Arguably the most famous city in Spain, Barcelona is famous for its stunning architecture, vibrant street life, museums, and art. The city is also smack-dab in the middle of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and the scenic Serra de Collserola mountain range.
Having just completed her first year at Barcelona College of Chiropractic (BCC), Kloosterman says that she has always seen educational opportunities as a chance to travel and explore different cultures and lifestyles.
BCC is an international school founded in 2009. It is fully accredited with the European Council on Chiropractic Education and boasts a team of world-class teachers that deliver a five-year, full-time curriculum. Only 25 per cent of the school’s student population come from Spain, the remaining 75 per cent come from all over the world, according to Dr. Adrian Wenban, principal of BCC. “We keep classes small so that instructors can provide a greater degree of attention to students.”
Kloosterman believes the education she is receiving from BCC, as well as her exposure to different cultures, will broaden her outlook as a person and ultimately help her in her career.
“There’s a wealth of knowledge that comes from other countries that deserve to be shared,” she says. “Studying at such a diverse institution allows me new perspectives and interactions with many different people and since being a chiropractor involves helping a variety of people, this is great training.”
No mad rush to study abroad
Around the world, a growing number of institutions offer international chiropractic courses. However, Kloosterman is one of the very few Canadian students that are taking the plunge to study abroad.
For instance, a 2014 survey by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) found that a mere 3.1 per cent or approximately 25,000 of full-time undergraduate students in Canada participated in credit or not-for-credit studies abroad.
The low numbers appear a bit odd when you consider that more and more Canadian institutions are developing opportunities for their students to study in other countries. According to the same AUCC survey, the percentage of universities offering international orientation rose from 89 per cent in 2006 to 93 per cent in 2014; and institutions engaging in efforts to internationalize their curriculum went up from 41 per cent in 2006 to 72 per cent in 2014.
While internationalization of institutions also seeks to attract foreign students that bring in revenue, the AUCC says the most prominently discussed motives are to create “globally aware graduates with skills suited for jobs today and tomorrow, and fostering globally connected research and scholarships.”
The AUCC survey also found that the most important benefits of internationalization for students in universities are:
- The development of a global perspective and values (global citizenship)
- The development of international competencies
- Increasing employability
- Access to job opportunities in the international marketplace
Denis studied architecture at the University of Manitoba but later decided to take up medicine instead. It was while she was at the University of Saskatoon for pre-med that she learned about chiropractic. After her first year at Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC), Francine transferred to the Palmer College of Chiropractic in California where she graduated in 1991.
“Initially there was a bit of culture shock [moving to California] but I became acclimated and enjoyed living close to the Pacific coast with access to San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Cruz and many other places in the area,” Denis says.
“Studying abroad always opens your eyes to other cultures and provides the opportunity to meet new people,” Denis says. “I believe this helps young individuals discover who they are and who they want to be. Living away helps define you.”
Her international studies impacted Denis big time - both career-wise and personally.
While studying in California, Denis met her future husband, who was a fellow classmate. He wanted to live in Europe “for a little while,” so they moved to Spain.
“At least that was the plan at that time. Twenty six years later, here I am still living in Spain,” Denis is now one of the professors at BCC.
Building a global awareness
About two years ago CMCC signed an official memorandum of agreement with the University of Southern Denmark Institute of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics. Apart from encouraging collaborations in research and education, other potential outcomes include joint educational courses, and graduate and undergraduate student mobility opportunities like internships and studying abroad.
“Collaborations and partnerships such as this allow us to increase learning and exchange opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students as well as for faculty,” says Dr. David Wickes, president of CMCC.
Wickes says studying abroad results in “a broader perspective, a more informed and knowledgeable graduate, and a graduate with diverse experiences.”
Making the most of your overseas education
Right off the block, make sure that the school you are planning to apply to is reputable and provides the curriculum and training style that suits you best.
Just like any endeavour, studying in a different country can be challenging. Prospective foreign students can minimize the potential of getting way in over the head in trouble by preparing far in advance of enrolling.
“Do your homework,” is Wenban’s advice to those considering to study chiropractic abroad.
“Know your own core values and look for a chiropractic institution that supports those values in what and how they teach.”
For instance, Wenban says the BCC has a graduate competency-based curriculum and has a “very strong public university affiliation with two of the best public universities in Spain: Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Universidad Autonima de Barcelona.”
It’s also of extreme importance that students determine that the certificate offered by the school is accepted in the country they intend to practice. “Avoid starting at a college that is not committed to full accreditation,” Wenban says.
Students also owe it to themselves and the people they will meet during the trip to do a little research on the culture, customs and social etiquette of the country they will be studying in. Putting in the effort to learn the language of the place, even just starting with a few rudimentary phrases, can go a long way to ease your transition.
Be prepared to encounter different procedures and attitudes towards things such as processing documents, says Kloosterman.
“Other things that take time when you are considering travelling or studying abroad (especially in Spain) is waiting for, paying for, or simply trying to understand how to get a Visa, your residency cards, health cards, etcetera.” But Kloorsterman says that once you ask the right questions, (and have a bit of patience) you’ll “get it.”
The pros and cons of studying abroad
Pro: Making new friends. If you’re the type that doesn’t shrink at the thought of meeting new people, studying abroad may be up your alley.
Con: Loneliness. Studying abroad provides the opportunity of making new friends but being so far away from home does take its toll on some students. Homesickness is not uncommon among foreign students, says Dr. Francine Denis, a professor at the Barcelona College of Chiropractic. Some quick fixes? Get busy with extracurricular activities and stay connected via social media with family and friends back home.
Pro: Being exposed to exciting new cultures, trying a different cuisine, learning a new language and finding new perspectives. In turn, you become more adaptive.
Con: Having trouble adjusting to a different culture or way of doing business, struggling with a new language, discovering food that doesn’t agree with your stomach. You can avoid unwanted surprises by doing some research before you leave home. Brush up on the local culture, learn a bit of the language and familiarize yourself with the customs of the country you are visiting.
Pro: Affordable education. In some countries, tuition fees may be cheaper than those back home.
Con: Expenses can add up. Consider planning for your expenses well before your trip. Be careful with your budget. Make sure you leave enough money for emergency expenses and have quick access to back-up funds.
Pro: Gain a global perspective, which could be crucial in your career.
Con: Falling behind in studies. The challenges and pressures of studying in a different country could impact your performance in school. Some strategies to stay on track include taking advantage of study groups and counselling services, and keeping your eye on your goals.
NESTOR ARELLANO is a Toronto-based journalist who writes about health, technology and business. In his spare time he loves to explore bike paths in and around the city.