Time to think about a summer exchange

Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Three women, including Chelsea Cooligan, in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Chelsea Cooligan (pictured left) took some time to see the sights in Paris on a summer exchange.
By Chelsea Cooligan

Last summer, thanks to the University of Ottawa’s exchange program, I went to France to study at the Université catholique de Lille as part of its European Summer Program (ESP). For my incredible four weeks abroad, I received six credits, three for a French-as-a-second-language course and three for a European politics elective. I also met students from around the world, travelled across Europe, and made some great friendships.

I have to admit, I was nervous about my first solo adventure abroad. I grew up in Ottawa and I commute to university from home, so this was truly my first time travelling by myself. I had always wanted to go abroad, but there always seemed to be something stopping me, such as my steady part-time job during the school year and my CO-OP work terms. Spending an entire session abroad during the school year just wasn’t an option. So when I heard that I could do an exchange over the summer, I jumped at the opportunity.

My experience in Lille was unforgettable. From the welcoming staff and friendly atmosphere at the university to the incredible culture that I experienced, I enjoyed the truly international experience. My host university organized social activities and day trips to Brussels, Bruges and Ypres, as well as a weekend stay in Paris, making it easy for a newbie traveller such as myself to get used to how things work in Europe.

One man and three women, including Chelsea Cooligan, sitting on a wall overlooking a river in Bruges, Belgium.
Chelsea Cooligan with new friends Ryan Seeras, Julia Ivanitski and Maddie Anderson in Bruges, Belgium.

At the university, known as “la Catho,” the ESP was set up to make students feel among family. All of the Summer Program students stayed in the same area, so it was easy to meet up with friends after class. The staff and program interns were always very accessible if there were any questions or concerns, or if you simply wanted to chat.

Since my stay was only four weeks, and plane fare is one of the biggest expenses when travelling to Europe, I took the opportunity to travel after the summer courses ended. I spent two weeks travelling through France and Italy.

I really believe that gaining an international perspective is so important. It adds a unique element to your degree. I highly recommend it.

The Summer Exchange Program offers the opportunity to study in China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, South Korea and Tunisia. There are courses about different areas, including languages, culture and history, and they also offer research-oriented experiences. Costs for the program include uOttawa tuition fees, your plane ticket, and living and travel costs within the host country, which vary depending on the country your exchange is in.

The bottom line is, in only one month you can have an amazing adventure, make life-long friends, learn another language and travel during the summer.

Information sessions for uOttawa’s Summer Exchange Program begin next week and run until February 25. Learn more about the information sessions.

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