by Paul Brammer (News & Opinion Editor)
As the International Education department at UFV sends more students abroad and receives more students, the opportunities for undergraduate students at UFV grow with every semester. A new initiative spearheaded by UFV in conjunction with schools in Germany and England will allow students to study abroad for a semester, and receive $5,000 to cushion the blow of going abroad.
The program is a creation of the Diaspora Studies Consortium and will send UV students to either the University of Northampton, England, or the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany. Students going to England will study from January 2011 or January 2012, and students going to Germany will study there from either March 2011 or March 2012.
As part of the program, studies will be obliged to take two courses in Diaspora Studies – “Culture and Theory of Diaspora” and an Arts internship in a specific discipline. As well, students will take an online Directed Studies course and two elective courses. All courses and credits earned during this time are applicable to degrees at UFV; however, “[t]he elective courses must undergo review for UFV credit before your semester abroad,” according to the program overview.
Also, the Diaspora Studies courses are directly applicable to the Diaspora Studies Certificate – for more information on the Diaspora Studies Certificate, contact Nicola.Mooney@ufv.ca.
Diaspora Studies “examines the experience of those people in their new home and how they have in turn influenced host cultures through their connections to their ancestral home,” and the program overview gives a list of which faculties’ students may find the Diaspora studies program of interest – Anthropology, Cultural Studies, English Literature, History, Linguistics, Media Studies, Theology, Criminology, Sociology and Social Work. The program is not limited to the faculties listed, and if a student can prove an interest in Diaspora Studies during the application process, exceptions may be made.
To be eligible to study abroad with the Diaspora Studies program, applicants must: be full-time students of UFV; have a minimum 3.0 GPA; and have a minimum of 30 UFV credits completed (45 are recommended).
The $5,000 scholarship that selected students will receive can go towards paying for: living fees while away; UFV tuition; airfare; accommodation; textbooks; and medical coverage. As with the rest of UFV’s study abroad program, tuition fees are payable to UFV, not the host institution, and students will pay the same tuition as if they were studying at UFV, as opposed to international student rates.
The International Education department’s Study Abroad Assistant Sarah Brammer encouraged students to apply for the scholarship and the chance to study abroad in a unique program: “This is an amazing opportunity for UFV students. Who wouldn’t want to study in Europe for a semester, receive UFV credit towards their current program, and, to top it off, receive $5000 to pay for it?”
“Studying abroad gives students the chance to connect with communities, meet potential employers, organizations, and people all over the world. In a competitive and increasingly global economy, participating in a student exchange program is such a valuable asset to add to students’ resumes as they prepare for any career ahead”.
Aside from the academic benefits that studying abroad with UFV provides students with, Brammer also said that the Diaspora Studies program and other opportunities to study abroad give students a way to grow as people, not just as students: “When a UFV student has returned from an exchange experience, there is an unmistakable change in the person that was sitting in my office months before. I hear about their adventures in the cities they travelled to, the instructors that inspired them and the lifelong friends and characters they met along the way. Undoubtedly, these experiences provide students with significant academic, cultural and personal growth benefits.”
The benefits to students studying abroad are also claimed by a new report from the International Education of Students (IES). The report studied all alumni from IES study abroad programs from 1950 to 1999, and found that “Regardless of where students studied and for how long, the data from the more than 3,400 respondents… shows that studying abroad is usually a defining moment in a young person’s life and continues to impact the participant’s life for years after the experience.”
In terms of the impact that studying abroad had on their personal life, “97 percent said studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity, 96 percent reported increased self-confidence, 89 percent said that it enabled them to tolerate ambiguity, and 95 percent stated that it has had a lasting impact on their world view.”
An overwhelming majority of those polled – 98% – said that their experiences abroad helped them to better understand their own cultural values and biases, and 87% of those polled said that their experiences influenced their further academic pursuits.
Students interested in applying for the Diaspora Studies program are advised to contact Study Abroad Assistant Sarah Brammer at Sarah.Brammer@ufv.ca or check the Diaspora Studies Consortium webpage at www.ufv.ca/diasporastudies.