#IEW2017: A Study Abroad Experience
Friday, November 17, 2017

The third week of November is International Education Week 2017. To mark the occasion, the WFCP will be sharing reports, opportunities, and highlights of the benefits of international co-operation and studying abroad during the week of November 13-17.

Today we look at the experience of students who study abroad and how host institutions can support students in their stay. Duoc UC in Chile hosts a great number of exchange students every year. Duoc’s professors and student services offer support to these students as they transition to a new country.

Student exchanges: The other side of the experience
When expectations differ from reality, the different areas  Duoc UC accompany foreign students in the process so that they achieve the best possible experience during their stay in Chile.

Generally, when talking about student exchanges, in addition to educational learning, cultural achievement is also a highlight; but what happens when things do not turn out as expected? How do the different areas of Duoc UC support this special process for the exchange student? This year, a Brazilian student from the Universidad de Santa Catarina del Sur (UNISUL), experienced the exchange from an unknown aspect for her, but thanks to the support of the School of Design and the Program of Integration and Support of Exchange Students of the Department of International Relations, María Julia Ignacio opted to stay in Chile for a second semester of exchange.

Everything started well and without problems: “It was a fast but calm process; there weren’t any problems with the visa. As I am an organized person, I began to contact the exchange coordinator six months before. They always clarified my doubts, and the support I received before and during the exchange was excellent and fundamental to come and stay”, said María Julia.

However, when arriving in the country, things would not be so easy. It wasn’t her first exchange and that’s why she believed that the cultural and educational shock would be minor. “I think the main differences are in the sense of humor and in the way of living, in addition to the food, of course. I am sure that one of the influential factors is the climate, the cold and the lack of sun, which makes the society very different from the Brazilian one”.

To overcome these problems and adapt to culture, the team at the international office in Duoc UC has organized a program at the with buddy partners who accompany exchange students in the task of getting to know Chileans.

On the other hand, there may be educational differences between the level with which students arrive in the country and what is required from them at the courses they take. In this case, Alejandra Gardiazábal, teacher of the Costume Design Program, explained that Duoc UC has a technical line that not only teaches students to sew, but also to make molds, transform and scale them. María Julia at the School she attends isn’t taught that way, but in another approach to a more visual design.

“In my Design and Fashion Collections class I explained that at this level they can already send the pieces to be sewn, so at the beginning María Julia

was a bit scared because it was going to be a very difficult project for her, but we worked it out really well. I made special corrections for her and she also had great support from the other students at the course. The first part of the workshop is done in groups so I asked the students to help her and she ended up doing a very good project and passed the subject without problems”, said Gardiazábal.

Alejandra also said that is beyond a school policy that all teachers know that when an exchange student arrives, it is important to get closer to them: “for us teachers it is a great challenge, and it is very useful for our students to see how other students want to come to study at Duoc UC because we have a lot to offer, it’s a situation in which we all win”.

Thanks to all this, María Julia continued working and in July she even participated in one of the specialization courses organized by Duoc UC’s international office held in New York at the FIT. “The course met all my expectations; breathing and living fashion every day made me see how much it is worth studying and doing what one loves. One of my biggest learnings, without a doubt, was to learn that we are always learning”.


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