Georgian students experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in semester abroad program
October 03, 2012

As well as gaining valuable industry experience and earning important credits toward their studies, Georgian College Hospitality and Tourism students in the study abroad program can look forward to living in a 200-year-old castle, shopping on Oxford Street in London, exploring the wineries of the Alsace and bicycling by the Rhine. Sara Grainger wants to know if it’s too early start packing!

Even though the Oct. 10 departure date is still a few weeks away, Sara and 14 other Georgian College students are counting down the days until their flight to Paris, which will then take them to Strasbourg for their 10-week study abroad semester. Sara says that the trip is going to be an amazing adventure.

“This will be two months of learning and discovery,” says Sara. “This trip is not just about learning our hospitality and culinary material, it’s about discovering a new culture, meeting new people and experiencing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

Georgian began offering the semester abroad program four years ago in partnership with Cepa International, a company that creates customized study tours. The program was designed to introduce students to the hospitality environment outside North America. Georgian is among the first Ontario college to offer a full semester of studying abroad.

Philip Leach, chef, faculty member and soon-to-be chaperone of the student group, plans and organizes the trip as well as accompanies the students. He says the benefits of the study abroad program are many:

“We have the same learning outcomes that our students have here at Georgian, but there is the added bonus of learning about another culture, cuisine and hospitality. Ultimately the students grow their skills and knowledge of being able to work and live in a foreign environment.”

In addition to increasing their language skills and learning new approaches to problem-solving, students studying overseas also gain a new perspective, and a better understanding of the world, both culturally and academically. When they’re not busy working at internship positions at various restaurants and hotels, they might be taking a guided tour of a patisserie, learning about foie gras production or enjoying a wine-making and tasting demo.

The students have plenty of down time to be able to take in the sights in nearby cities and towns. Some interesting side trips students have taken include to a soccer game in Munich, horseback riding in the French countryside and a jaunt to Lanzarote, Spain for some fun in the sun.

Shelby Van Klooster, a Georgian graduate who participated in the semester abroad program in 2011, says it was the best experience of her life.

“I didn’t know a lot of people who were going, but by the end of the semester, all of us were really good friends and made memories to last a lifetime. The semester abroad is set up to help you in every way,” she says. “All of your teachers want you to succeed. It changed me for the better because it helped me get a stronger sense of the world.”