Recent grad urges current students to consider study abroad opportunities after the pandemic
Ask Marie Gomez if the old adage about travel broadening your horizons is true and she’ll agree without hesitation.
“Honestly, my life really did change once I went abroad to study,” said Gomez, a 2020 graduate of York University’s Glendon College.
“It was my first time away from my family for an extended period and Barcelona was someplace I’d always dreamed of visiting,” Gomez said. “I was excited about going, making friends, learning a different language and having roommates for the first time.”
Living with students from Korea, Italy and Spain gave her an opportunity to learn about different cultures while realizing that people are people the world over.
“I really grew as a person,” she said. “There were situations I was in that I wouldn’t have had at home. For example, I got caught in a protest at school where the protesters didn’t want to let us in, and I took a class taught in Catalan because the content was fascinating, although I didn’t speak a word of the language.
“I just tried to adapt and be positive about things.”
After the semester ended, Gomez indulged her passion for travel, exploring Europe before returning home, since she didn’t expect to have an opportunity to return for a while. Little did she know that she’d be back in Europe the following year for a summer internship with a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Romania.
“It was very different from my academic experience in Spain,” Gomez said. “I was living on my own, so it was lonelier.”
It was the work itself that grabbed her hardest. “We were helping migrant youth resettle and worked with people in transit, including the Roma. I learned a lot about migration and it’s an area I could see myself working in down the road,” she said.
Gomez’s love of travel led her to York International (YI), the University’s hub for all things international, and she became one of YI’s Global Ambassadors, speaking at the Global Fair, making presentations and hosting global chat sessions for students preparing to go abroad at the YI offices on campus.
“Because I was so fond of my international experiences, I wanted to share my experiences,” she said.
It turned out that European countries weren’t Gomez’s only ports of call during university. She took a summer course at Las Nubes, York’s Eco-Campus in Costa Rica, and she attended the Japan Canada Academic Consortium Student Forum in Japan this past winter as a York University representative.
“In Costa Rica, my course focused on the history of the people and the culture,” Gomez said. I got to really talk to people, which was perfect for me as a future journalist.”
The conference in Japan brought together students from both countries. This year, the focus was on energy politics and each group made a presentation of their research at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo.
“I was part of the group that won first place and it was very validating that we could make a difference,” Gomez said.
York financial aid made some of Gomez’s trips possible and she expressed her gratitude. All York students selected to participate in study and work/intern opportunities abroad receive a York International Mobility Award.
“York is great at trying to give financial help,” she said. “It really helped financially, because it’s not cheap to go abroad.”
After graduation, Gomez accepted her video journalist’s position and works as a general assignment reporter.
“Every day is really different,” she said. “What I love about my job is that you never know what you’ll be talking about.”
With her career, as with her life, she isn’t plotting a path that’s immutable.
“A communications degree can lead you anywhere,” Gomez said. “I’m open to whatever comes my way. It’s the attitude I’ve had since I went on exchanges abroad.
“University gives you the critical thinking skills to do any job and you learn to adapt really quickly to things.”
By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer