Ciao! My name is Esther Wegner, and I just finished my third year at Minerva, a unique four-year undergraduate experience. I grew up in Cecil Lake, a small town near Fort St. John in northern British Columbia. Not a lot of people there go to university or move very far away. In fact, studying in the United States or abroad never seemed like an option to me — I did not even know anyone who went to university outside of Canada. Despite an interest in attaining a global perspective, I only applied to universities close to me. After a year in BC though, I ended up across the border and eventually around the world!
My first year of university was at Quest University Canada, a liberal arts school in Squamish, BC, a small town close to Vancouver. I had a great experience at Quest, but rarely left campus, except to explore the surrounding mountains and nature. I began to feel like my education was happening in a bubble without real-world context. At the same time, I learned about Minerva, a globally-focused university intentionally designed to give students an immersive, 21st century education in terms of classes, campus, and classmates. It was easy to apply because — unlike most U.S. institutions — Minerva doesn’t accept SAT or ACT scores, so I did not have to take standardized tests to be considered.
Leaving Canada and transferring to Minerva was a difficult decision, but I knew it was a chance to leave my previous campus “bubble” and explore new places and ideas. Our student body is from 37 different countries, and 80% of us are from outside the United States. Instead of being isolated from the wider world, we live and study in seven global cities over the course of our degree. My first year started in San Francisco. Followed by Seoul, Korea; Hyderabad, India; Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; London, UK; and Taipei, Taiwan.
Studying outside of Canada, and at Minerva in particular, has expanded and diversified my world in so many ways. Being in a different country — especially in a city as diverse as San Francisco — has allowed me to interact with a wide variety of people and given me new perspectives. I have experienced different geography, cultures, transit, and urban life, which would not have been possible in Canada, all condensed into one city.
San Francisco has a lot of free or student-discounted events, so when I was there I went to panels, discussions, slam poetry nights, the symphony, museums, bookstores, parks, technology and networking events, and more. Along the way, living with different classmates who are not Canadian allows for many interesting conversations and insights into other countries. Topics ranging from the education system in the United Kingdom, Portuguese politics, tech start-ups in East Africa, and China’s one-child policy are discussed daily, constantly challenging my worldview.
Ultimately, I decided to go abroad because I wanted exposure to different perspectives. I believe the purpose of education is to gain broader understanding, and leaving your comfort zone is essential to that. Going abroad will push you to engage with people you would not normally, and allow you to take advantage of new opportunities. Compared to Canada, there is greater diversity of educational options in the United States. Don’t let perceived barriers stop you from attending! Scholarships and financial aid are available, making higher education institutions in the United States as affordable as Canadian public universities. Talk to guidance counselors or anyone who has been abroad, and take the time to do online research. Who knows where a quick Google search will take you?