A new trend is emerging in the UAE's higher education sector: More universities are now offering "multi-city, study-abroad options", allowing students to travel as part of their course requirements, experts have said.
Varsities have become more creative in putting together study-abroad programmes for students who are raring to try new things and experience cultures around the world, according to educators who spoke at the fourth edition of KT UniExpo.
"I am not talking about travelling as a hobby, being adventurous, loving to see new people, new countries, new cuisines and new cultures. To be a student exploring this multi-city option is very different and important. That's exactly why many universities...are providing this option of international travel and study tours," said Zawahar Siddique, dean and head of blended learning, Westford University College.
"The whole purpose is not just about fun and adventure", he said. "For some universities, it is part of the curriculum, while for others, it is an option."
"But we need to find out first from our students, if they really want to do that," said Siddique. "[We have to consider] how many universities are offering that and how do you tap that? You don't want to go to a country if the weather is something that you would never adapt to. You don't want to go to a university where academics is the top requirement and not having facilities for your passion like sports or anything else.”
Exhibitors at the KT UniExpo on Friday turned the spotlight on the most popular destinations of international study tours.
“Most of the students who came today have been focused on the UK, the US and Canada. This is a trend which we have been seeing for the last six odd months in the Middle East," said Zuhaib Tufail Khan, vice-president of LeapScholar.
"New countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Czech Republic or Georgia have been picking up for the medicine programmes. So this is something we have been seeing in our school partnerships as well," he added.
For those who want to take up medicine, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland are among the popular choices, apart from US, UK and Canada.
"But it is difficult to get in. So other options in Europe are Hungary Poland, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Spain, Malta, among others," said Dr Muhammad Yousuf Qadri, CEO of Qadri International Education Consultancy.
There is "good demand" for medicine courses, he added. "But because medicine is not easy to get in and is expensive, we specialise on providing the best solution according to one’s grades and budget."
Dr Qadri shared a few pointers for those who wish to explore opportunities to study abroad:
The youth who turned up on the first day of KT UniExpo was able to get a glimpse into university life, thanks to the college students and career counsellors at the site.
Attendees were also able to get some advice on local and international sponsorships and financial aid opportunities.
“Students were asking questions like what are the requirements? What's the process of enrolling to the university? What's the future of Canadian University of Dubai (CUD) or if they could transfer to Canada and what are the advantages?" shared Rizwan, an international business student at CUD.
“My suggestion to these students is that it is very important to take a lot of advice, from parents and from the university. Visit the university, if possible. Speak to the faculty and staff. Senior students can narrate their own experiences," she added.
Ismail Zubair, an Emirati first-year student at Arab Academy of Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport, shared what it was like to study on their campus.
“We have trainings and must be active. You cannot afford to be lazy. There is cardio, swimming and leadership trainings. You have to be prepared for anything," he said.
Another first-year student in the same school, Khorfakkan Mohanaad Mamdouh, added: “We’ve come with our academy just to get a sense of what students are looking for and also to acclimatise new students who want to enrol in the maritime field. I would tell them to be open to anything and be adventurous. Maritime transport needs open-minded and adventurous people. Once you enter the academy, your life changes for the better.”
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