t going to help if you’re applying for photography or printmaking.

I don’t believe there is any way to prepare to move across the world. I suggest staying calm and figuring out where to live prior to going is a great idea, because there are always lots of places if you look far enough in advance.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about your experience?

KG: In my opinion, the most challenging things were leaving the country to go to Australia — and leaving Australia to come back to Canada. As people, we build communities everywhere we go, which are life-changing, keeping in touch is key. Also, being open-minded about everything. There is FaceTime and all sorts of ways to keep in contact and if that’s your biggest struggle. Skype is great for that.

Q: What was your favourite thing about studying abroad?

KG: The school and the people. The school had a lot of resources and equipment that was easy to book out. The teachers were inviting and super helpful. I don’t think I could have pushed myself as much as I did without the teacher and technicians’ support.

Q: How do you think studying abroad changed you or your creative process?

KG: My creative process was enhanced with one specific photo historical process class at Griffith University. I learned old techniques and processes using different natural and chemical products. Older processes using film and digital negatives are very interesting because you never seem to get the same image twice.

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