If you are in 1B, it has now been nine months since you first came to Engineering at Waterloo, which, for many, is the first adult experience of prolonged independence. Since this is such an important change in life, some people find it difficult while some find it exciting. As time passes, everyone settles into life in a co-op system, where challenging academics in one of the world’s foremost Engineering Faculties alternates with interesting job opportunities in the workplace. This is just a taste of what can take place in the future.
This short article suggests one way to make your relatively new independence even stronger. You can extend it by traveling and experiencing a distinctly different cultural and educational environment in Europe, Asia, or Australia. This extension, which will create in you a person who comprehends the way our world works much more fully than someone who never leaves North America, Canada or even Ontario, is available as a privilege that we extend to anyone after their 2B term (provided they meet certain simple criteria). Furthermore, it happens without delaying graduation and without disrupting your normal progress through the co-op system.
INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE is the key. It is a great, fun and life-changing experience. You can read a great deal about it at www.eng.uwaterloo.ca/~exchange. You can come to my office or visit Cindy Howe inside the undergraduate office (CPH 1320). There you can find out about the nearly 70 universities and engineering schools in the world that are open for Waterloo Engineering students – top class engineering schools where you can do 3A, 3B, or both, or perhaps 4A, and still maintain your position as a Waterloo Engineer.
Over 100 students go on exchange every year. In all my years as the Director of the program, I have not met a single returned exchange student who has told me that he or she regretted it. Students come to me when it’s too late to apply, saying “I wish I had known about it earlier.” Spaces at some of our partners are limited, and we assign them to qualified candidates largely on a first-come, first-served basis. So those who read this article have a head start.
If you’re in 1B now, there’s time to plan for exchange; if you’re in 2B, time is getting very short, but there are still places open. We have exchange partner schools in Australia, Austria, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and Wales. Classes are in English in the majority of places, but in some, such as China, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, classes are in the local language, and you will need to learn it. But what an advantage you will have if you become multilingual – and you have time to learn. On exchange, you pay normal UW fees, except in four universities in Austria and Germany where you pay their tuition costs, saving about $5,500 a term (not a bad return for learning German). There is other financial assistance available.
This article is a wake-up call for a great opportunity. Exchange is a fabulous experience. Don’t overlook it.