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International exchange program at Southern is expanding


Michelle Hennessy – Special to the Southern News

A record number of exchange students are choosing Southern for their year or semester abroad.

Pupils from around the world, and through various programs, are coming to SCSU as part of their degree from other countries.

“This year we’ve had 15 exchanges,” said Dr. Heidkamp, the interim director at the international office at Southern.

“I’ve been here for almost four years and when I started here we had one or two a semester, so we’re definitely expanding.”

Whilst students from abroad have individually arranged to come to SCSU in the past, the international office at Southern was established in 2001, and each year has seen a rise in the number of students expressing an interest to study here:

“ISEP tells me that they have a lot of interest in sending students here because of location, so potentially, if we could get our numbers up from our domestic population, we could be bringing in many more students on all of our programmes, we’re hoping to go in that direction,” said Dr. Heidkamp.

Exchanges benefit both the university and the student, according to Dr. Heidkamp.

“The University’s strategic plan drives towards globalization and preparing students for a global economy as opposed to a localized economy.”

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More and more that’s becoming important — it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, if you’re not globally minded you’re not going to be prepared to work in any field, especially education.

“So we are interested in increasing the diversity of the student population here, it’s good for our domestic students to meet our international students.”

Whether it be for travel, improving job prospects or refining a language, more and more students are taking advantage of the opportunity to study abroad.

“I think it’s very important for jobs nowadays and I think it’s a special experience, you get to meet new people, I also wanted to improve my English,” explained Elisabeth Popp, senior business administration major from Germany.

Senior English major Jenni Kunnunen from Finland echoes these feelings, adding how people have been towards her. “Really friendly, super friendly, everyone says if you need anything just come and ask which is really nice,” she said, admitting however that the language barrier can sometimes be an issue.

“Sometimes speaking English is surprisingly difficult, all of a sudden you forget everything and nothing comes out that’s comprehensible, but I’m surviving,” said Kunnunen.

ISEP, one of the many organizations that makes arrangements for students to study abroad, now has 300 member universities in the United States and 42 other countries, helping over 37 thousand students study abroad since 1979.

Organizations like these hope to help promote international understanding and global learning for the pupils that choose to go through them.

Students that have come back from a year abroad believe they achieved this, “At the very least,” said Joseph Schifferdecker, senior political science major who spent a year at Eberhard Karls University in Germany, “I learned just to talk with people, to not be afraid to talk. I learned how other people live differently, but at the same time we have a lot of similarities; everyone tries to get what they want to in life, and care for other people.”

With more students choosing to study abroad – whether it be for the duration of their degree or a semester or two – universities worldwide are seeing their campuses being transformed and becoming more diverse and multicultural.

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