Velma Fong, an IFT student from the Tourism Event Management Bachelor Degree Programme, advises fellow colleagues to make the best of the exchange opportunities available at the Institute. She says it is a valuable experience offering a doorway to a different culture, even if it means going abroad during Year 4, meaning students must juggle thesis work with their overseas adventure.
“You might regret it otherwise; especially if you never again have a similar chance,” she says. “At least go and try.”
Velma spent the first semester of academic year 2017/18 as an exchange student at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom, about 100 kilometres northwest of London. She was in Year 4 – meaning she was busy developing her graduation thesis – but still decided to take the plunge and go on exchange.
“I was really stressed with my thesis at the time, so I didn’t travel a lot [while on exchange],” she says. “But during weekends I always went to London and walked around the city.”
It has been mandatory at IFT since academic year 2015/16 for each candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Science enrolled in a daytime programme to complete a thesis before he or she can graduate.
Velma used the opportunity of being an exchange student in an overseas university to take courses different from those available on her IFT curriculum. She is now completing the remainder of her IFT courses in order to graduate. She explains regarding her U.K. exchange trip: “I hoped to learn new things that would be a plus in my university life, so I took courses which were not directly related to my bachelor degree programme.”
The IFT student says that by joining an exchange programme and going abroad, she was able to gain some perspective on Macao’s role in her life. “Thanks to travelling outside, I’ve learnt to appreciate the small, barely-noticeable things around me. Just as importantly, I’ve learnt how to be a more independent person.”
IFT has partnerships with more than 100 universities and tourism organisations around the world, and strong links with close to 600 leading tourism and hospitality enterprises. This is in order to offer exchange and internship opportunities to IFT students.
Student life at Oxford Brookes University was something new for Velma. “Professors provide a lot of practical examples in class and they lead students on field trips,” she says. “This motivates students to learn.”
The IFT student was also impressed by many of the non-curricular events and activities on campus. They included an event involving so-called therapy dogs, one in which she took part.
“It was a 15-minute meet up with the therapy dogs and their owners,” Velma recalls. “The dogs were adorable. They sat next to us, and this eased our feelings of pressure related to our studies and enabled us to recharge our energy. It was a peaceful moment that made me feel warm inside and helped me appreciate the university’s care for student well-being.”
Off campus, Velma also faced new experiences, including dealing with the – relatively – limited opening hours of British shops. For someone coming from Macao, with supermarkets and convenience shops easily accessible and open round the clock, it was a novelty.
“I needed to go to the supermarket early in the day for food or other necessities,” she recalls. “The shops close really early every day!”