Exchange Program Offers Taste of Life Abroad

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What if you had the opportunity to spend a year in Switzerland, visit the Cannes Film Festival, scoot over to Norway and Stockholm for the weekend, and earn course credit while traveling?

Raksha Muthukumar did all that, and you can too..

Raksha is a third-year computer science student who has spent the past year studying in Lausanne, Switzerland, as part of Georgia Tech’s EPFL Exchange Program. EPFL--or École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne--is a Swiss university located on the shores of Lake Geneva that has formed a study abroad partnership with Georgia Tech. Students like Raksha can take for-credit courses in subjects as diverse as computer science, architecture, biomedical engineering, physics, and more.

While course credit might be tempting enough for many students, Raksha believes the entire experience is worth far more than the hours that can be counted toward graduation.

“Honestly, I’ve been dreaming of my clichéd ‘adventurous year abroad’ since I was really young,” says Raksha. “But I can say that I’ve made some of the best friends of my life while here. I also really value the opportunity I’ve had to learn about myself this year. The chance to be separate from my familiar surroundings made me realize a lot about my priorities -- I really got to see my strengths and weaknesses.”

It’s common for students to underestimate both the educational and cultural value of time abroad. Raksha has earned credit for more than nine courses during her time at EPFL, diving into complex material like human computer interaction, discrete structures, and digital education and learning analytics. At the same time, she was able to visit Paris for the famous pain au chocolat, journey all the way to the beaches of Dubai, travel to England to see one of her favorite bands in concert, and make lifelong friends in new places.

“I think that it’s common to be afraid of ‘starting from scratch’ when you go abroad,” Raksha said. “I know I was unsure about making friends in a new environment, but it worked out better than I expected. My host university had tons of events for exchange students, and everyone at those events is eager to make new friends. You learn a lot about other people and yourself in this time. I now find myself ‘afraid’ of going back and leaving all this behind!”

For many students, a study abroad adventure like Raksha’s may seem financially out of reach. It doesn’t have to be. At Georgia Tech, financial aid travels with you! Whether you are considering a short-term study abroad program during the summer or a year-long program, like Raksha, it never hurts to apply.

“EPFL has a great structure in place for exchange students to get to know each other, and the city is really easy to navigate,” Raksha said.“The classes are a lot like Georgia Tech’s, so you’ll be well prepared and definitely feel the familiarity in that aspect. Switzerland is a great place to travel from, and lots of beautiful things are just a short plane, train, or car ride away.”

More than 20,000 Georgia Tech students have found a path to study abroad -- whether that is through EPFL or one of Georgia Tech’s countless other study abroad partners across the globe. Don’t miss your opportunity to study computer science and taste that famous Parisian pain au chocolat!

If you are interested in an experience like Raksha’s, the Office of International Education can help you plan your own. If you have questions about studying abroad as a computer science student, please contact Dawn Rutherford or visit the next Study Abroad Fair.