KPU in discussions to reopen study abroad program starting fall 2022

The university is monitoring the pandemic and health risks of sending students abroad

(Kristen Frier)

(Kristen Frier)

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s study abroad program is looking to bring back in-person exchange for the fall 2022 semester. The university has put requests for students interested to send in their “expression of interest.” 

The announcement for the return of the in-person exchange program came late last year, but the emergence of the omicron variant has put a pause in the development of the exchange semester. 

Zainab Al-koubaisi, director of global engagement at KPU international, says before making a decision to cancel or move forward with the exchange program in the fall, KPU wanted to first see the number of students who will be interested in applying.

Al-koubaisi says for the next few months, they will analyze the whole pandemic situation and see how safe it will be to send students out of the country. 

Before the omicron variant and high number COVID-19 cases, the study abroad program created a plan to ensure students are ready before they leave the country. Students would have been required to complete “a safety pre-departure Moodle course.” 

They would also need to complete forms that informed them of pandemic restrictions and the health protocols of the country they’d be travelling to. The program also planned to track the travel advisories for the countries of their exchange partners. 

“Any travel risk that is at level three or above, the students will not be permitted to go to. We always look at the travel advisories to make sure that it’s safe for them to go out as well,” Al-koubaisi says. 

With the health restrictions in British Columbia, KPU is not currently accepting students from its exchange partners. However, some of its partners have opened their institutions to incoming exchange students. 

Before agreeing to accept the request from some institutions, the university has to determine the safety of sending students based on the information provided by Global Affairs Canada. Approvals are also needed from the vice president of students and executives in the university. 

Al-koubaisi says the timeline for moving forward with the fall in-person exchange program can range up to two months before students are scheduled to travel.

“We’re just assessing the situations, assessing the situations of our partners. The pandemic has shown us that it could also shift very quickly,” Al-koubaisi says. 

“We’re not trying to rush into anything. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that any student that embarks on these activities in light of the pandemic, we have everything accounted for and that they’re safe,” she says. 

If the university has to choose not to implement the in-person exchange program or if a student does not feel comfortable leaving the country, a virtual exchange program is available. Students will have their mandatory online classes as well as cultural immersion classes. 

As KPU works to determine the risks and safety of sending students out, Al-koubaisi wants students to know that exchange programs in general are good opportunities. She says it provides students with intercultural learning and personal growth. 

When the in-person exchange resumes, KPU study abroad will be able to fund students through an outbound student mobility pilot program. For students who plan to study in Latin America or Asia, the program will provide around $8,000 for in-person exchange or around $1,000 for virtual study abroad. 

The program is expected to help more than 250 students over four years.