Where to Study Abroad Next Year

KPU students can visit Japan, Germany, France, or Columbia for credit

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Blair Kurland, former student at Arizona State University, photographs the city of Perpignan, France during an ieiMedia program. (Submitted photo: Rachele Kanigel)

Every year, Kwantlen Polytechnic University students have the choice of going away for school. There are annual exchanges to destinations all over the world, and although they can be pricey, they’re always an option for those looking to globe trot while getting an education.

Because KPU has so many partner institutions on the map, there are plenty of locations to choose from. Money paid for tuition while on exchange will go to the university, and all credits earned while studying abroad are transferable. The only requirements are having completed a minimum of 30 credits—with at least half of them earned at KPU—possessing a grade point average of 2.67, and agreeing to earn at least nine credits while away before returning to the university.

According to the institution’s website, there are several steps you should take before embarking on your journey. After ensuring that you’re eligible to go on a trip you should attend an exchange information session, talk to an educational advisor, and research KPU’s partner universities to narrow down where you you want to go. Once you’ve chosen your destination, meet with an international exchange coordinator, apply for any scholarships or awards that might provide you with financial aid for the travel and academic expenses, and submit your exchange application. Finally, go to a pre-departure session and apply to the institution that will be welcoming you.

Short trips to other countries have been organized for this year as well. The three most relevant to you will take KPU students to Kyoto, the Amazon Rainforest, or Paris.

Kyoto Study Abroad Program

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For the first time, a trip to Kyoto, Japan is being offered to KPU students interested in journalism. For $4,995, students will fill the role of foreign correspondents in Asia from June 26 to July 21, working with bilingual Japanese students who will show them the city and act as interpreters. They will also meet with local journalists, visit various temples, and publish stories of their own in an online magazine.

The Institute for Education in International Media is sponsoring the trip, and the program’s co-director, Rachele Kanigel, says that the decision to travel to Kyoto for the first time came from the desire to find something that was “very different and very exotic, but was also very safe.” The Kyoto trip will also “provide students with a way to engage with a culture in a different and more intimate way than a lot of study abroad programs.”

“What’s different about these programs is that they’re reporting projects, so students are able to actually go into the field and report on the communities. It gives students an opportunity to really talk with local people and find out about their lives and their careers,” she says.

Because students will be gone for so long, the entire first week will be dedicated to introducing them to the city and culture. Then they will start to explore how to thrive as international journalists, “in a place where you don’t know anybody, you don’t speak the language, and you have to find stories,” says Kanigel.

“We’ll be talking about how you find stories, how you interview people using an interpreter, and we’ll be having practice sessions on that,” she says. “We’ll be seeing these incredibly beautiful historical sites. Kyoto has 17 UNESCO world heritage sites, and these ancient treasures with shrines and temples and beautiful gardens, so we’ll certainly be doing some of that. But really I think the highlights are going to be the experiences that the students choose for themselves.”

Of course, the trip includes three transferable academic credits from the University of Jamestown, learning introductory Japanese, accommodation, excursions, a city bus pass, transportation to and from the airport, and welcome and farewell dinners. Students will be able to stay in a studio apartment with kitchen facilities, but have to pay for their own living expenses, airfare. A $150 application fee is required, but will be returned if the applicant isn’t accepted. Because you do not need to be a student to go on the trip, there are no prerequisites for the program.

“Every single one of our students has come back with their eyes open. They come back feeling changed,” says Kanigel. “For a lot of students, this has really been a career-maker. I’ve had a lot of students who did one of these programs, went to employers and put it on their resumes, and employers were fascinated with hearing about their experiences.”

Amazon Field School

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of culture shock, the Amazon Field School might be for you. Staying in the Amazon Rainforest from May 5 to 21 will take you to a time without internet or radio, when the hour was judged by the position of the sun in the sky.

“It’s going to bring you back to a much more ancient place that humanity has always known but very recently has forgotten,” says Farhad Dastur, one of two KPU professors who will be accompanying students on the trip. “I just believe that these kind of experiences are really powerful, transformative experiences in a student’s educational journey, and I want to be part of that.”

Dastur, who has overseen a KPU field school to Ghana in the past, stresses that the field school is not biased towards students from any one faculty, and that even non-students can get involved. However, interested KPU students should contact International Student Services for information about scholarships.

“Problems of climate change, of habitat loss, of cultural extinction with indigenous peoples in the Amazon, of how we can balance stability with economic development. These aren’t problems that any one discipline can address, so we’re really looking for people that have that interdisciplinary perspective and have a number of different ways of looking at the world,” he says.

Those who are accepted can expect to explore the rainforest, meet with a shaman and guides from local tribes, learn about Colombian culture, and enjoy observing the flora and fauna that the Amazon has to offer. They will visit the Calanoa Natural Reserve, look for river dolphins, and paddle through flooded forest with their peers.

A minimum of 12 students are needed for the school to go forward, and there can be no more than 18 on the trip. Six credits will be earned by those who take it, either by enrolling in Design 3000 or Arts 3000.

The overall cost of the trip is $2750, which includes accommodation, in-country transportation, field trips, and most meals. 30 credits of 1100-level or higher courses are required in order to be accepted, and there is a non-refundable $300 deposit for application.

“This is really a journey for you as a student to go and experience something you’ve never experienced before. It’s very direct. There’s no four walls of a classroom. This is experiential learning at its best,” says Dastur.

Paris/Documenta Field School

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Rosemary Dorsett, former student at the University of Maryland, reports during ieiMedia’s program in Urbino. (Submitted photo: Rachele Kanigel)

Whisking away to Paris is a pipe dream for most North Americans, never mind getting academic credit for it. The field school to Paris and Documenta will allow students to do just that, along with attending a globally acclaimed art fair that only occurs once every five years, from June 3 to 22.

Before they get there, the class will study modernism and contemporary art at KPU. Once in Europe, they will get to see some of the works they discussed and analyzed in the Lower Mainland up close and personal.

“For a lot of the students, that’s probably the most amazing part of the trip itself—when they get to see the thing that they’ve been engaged with for such a long time,” says Dorothy Barenscott, a KPU instructor who will be leading the field school alongside her colleague, Elizabeth Barnes.

The first KPU field school to Documenta happened five years ago, making it the oldest and most-established of the university’s field schools. This will be the second time that KPU students will be attending the fair, and both Barnes and Barenscott believe that it will be a highlight of the trip.

“Really, the cornerstone of our field school is the pairing of Paris—one of the world’s most important art cities—with Documenta, which is like the Olympics of the art world in terms of exhibitions,” says Barenscott. “Once every five years, a small town in Germany gets taken over to become sort of the centre point for artists all over the world to come and show their work. For students, it’s really about being able to see art that has existed throughout history, but then to also look at the very best of art that’s being made today.”

Other than admission to Documenta, the final cost of $3,000 will include a pass to the major museums and galleries in Paris, visits to department stores and opera houses, bike trips, and the chance to see the Eiffel Tower, amongst other sightseeing activities. Accommodation is also covered, with between two and four students sharing suites with full kitchens.

The collaborative nature of the field school adds a personal touch to academia, which Barnes thinks is extremely valuable.

“It’s kind of a chance of a lifetime to do something like this in a group of like-minded people,” she says. “Students will get to really discuss what they’ve seen with each other every day, and I think that’s really important.”

There is an individual component to the coursework too, with each participant being assigned an artist to study in France and Germany. They will be required to chronicle their experiences on a blog as well.

Nine total credits can be earned as a part of the field school, but only three are required for admission. Students must take either Art History 3100 or Studio Art 3202, which will be taught at the Surrey campus from May 8 to 26, in order to be accepted. Six prior credit hours in Art History or any 18 credit level university courses are required to take Art History 3100, and six prior credit hours in Fine Arts are required to take Fine Arts 3202. Students who want all nine credits can take Arts 1100 as well, which has no pre-requisites.

“It really is the connection between art history and studio that makes it such a strong field school. People can come to the field school who have experience making art, or just students who have an interest in the world of art,” says Barenscott. “Sometimes people see a fine arts field school and they think, ‘Oh, I have to be making art.’ That’s not the case at all. We welcome people from all kinds of backgrounds.”

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