More and more students and recent graduates are interested in working internationally, but how do you get started? Take University of British Columbia alum Amy Dickens, a master’s student looking to hatch her career in urban design.
Amy says the connections she made and the accreditations she completed on a study abroad exchange in Glasgow are the perfect stepping stone for an international career, wherever that career may take her.
Amy spent a year abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland as an undergrad student, and returned again to pursue her masters in City Planning and Real Estate Development.
Amy says her previous experience in Glasgow contributed to her decision to return, as did the university’s degree offerings. “After doing my exchange year at the University of Glasgow, I was aware of the quality of teaching at the institution, as well as being familiar with all the city of Glasgow had to offer—it was a no-brainer to go back!”
“I think that employers value people who have taken the risk and gone to live somewhere other than their own country.”
—Amy Dickens, Graduate, University of British Columbia
Amy also felt confident entering her program, which is certified by two professional bodies (the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). Both of these bodies are recognized internationally, meaning Amy has the option to take her skills virtually anywhere after graduation.
Educational and cultural differences
Amy says that she has benefitted from the focused nature of education in Scotland. “In Canada, I had to take all kinds of courses as requirements for my degree that actually had nothing to do with my subject”, she explains. “In Glasgow, I got to study exactly what I wanted and what was directly relevant to my chosen subject”.
She also discovered that she most enjoys independent (but supported) learning. “Studying in Glasgow was much more conducive to my own style of learning”, she says. “For example, when choosing the subject of my dissertation, the topic was entirely up to me, as was the responsibility of doing all the right research and keeping on top of meetings with my supervisor”.
Furthermore, the University of Glasgow offered small class sizes, meaning Amy was able to get to know her professors and teaching staff better.
Other aspects of Scottish culture were more challenging to adapt to—Amy says the lack of recycling provisions in her neighbourhood was confusing—but the positives far outweigh the negative.
Hatching an international career
Amy encourages students to take advantage of their school’s study abroad program if they aspire to work abroad in the future. She firmly belies that studying abroad can have a great effect on your career.
“I think that employers value people who have taken the risk and gone to live somewhere other than their own country”, she explains. “It shows an open-mindedness, and also creates an employee with a deep understanding of their own culture as well as the cultures of others”.
Another great perk of living in Scotland, says Amy, is the easy access to the rest of Europe. “During my year abroad”, she says, “I was able to visit places within the UK and also in the rest of Europe not only easily, but also cheaply. It’s great for someone with itchy feet, but on a student budget!”
Take a chance, go abroad
What’s Amy’s biggest piece of advice for students considering studying abroad? Just go for it!
“The words of advice I was given when I was trying to decide whether or not to do it were, ‘it’s better to give it a go and fail then to never try and wonder what it would have been like’”, she says, “and I stand by that.”
If you begin to feel a bit of culture shock, Amy says it’s best to put yourself out there by chatting with people in your class, joining clubs and societies and trying to be as active as possible.
To combat homesickness and make the most of your situation, Amy says it’s best to completely embrace your study abroad experience for what it is. “If you spend too much time comparing it to home,” she says, “you’ll miss the experience entirely!”
And, last but certainly not least, if you are visiting the UK, do not forget to bring a good raincoat and a pair of wellies.