“Travelling is one of the best ways to learn about a country and experience different cultures,” says Concordia University student Malala Rakotondranaivo.
She would know, having just recently returned from a four-month trip abroad, where she studied at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, completing courses towards her degree in finance.
“I have always wanted to travel, to experience new environments, cultures and enhance my language skills,” Malala explains.
Her experience traveling abroad offered all that – and more, as she discovered.
With a lifelong love of travel encouraging her to see the world, Malala decided to study abroad in a location she’d always dreamed of visiting.
“Australia has always been one of my dream countries – its beaches, its beautiful scenery, its culture and the numerous parks that the country has,” she explains.
Arranging a study period abroad couldn’t have been easier, as Malala found that Concordia had a number of partner universities in Australia.
“I chose UNSW after doing some research and finding out that it has one of Australia’s best finance schools,” she explains.
She travelled to the University of New South Wales in Sydney in July 2013.
Once overseas, Malala found adjusting to her new surroundings quite easy.
“Sydney is a very cosmopolitan city, so I didn’t experience much culture-shock,” she says. “Australia has many similarities to Canada in terms of culture and the people I met were very open-minded and sport-oriented as well.”
She soon found many opportunities to satisfy her desire for new sights.
“All of the trips I did in Australia and New Zealand are unforgettable!” she says. “Ocean rafting from Airlie Beach to Hill Inlet and travelling along the Great Ocean Road are among the best trips I did in Australia. The scenery was breathtaking.”
These travel adventures also introduced Malala to some new experiences. “I learned a lot about different cultures and languages and tasted cuisines from all over the world,” she explains.
“Whether it’s in terms of academics or your social life, I think both kinds of learning are important.”
In addition to some unforgettable travel experiences, Malala says her studies abroad added significant value to her education.
“I learned a lot during my exchange program,” she explains. “In terms of academics, I enhanced my language skills and my knowledge in terms of financial analysis.”
In addition to useful classes on subjects like Business Analysis and Valuation, studying abroad also let her explore an area of personal interest.
“While my background is in finance and I am studying financial analysis, I am also enrolled in the MBA program, as I would like to learn more about entrepreneurship and international trade,” she explains.
“My experience in Australia enabled me to enlarge my finance and business network and helped me come up with diverse business ideas and potential opportunities in terms of entrepreneurship.”
If you’re planning on travelling, Malala says that homesickness is one major challenge to watch out for.
“Homesickness is unavoidable, especially in the beginning of the semester when you haven’t met new friends yet or during exam periods when you try to deal with tight schedules and pressure,” she says.
Her expert advice?
“Try to keep yourself busy, spend time with friends and discover new places,” Malala says. “These steps helped me a lot.”
The big picture
Malala landed in Canada in November 2013 after four months abroad.
She managed to accomplish a lot in a short stay – and she’s adamant that learning abroad has a lot to offer just about anyone.
“Travelling helps students develop open-mindedness and learn how to undertake projects in a multicultural environment, which I think is very important given today’s social and economic trends,” she says.
Her own travel experience has taught her that her career plans will need to accommodate future opportunities to learn abroad.
“My international exchange developed my passion for travel,” she says. “This confirmed my decision to prioritize travel in the future, and to find a balance between my future professional career and opportunities to visit new places and learn more.”