While Queen’s reaches out to the wider world, the wider world is coming to its front doors.
Approximately 547 international exchange students came to Queen’s during the 2012-13 academic year, from the 46 countries where Queen’s has exchange agreements.
Hosting exchange students aligns with what has been one of the University’s most pronounced goals over the past several years — internationalization.
A white paper released this month by the University’s Strategic Enrolment Management Group noted that “internationalizing the campus and learning models, increasing international enrolment over the next 10 years and expanding Queen’s reach and presence around the world are university priorities.”
Principal Daniel Woolf has also made it clear that internationalization is important to keep Queen’s competitive globally. This thought was one of the main points in “The Third Juncture,” his 2012 essay on the future of Queen’s.
“In the next decade, it will not be sufficient to be known in one’s own country,” the essay reads, noting that the University’s international profile lags behind its national profile. “The success of our students and of our country in the future will depend on being able to thrive in a global setting.”
Woolf writes that bringing international students to campus is important. Doing so, he says, will help Queen’s stand out among other universities, create a better learning environment for Canadian students and bring international students into the country permanently.
Although exchange students and international students are different, they both play a role in reaching these goals. Recently, Queen’s has been pushing to develop a larger international strategy in regards to exchange students. Although each faculty at Queen’s deals with exchanges independently, in July 2012, the Faculty of Arts and Science program moved under the International Programs Office (IPO) to expand its exchange opportunities. The IPO is under the purview of the offices of the provost and vice-provost international.
The School of Business, on the other hand, has an office within the faculty dedicated to international exchanges. About 82 per cent of its students went on exchange during the 2012-13 school year.
Law and Graduate studies also have representatives that deal with exchanges, and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science is currently looking
to expand its international exchange program.
To be admitted to Queen’s, incoming exchange students must be nominated by their home universities.
Every faculty has its own admission requirements, but it’s not always based on marks. The student’s capability to succeed in a new country and on a new campus is very important for admission.
Laura Esford, exchange coordinator for the IPO, said that incoming exchange students who are taking on huge risks to study abroad are offered support to ensure they have what they need and they feel at home.
“We try to make the landing [in Canada] as soft as we can here at Queen’s, but sometimes it is bumpy, but we’re conscious of that,” she said.
Students from all over the world have found a new start and new home at Queen’s.
Neguine Boustantchi, an exchange student from Esade Business School in Barcelona, Spain, said she chose Queen’s because she wanted to live far from home.
Exchange students, for the most part, pay tuition to their home university and take on living and health insurance costs while in Canada. Part of their expenses, like all domestic students, are textbooks. Many international students find book pricing to be concerning.
“The textbooks were very expensive, we all cried here. I would spend $100 dollars for six books at home, so [it’s] quite ridiculous,” she said.
There are many differences between her home country and Canada, like eating schedules, Boustantchi said. Her past university life differs greatly to life at Queen’s.
“At home … you can have friends apart from the university, the university is not your life. I feel like [Queen’s students] enter into the university and just have those four years be everything about it and nothing else,” she said.
“I love my university but not as much as you guys love yours. I’m enjoying my four months here more than my four years back home.”
School spirit seems to be an attractive pull to Queen’s.
“We have this apathetic culture back home,” said Stephen Murray from Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland. “University is something you go to, it’s not something you take part in.” Coming to a new country with different customs and systems may seem daunting, but there’s support for international students at Queen’s, starting with the IPO, which deals with the admissions and academic side of exchanges. “Essentially, we’re providing opportunity for Queen’s students to study at another institution and the benefit of having it be an exchange … students from those partner institutions are going to come to our campus and they’re going to internationalize our campus,” said Jenny Corlett, manager of the IPO.
When things do get hard, in addition to the academic support offered by IPO, students are directed to the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) for non-academic support.
QUIC helps students set up health insurance, offers language practices sessions and organizes trips for students who want to see other parts of the country, among other things. Advising appointments and supporting students’ general well-being is the main focus for QUIC.
Still, students may feel lost when they arrive in Canada and look for somewhere to go.
When Gus Crawford, a past exchange student from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia arrived in Canada a few days before Frosh Week 2012, he had nowhere to live and found himself at a bed and breakfast the first few nights he was in town. “Nobody from overseas knows anything about Kingston or where to live or that kind of thing,” Crawford said.
“That was when I felt I wanted to leave and go home.”
Queen’s has approximately 80 residence spaces available for international students, which isn’t enough to cover everyone. QUIC, however, does offer support resources for alternate accommodations.
Crawford was in a desperate situation, but eventually found accommodation in a house on Earl St. with 11 others.
“Initially I really had my heart set on residence and living at Queen’s,” he said. “Once I got here I learned that it was really, really common for people to live in student housing.”
Crawford fell in love with Canada, and a girl, so much so that he moved back and currently resides in Kingston.
As fate would have it, Crawford met Caroline Vezeau, ArtSci ’14, in Kingston, who was about to leave on exchange in Australia just as he was going back.
“It ended up being that we’re in a relationship and living in different cities but both in Australia,” he said.
While she was there from January until June, the couple started thinking about how it would all work out when she moved home to Canada.
“After a few months we realized it would be stupid to carry out a relationship knowing that it had an expiry date on it,” Crawford said.
After exploring options, Crawford decided to enrol himself in correspondence studies for his home university and apply for a work visa in Canada.
He was successful, and now lives in Kingston, completing his degree online and working, all while being close to Vezeau and his friends in Canada. He said he hasn’t had any doubts about his decision to go on exchange.
“Going on exchange totally changed my life, for the better,” he said. “It was sort of giving something a shot and seeing how it would go and it’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”
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