Broaden your horizons while studying

There’s a big world out there, and full-time students can get money to study it.

According to Frederick Francis, Deputy Director of the Centre for International Academic Cooperation, relatively few students are aware of the many options available to them for studying abroad. Fewer still are aware that the Quebec government has the best-funded exchange student program in North America.

Francis held an information session for students interested in exploring these options on Monday at the Loyola campus. He discussed the different student mobility programs available to undergraduates, the application processes, as well as some research and independent studies options open to graduate students.

“What we’ve been trying to do is go to the departments and ask them to gear programs of study or exchange to meet the specific needs of students. We’re trying to increase student mobility. The basic reason is we want to tell people, particularly Quebec residents, that there is this funding available.”

And the funding is considerable. Students who qualify for the program will receive between $750 and $1000 a month. “If you’re going for the academic year, you’re entitled to $8,000, because it’s eight months,” Francis said. This adds up to a considerable amount of money to live on, especially for a student with no dependants or other expenses. Francis explained, however, that it really depends on where you choose to study. “If you’re going to France, and if you’re going to Paris specifically, you’re going to definitely need more than $8,000.”

Francis said the student exchange programs in Canadian universities are less developed than those in Europe or the U.S. “The study abroad student exchange is not part of the Quebec or Canadian university cultures,” he said. “There are three primary reasons why we haven’t been sending out a lot of students. One has to do with the fact that we have three-year programs in most faculties. You don’t go in your first year, you shouldn’t go in your third year, because it’s the last year of study and most programs want you to be at your home university, so that basically leaves the second year.

“The second reason why study abroad isn’t a part of the [Quebec university] culture is that it’s been kind of an American phenomenon,” Francis said. Student exchange programs began in the United States after World War Two, as part of the reconstruction efforts in Europe and Japan, and as a way of promoting a better understanding of other cultures. “This phenomenon slowly trickled back into Canada.”

The third reason has to do with finances. Many students at Concordia or McGill or other Montreal universities go to school full time and work part time, so there’s less incentive, as well as less financial flexibility. “The other thing about the exchange program has to do with course equivalencies,” Francis said. “At some Canadian universities they have it down to a fine science, but at Concordia, it’s not an easy process.”

In spite of these issues, Francis was pleased to say that the number of Concordia students who choose to participate in the student exchange program has been steadily increasing in recent years. “If you look at the ratio of students incoming and outgoing, it used to be 11-1,” he said. “It’s gotten better. We’re now at 4-1.”

And where do Concordia’s globetrotting students choose to study? All over, said Francis, but some places emerge as clear favorites.

“Australia has been far and away the most popular destination, primarily because it’s an exotic location in the world. The second most popular would be Europe. The least traveled to is the U.S.” Francis believes that this is because when Canadians think of studying abroad, they want to discover new and different places, and the U.S. doesn’t seem as exotic as other countries. “We’re in the process of signing agreements with universities in Asia, but they’re not in place there yet.” Francis expects that the options in Asia will be increasing very quickly in the coming years, particularly in India. “When you talk about India, it’s a go,” he said, adding that everyone involved agrees that it’s a priority.

Francis said he hopes that more Concordia students will make use of these options, which he sees as an enriching experience, and not just in terms of education.

“The exchange program really promotes an opportunity for students on all levels, in terms of overall growth as well as just a broader worldview perspective.”

Criteria for application:

-Be enrolled full time and maintain a full time course load

-Have completed one year of full time study

-Be in “good academic standing”

-Be fluent in the language of instruction at the hosting institution

For more information visit

artsandscience.concordia.ca/faculty/ciac

or call 848-2424 ext. 4986 or 4987

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