UBC Go Global
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One of the most powerful life choices you can make during your education at UBC is to Go Global.

Over 22,000 students have made that choice and each one has a different story to tell about how the experience changed them. Whether you do an exchange program for a term, launch into a Global Seminar for a single intense month or conduct Graduate Research Abroad, the world becomes tangible in ways you never imagined. International learning experiences give students a perspective on life, education and their future that would not have been available otherwise.

But Going Global at UBC can't be described in a sound bite. Instead, we asked our students to share their stories. Here we feature perspectives from before, during and after a Go Global adventure from three UBC students in different programs, academic years and stages in their lives.

Gesture, Sound and Strings in Mons, Belgium

Imagine it:

You are 20 years old. You are about to perform on the Chan stage. You are leaving the country in 24 hours on your first international trip without your family. But the most immediate thing on your mind is your next move on Dungeons and Dragons because you are so organized you have already arranged to borrow a harp in Belgium. You got this.

Meet Samantha Ballard, a third-year Performance Major in the School of Music in the Faculty of Arts at UBC. Samantha is about to go on a Go Global Group Study program in Mons, Belgium. Go Global Group Seminars – Group Study Programs provide opportunities to students to experience learning outside of the classroom with a UBC faculty member and typically a small group of their peers in international contexts. In Samantha’s case, it was through UBC IMPARTS (Interactive Music and Performing Arts for Research Training) that she was able to pursue the 3-credit course. The funding model (Arts Research Award) covered a large part of her expenses and her faculty and advisors at the School of Music made the process relatively stress-free while she balanced other third year courses.

An alumna of UBC’s Blog Squad, Samantha blogs about her life at UBC. She writes before her trip: “Basically, I’ve decided that whatever happens, I am going to keep a good attitude and have a good time. Not everything will go perfectly, but if I can keep a smile on my face, I'm going to have a blast.”

We're pretty sure you will Samantha.

Listen to Samantha's Story
Samantha Ballard

Post Trip

The trip to Belgium allowed Samantha and her classmates to intensively focus and work on a cohesive performance piece that they then performed at the end of the group study. Not only did Samantha find a beautiful harp to play, she found Belgian waffles to eat, learned about interactive music and performance at numediart at the University of Mons and, according to @Samantha, realized “cobblestones hurt your feet”.

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In the Field:
Moira Warburton Savours Life in France

When living in Paris is your childhood dream it can be hard to settle for anything else. But Moira Warburton's second choice for her learning exchange was Grenoble, France and she couldn't be happier. Moira went into her Go Global experience with an open and curious mind and ended up discovering not just the beautiful city of Grenoble but an entirely new world that she is currently exploring, learning and savouring with a lot of passion and a little newly-acquired French savoir-faire.

Read Moira's exchange story below, sent in from Grenoble where she is attending l'Institut d’Études Politiques in Grenoble, France as a 3rd year Arts & Political Science major.

Moira Warburton
Moira Warburton

What I'm saying is, it doesn't matter where you go. It doesn't matter if you get your first choice or your third choice; it doesn't matter if you go for first term or second term or both; what matters is that you go at all.”

Moira Warburton

Hi. My name is Moira and I'm a political science major, completing my third year at l'Institut d'Études Politiques in Grenoble, France. I remember the moment I decided I wanted to go on exchange: I was sitting in my high school auditorium listening to the universities make their presentations and the lady talking on stage mentioned all the schools around the world at which UBC students can do part of their degree. There were two hundred other kids crammed in beside me and my legs were scratching from the stiff red velour of those awful seats but I wasn't there anymore. A back alleyway winding through Paris, a skyscraper soaring above Singapore, a mosque in the heat of Istanbul, a misty field in the damp Irish countryside… And I thought, that. That right there. That's what I want to do.

I don't know why I chose this little city tucked away in a corner of the Alps. I really don’t. I saw mountains and put IEP Grenoble as my second choice on my Go Global application because there hasn't been a day of my life where mountains have not encircled me and some things you just don’t want to have to learn to live without. And then I got here, and I fell in love.

Think of France. Anything you've ever heard about France, think of it now, and it's true. Old men really do gather together like driftwood beached upon the shore, in sun-soaked street cafes behind a cloud of grizzled grey moustaches and thick, guttural French. The women here, they really do walk like they're made of diamonds, all of them, they are so effortlessly, ineffably stylish all the time. You really can stroll down the cobbled streets here with a baguette under your arm, a bottle of wine and a chunk of cheese in your bag and you'll still have change from five euros. The myths you've heard about this country, they're true.

What I've learned most from going on exchange – what has been my biggest surprise, impacted my hopes and dreams and all the rest of it – is that if you're happy within yourself, if you are confident enough to open yourself up, you are unstoppable. The world is your oyster. You have so much more to give the world when you're not constantly doubting yourself, and when you give to the world the world gives back to you. I'm sorry. It’s horrendously cliché. But my whole exchange has been one long cliché, all year long: it’s been the best year of my life.

I've lived for a year in another country. I've got myself a bank account, an apartment, a phone plan, a mode of transportation, a group of close friends, a group of acquaintances, and I don’t even speak the language. I've fed myself and clothed myself and taken myself to the doctor when I was sick. I've leaned on other people. I've been there for others when they've needed to lean on me. I've nursed hangovers, I've ran for trams, I've risen before the sun and I've watched the great glowing globe sink past countless horizons at the end of the day. I have lived.

So wherever else I go in life, whatever else I go on to do, I know I'll be able to face it. I stepped on the bus in this city exactly six months ago and I didn't know a single soul. I had one goal for exchange: prove to myself that I could do this, build a life somewhere completely new, live with no safety net and no strings attached. The only disappointments I've had were when I haven't booked that ticket or gone up and talked to that person, taken that picture, stayed for that last pint. It’s the hardest thing in the world to be able to tell what you’ll regret, in ten years. What I've learned this year more than anything is that the only way to avoid this is by doing everything.

University can teach you a lot. You can learn in your university lecture halls about how there’s seven billion people in the world, and you can sit there as your eyes glaze over and try to picture seven billion of anything. And you can't: it's too much. It's too big. And then you leave. You get on a plane and you go somewhere else and you get really good at going up to people and saying, “Hi, I'm Moira. What's your name?” And inch by inch, piece by piece, day by day, that seven billion gets a little more manageable.

Read more on Moira's UBC blog.

Going Global at UBC

Quinn Gentles, one of UBC's Go Global Ambassadors, went to Scotland on exchange during the third year of his BSc Science degree (Honours) and returned to UBC to become a pre-departure facilitator for Go Global orientation sessions. Now an alumnus, he may be one of the biggest fans of experiential education ever to graduate from UBC.

Gentles came from small town Fort. St John, BC and found that in addition to the career benefits of having international experience on his resume, it offered him an opportunity to explore medical science in an international context. For instance, he was able to do an anatomy course at the University of Glasgow that he wouldn't have had access to at UBC. One of the unique highlights of the course was having the chance to study a cadaver up close. Beyond the classroom, however, the exchange experience also opened up his perspectives on the world. “It was life changing and I hope that any student that has the interest can and will take advantage of Go Global opportunities,” says Quinn, who adds that his exchange year at the University of Glasgow was “the best year of my life.”

Quinn Stiles
Quinn Stiles

It was life changing and I hope that any student that has the interest can and will take advantage of Go Global opportunities.”

Quinn Gentles
Quinn, like many others that have gone abroad, talks animatedly about the transformational nature of the experience. In an effort to further explore what makes the Go Global experience life changing, we gathered together students who have gone on an international learning exchange to share their memories and offer a glimpse into how learning in an international setting enhanced their education and their lives at UBC. The students chatted over lunch and we caught their unscripted conversation as they shared what makes Go Global so special.