All Posts Tagged With: "travel"
Gap years now happen before and after university
University of Guelph undergrad Casey Panning, now 24, was sitting in a Southeast Asian geography class when it occurred to her that she might never see Asia. With vague plans to teach geography, and inspired by a friend who’d spent a semester in Singapore, Panning knew it was now or never.
The gap year—taking a year off school to work, travel or volunteer—has been a pre-university rite of passage in Europe, where it began in Britain in the ’60s and spread to other Commonwealth countries—including Canada. A Statistics Canada survey of about 8,500 high school graduates from 2000 to 2008 found that just 50 per cent had started college or university within the usual three months; 73 per cent had begun in a year’s time; and by 28 months after graduation, 81 per cent of students were attending a post-secondary school.
Even resort towns may be unsafe
The State of Texas has released a warning for “Spring Breakers” telling them to avoid traveling to Mexico as a result of nationwide violence.
The report is significant, because it references resort towns like Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. “Rape and sexual assault continue to be serious problems in resort areas,” as does petty crime, wrote Department of Safety Director Steven C. McCraw in a statement.
“The Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels,” McCraw noted. “However, drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas.”
The release says that 13,000 narcotics-related homicides were reported the first nine months of 2011 and the number of U.S. citizens murdered in Mexico rose from 35 in 2007 to 120 in 2011.
Tuition is a deal. School spirit is an experience.
For Manitoban students, international study doesn’t require a transoceanic flight.
Manitoba has a 20-year-old reciprocity agreement with the State of Minnesota and at least 21 Canadians are currently studying at campuses of the highly-regarded University of Minnesota.
Why some students stick around school
Exams are wrapping up, and university campuses across Canada are emptying out for the winter break. But as The Canadian Press reminds us, not everyone goes home for the holiday season: family drama, lack of downtime, distance and and high airline costs (though, at least in the future they’ll be less deceptive high airline costs) are just some of the reasons students stay at school.
But it isn’t all bad: many students travel, spend time with friends, explore new traditions and bake. And, as the article notes, some universities host events for stranded students yearning for a home-cooked meal:
For the past 12 years, Concordia University in Montreal has hosted a dinner soiree. The school invites all of its 4,700 foreign students, and the first 300 to respond are treated to a three-course meal.
If you go to Queen’s University, the International Centre is hosting a holiday networking tea on Dec. 20.
Are you staying at school for the holidays? Share your on-campus plans.
The basics of studying abroad
From the Maclean’s University Rankings, on sale now. Story by Jane Bao.
Study abroad programs let students immerse themselves somewhere else, maybe halfway around the world, while earning credit at their home university. And depending on the field, a stint overseas could give grads a career boost. It’s not uncommon for engineers to work abroad, says Jean Choquette, an executive director at Université de Montréal’s engineering school, École Polytechnique. “Openness to foreign cultures, languages and methodology are part of the basic competencies that employers are looking for,” says Choquette.
Tuition is paid to the Canadian university—a good way around some hefty international fees—but students must count on travel and living costs. And the door swings both ways, allowing international students to study in Canada and meet their Canadian peers.
‘You are the Weird Mom,’ whispered my daughter. ‘There’s one on every tour and you are it.’
The first stop on the university road trip that my 17-year-old daughter Hayley and I took in August probably shouldn’t have been my alma mater, the University of Virginia. Her uni tour wasn’t about me. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
I’m an American who has spent the last 16 years living in Toronto, raising two Canadian children. I’ve grappled with the politics (you don’t vote directly for the prime minister?), the history (you won the War of 1812?) and the baffling modesty (hey, the pursuit of happiness is my inalienable right). So I’ve long imagined that when Hayley applied to universities, some would be in the States. She spent her first year in Los Angeles, and I thought she should experience what it’s like to live in her birth country rather than next to it. But because even I have figured out that Canadian universities deliver an equal education at a much lower cost, I posited that the only schools worth heading south for were the Dream Team, the super-high-end institutions that offer the moon—and, not incidentally, generous financial aid.
Hayley doesn’t have a particular school or subject focus yet; her objective is a wide-ranging liberal arts education. So we took the loose approach: we’d pack a credit card and a stack of CDs, chart a course—the University of Virginia, Georgetown, Yale, Brown, McGill, Queens—stay in roadside motels, and see what happened. What happened was this: Hayley displayed the usual anxieties about Getting Into University and Starting Her Future. And I decided that the best way to help her through it was to go barking mad.
It began three minutes after we pulled into Charlottesville, home of UVa. Okay, so I may have been driving a tad erratically, making screeching U-turns whenever something caught my eye. And it’s possible that my running commentary—“Oh my God, they knocked down my dorm!”—was more fascinating to me than to her. (I graduated in 1984. Things changed. Duh.) But I thought she might perk up as we walked the leafy, colonnaded campus built by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 with bricks from his works at Monticello. (I’d been a tour guide there, so I was full of fun facts.) I showed her my favorite deli, where I was—perhaps inordinately—pleased to see that “my” wild turkey sandwich was still No. 1 on the chalkboard menu. I was expecting her to be charmed by the things that had charmed me (“Isn’t it cool that Jefferson made the library the quad’s focal point, when at other schools it’s a church?”). But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite hide the “Yes, but can we go now?” in her voice.
It should have been a reminder that my daughter isn’t mine anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time. Eventually, Hayley articulated what she was feeling: she wanted to like my school, for my sake. But another part of her wanted to dislike it, because she wanted to make a different choice, live a life different from mine. You’d think I’d have been able to figure that out.
Our next stops were better. Georgetown, in Washington, was chockablock with political internships and study abroad programs—all of which Hayley realized she wanted, the minute she saw it. The school also guarantees residence for all four years, some in chic row houses that—okay, sue me—I would die to live in myself. Brown students design their own curriculums from a mind-blowing spectrum of subjects. And at Yale—ohhh, mommy really wanted to go to Yale. No class has more than 30 students, there’s a Gutenberg Bible in the library, and a master who lives in each freshman dorm arranges intimate teas for the students with guests like Bill Gates and Denzel Washington. At one point during the Yale speech I smacked my hands audibly against my face in wonder. “You are the Weird Mom,” Hayley whispered, pretending to edge away. (I’m sure she was only pretending.) “There’s one on every tour and you are it.”
Still, we could be a good team. She’d dole out my road food, and we’d alternate CDs, playing each other songs that meant something to us. (Father and Son by Cat Stevens: Hayley was bemused to find out that I, too, had once related to the lyric, “From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen.”) We figured out that it’s wise to attend both the formal information sessions and student-led tours, and that they fill up early. We developed an attack strategy: snag a nearby hotel room the night before, scope out the campus in the morning, and hit the road by lunch.
Unfortunately, we also learned that every other family on our uni route not only knew all that already, but they’d been planning for it for months, if not years. We kept seeing the same faces—the humble father from Guatemala and his dazzling son who spoke fluent Mandarin—who came equipped with hotel reservations and restaurant lists. They’d mastered the lingo. (Did you know that a student entering Grade 12 is called a “rising senior”? I didn’t.) They’d memorized the school stats and entry requirements, and rattled them off like Gatling guns: the Ivy Leagues like to see a 2,200 (out of 2,400) on the SAT, and high 700s (out of 800) on the SAT 2’s (individual subject tests). Alternately, you could skip the SAT and take the ACT, but then you’d need to brush up on science, not vocab. Apply for early decision to indicate your commitment, but only to schools that resubmit your application if the early decision is no.
I was overwhelmed. (Not to mention irked: would it kill Canadian high schools to give Grade 11 students information about applying in the States, so they could have the option?) Back in 1980, my “approach” to school selection was akin to picking names out a hat. There were no such things as SAT 2’s, I’d never heard of the ACT, and no one took me on a uni tour. Many of these parents, by contrast, were towing kids who were entering Grade 11. And some were entering Grade 10. Yikes. I’d forgotten what a big business university is down south. These kids (and their parents) wanted a capital-f Future, and they were charging in to get it like Rommel into Egypt.
Hayley is a dedicated student, she has what the U.S. admissions folks call “competitive” grades, and she’s always displayed a keen self-knowledge about which schools were right for her. I could see that two universities in particular had lit her up. But she’s also hard on herself, and when confronted with a mob that is storming toward something, her inclination is to pull back. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she announced that she liked the U.S. schools. Loved a couple, in fact. But she wasn’t sure she would apply.
I hit the roof. Literally: I smacked the roof of my car. I wedged myself into my fallback position—guilt-inducement, learned at my own mother’s knee—and stayed there, loudly. At one point I heard myself hollering, “You are making this decision out of spite! You will regret it for the rest of your life!” and I saw how ridiculous I was. But I couldn’t stop.
In the miles of silence that followed, I had to own up to it: perhaps some of that, um, passion was my own regret talking (all right, yelling). I didn’t make the most of my university years. I cared too much about landing a job, and not enough about enriching my mind. I would love to have that time back, to do it more fully and without fear.
But mostly it was about my daughter, and my profound hopes for her. At schools on both sides of the border, my eyes kept filling with tears, not because I’m hormonally challenged, but because the belief that one should dream as grandly as possible moved me. At 48, I know something Hayley doesn’t: most people end up living smaller lives than they’d imagined. I want her to live the biggest life she can.
In early October we were on the road again, driving to Buffalo for Hayley’s second stab at the SAT. We laughed (sort of) at my August histrionics. Hayley told me she’d made her decision: she was applying to Canadian and U.S. schools—not because I wanted her to, but because she wanted to. She’d be thrilled to be accepted into any of them, and she hopes I’ll be thrilled for her. (I will.) She wants to attend a university that “scares me, but in a good way.” And what impressed her most about her uni tour was the number of people who cared deeply about where they went to school—how much they yearned for it, how hard they worked for it. “I saw how many people really value their education,” she said. “I want to value mine that way.”
I could be letting myself off easy, but maybe every university tour is fraught. Maybe it’s meant to be. By the time our children are on it, they’re not children anymore. They’re adults, making the first major decision of their adult lives, and we parents have to stand down and let them. It’s Hayley’s road now. I’m just glad to be along for the ride.
At least I have skype
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about saying goodbye. I get a lot of practice, so I’m pretty good at it.
I’m good at giving long hugs, hosting goodbye dinners, and promising to call and email. I’m good at packing, at putting clothes and books into storage, and I’m even good at shedding a few discreet tears during takeoff.
Like many students, I have to be. I say a big round of goodbyes in both April and August, and while the first days in a different city are often jarring, my daily routines fall quickly into place. Soon, those people whose physical presence was so warm and constant just days before are reduced to a voice on a telephone or a face on a fuzzy video screen.
In 2010, I’ll say more goodbyes than usual. Because I’ll spend the winter semester in Denmark, I’ll divide the year between three different cities, all of them thousands of kilometres apart.
But I don’t mind too much – after all, “goodbye” isn’t what it used to be. It can still mean goodbye forever, or at least until that high school reunion, but more often it means goodbye until the next time we Skype, or email, or text. Because I’m Facebook friends with at least half of my grade five class, all of whom I can contact or creep at my leisure, goodbye doesn’t have to mean goodbye at all (even when I wish it did.)
And for me, like many people I know, I expect these constant, half versions of goodbye will be a regular part of my life for years to come.
I’ve met people who are planning to stay in Ottawa after they graduate – after all, they have a boyfriend and a nice place and a cat – but not very many.
Many instead see themselves in permanent transit, hopping from city to city – or from country to country – in pursuit of travel and adventure, or just grad school and a job.
Some international groups cancel trips to the province, universities not concerned
According to The Calgary Herald, this year’s H1N1 virus is causing some international students to cancel their plans to study at Alberta post-secondary schools this summer.
Alberta Advanced Education says there has been a decline in student enrolment in international summer programming, but says the drop isn’t significant enough to warrant government. Early indications are that fall programs will not be affected, according to an spokesperson for the department
At Mount Royal College, approximately 60 students from Mexico and China recently cancelled plans to attend the campus in June and July due to the H1N1 virus.
“For this year, it’s just one of those unfortunate world events over which we have no control,” says Lorna Smith, director of the school’s international education program.
“The universities have to be very cautious and risk-averse because they’re responsible for the lives of students to the parents,” she says. “I think that’s why they tend to be more cautious when they’re sponsoring an exchange program.”
As of last Monday there were 171 confirmed cases of swine flu in the province, and one person in northern Alberta has died.
According to the Herald, other universities are seeing international students cancel summer plans. At the University of Lethbridge, a group of 25 students from a high school in Japan won’t be heading to the city this July.
Although the University Calgary did cancel a sociology field trip to Mexico, the school says it hasn’t seen any discernible drop in summer international student enrolment