Why is an international experience compulsory?
As the old adage says: “travel shapes the young mind!” and indeed, experience has shown us that students leave and young adults return.
In its two forms, academic and professional, international mobility is a singular learning and maturing experience. CentraleSupélec has long understood the value of this as it has been a compulsory requirement of its program for over a decade. Lasting for a minimum of one continuous semester, similar to Erasmus mobility, to as long as two years, in the T.I.M.E. double-degree model, the average time spent abroad by a CentraleSupélec student is 13 months.
What does a student learn abroad?
First of all, separation. Indeed, it is with separation that the real learning begins. Leaving your school, your friends, your family and your comfort zone requires a lot of effort and determination.
After the anxiety has passed and once you are onboard the plane or train, the journey begins, and strangely, you feel a sense of freedom.
The shock can be violent at the beginning, to find one’s way and settle in. But fortunately our partner institutions have very good support systems. Thus begins a journey of discovery and exploration of the new environment. A different language, a surprising culture, different food, new codes and values to discuss and share, a different teaching or working environment – and new friends! The honeymoon period where everything is new, interesting and challenging lasts for a few months.
And then the culture shock takes over. Feeling fed up, loss of bearings, sensory overload, contusion and irritation, homesickness – you may find yourself in a vulnerable position of disarray that can be quite acute and painful. Although difficult to live through, this is a hurdle you overcome.
After that, begins a long process of acculturation and acceptance of the new environment with a perspective that can better balance the positive and negative aspects, and you will find a new feeling of wellbeing and equilibrium.
The transformation has taken place and the young adult returns satisfied, often with nostalgia, eager to repeat the experience.
International mobility is a rite of passage. It transforms the child into an adult and we discover ourselves. We develop new skills and adaptability, control, resilience, tolerance, we create a new friendship network, new values emerge and we start to see the world in a whole new light.
Making international mobility compulsory is the least we can do for our students and their future, to give them the opportunity to live this experience! For those students for whom this isn’t their first time abroad, their experience will be consolidated.