KPU Exchange Program goes virtual with federal grant funding

The program will run during the summer semester and potentially the fall

Ada Lee, Global Development Manager at KPU. (Submitted)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s exchange program moved virtually this semester as part of a pilot program made possible due to a federal funding grant of up to $25,000 from Colleges and Institutes Canada.

A one-time award has been created for students in the virtual exchange program, according to an emailed statement by KPU International Global Development Manager Ada Lee. This award is for the spring semester, and it was made possible by the Outbound Student Mobility Program.

This award is up to a maximum of $1,000 and will “provide study/work abroad opportunities to low-income students, students with disabilities and Indigenous students,” says the statement, adding that the Outbound Student Mobility Program plans to “address inequality and representation in outbound student mobility through inclusive policy and practices.”

The grant’s purpose was to help set up the virtual exchange program and “encourage traditionally underrepresented populations to try international learning experiences.”

Some of the money from the funding has been allocated for a “pre-departure” course on Moodle. This course will train students on the social and cultural norms of different parts of the world.

With non-essential global travel halted due to the pandemic, Lee says it was very important to continue to provide an opportunity for students to experience teaching and learning in a different part of the world.

Students have two options with the virtual study abroad program. The first one includes picking between one to three courses from their respective international institutions while taking some courses at KPU. The second one is an internship based in Costa Rica.

Since most institutions have switched to a virtual teaching format, Lee says students will experience what attending a virtual classroom is like in a different institution.

Students have been enjoying their experience with the program so far, Lee says. The virtual program will continue into the summer, funded by the grant.

The program would create scholarships and awards for students for the summer semester, Lee says.

“We understand that the virtual exchange concept is new, so students may hesitate about participating. We want to remove…barriers for students and make it easier and less risky,” says Lee.

Kiran Karwal, interior design student at KPU. (Submitted)

One of KPU’s interior design programs requires students to take a class abroad, so Kiran Karwal is currently taking a design class at Elisava Design School in Barcelona, Spain.

One of the main differences between the design classes at either institution is the fact that Elisava Design school is more hands-on, while KPU is more theory based, Karwal says.

The exchange program has given her the opportunity to meet new people and learn more about different cultures and backgrounds. Karwal wants other students who are thinking about virtually studying abroad this summer to go for it.

“It’s a lot of fun, and…you get to experience something that’s totally new,” she says.

Lee says she’s not sure about the virtual program being around for fall because it depends on KPU’s plan for returning to campus.

“In order to have some of the virtual exchange, we have to make sure that…there are some online course offerings,” she says.

Now is a good opportunity for students to try the exchange program due to the low cost, Lee says.

“It’s also really good to add on to your resume during this time, that you were still able to sharpen your intercultural skills and communication skills,” she says. “It helps you in the job market after you graduate. But most importantly, it also helps you build some of that connection.”

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