Lucia Saez Valle – Psychology – Level 3
Eastern Connecticut State University, USA
During my third year as a psychology student at Queen Margaret University, I had the opportunity of participating in the exchange program offered. I had a particular interest in the United States, as its culture and educational system differs in a variety of ways from the one I had experienced thus far, and therefore I believed it to be an important learning experience for the future outside and in the academia setting. Eastern Connecticut State University was the institution I placed as my first option, for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, Connecticut location is ideally situated between Boston and New York, making it an ideal place for travelling and visiting different places. The university additionally offered the equivalent classes that I needed to enroll in, in order to have engaged in equivalent subjects that I would have done at QMU. While this was s lengthy process, the supervisors and exchange coordinators were extremely helpful and did not falter in their assistance, ensuring that I would fulfill the class criteria in order to participate in the exchange program.
Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the exchange itself was cancelled. While I was unable to attend ECSU in person, I was offered the opportunity to study online with them for the semester, to ensure that I could partake in at least an aspect of the exchange experience. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience; the ability to experience a different educational system was immensely valuable. In the US, the overall class grade is calculated by a variety of components, such as class participation, independent reading, and test results. This meant that even if you scored lower on one component, you could still improve your overall grade with other aspects of the class. In order to obtain the necessary credits, I took an extra class in clinical psychology which was really interesting and allowed me to explore a different field of psychology which I had not done before. Even though there was a significant time different between the US and my home country, I was able to participate in classes and the students and teachers were all very helpful and welcoming, making sure that I participated as much as possible virtually. It is a shame that I could not meet these individuals in person, I have assimilated valuable experiences of how different educational systems are, and how to adapt to each one to make the most out of each situation.
I am delighted that I was granted the Santander Mobility fund scholarship despite my exchange being an online experience, in order to cover the costs of books and academic related materials such as printing costs and worksheets. This fund enabled me to purchase the entirety of the books that were needed for every class without having to concern myself with any significant costs. As a result, I could effectively engage with all the relevant material to each class with the same ease as if I was on the ECSU campus. Consequently, in the same manner that living costs would have been covered had I attended the exchange in person, any potential costs related to academic materials were attended to by the scholarship, and I did not have to experience the responsibility of assuming the costs, despite it only being an online experience.
Finally, it was also very satisfactory as a student on a personal level to still receive the academic recognition of a scholarship from the University and Santander, despite the physical experience being cancelled, as it merited and compensated both the effort practiced in the pursuit of the exchange experience and it being cancelled due to the pandemic.
I believe that this ability to participate in an exchange even from a virtual position will allow me in the future to have an adaptive and versatile attitude in the workplace when overcoming challenges, which I believe to be a critical skill to possess. The experience of meeting people virtually, although it may not be ideal, has made me significantly appreciative of the variety of individuals that one can come across, and that can have a significant influence on our influence towards life and how we approach difficulties faced. Overall, I believe that being able to engage in this virtual experience has made me increasingly aware of the opportunities that are awaiting all of us, if we are brave enough to go out of our comfort zone to get them. COVID-19 is a negative situation, but the exchange experience with ECSU was definitively my silver lining.