Lamar’s exchange program returns after pandemic lull

Students from around the world have returned to Lamar University as its exchange program returned from a COVID-19-related hiatus.

Five students – three from South Korea, one from Germany and one from France – came to campus in January to begin their studies while a student from Lamar began his semester in France at ESC Rennes School of Business .

These students will spend the spring semester at Lamar, then return to their home campuses in May.

Lamar is in partnership with six universities in Germany; France; Alicante, Spain; Taiwan; and two in South Korea.

Study Abroad and Student Exchange Coordinator Mary Alice Haas said the university chooses partnerships based on their programs and how they align with the programs offered by Lamar.

“In all of our partnerships, we usually have what’s called a ‘3 for 3 swap,'” she said. “We send three students and we accept three students. So no income or tuition is lost to either university, all it does is give students the opportunity to take courses on a different campus.”

Zeppelin University in Germany, for example, has a business program that aligns with that offered at Lamar. Junior Ricarda Scheel is spending her spring semester at Lamar’s College of Business, about 5,200 miles from her school in Friedrichshafen.

Haas said it’s his job and that of other faculty and staff to let students know that opportunities to study abroad — both short-term and long-term — exist and are more accessible than students think so.

“With our university culture, I do see students who need to get the idea of ​​the exchange out there or who don’t know it exists, or who haven’t been enticed to get out of the country for a long time,” she says.

Scheel said that at his university in Germany, studying abroad is quite common in a student’s sixth semester. Scheel is in her fifth grade, but she said her friends were starting to study abroad, so she did too.

Beaumont wasn’t Scheel’s first choice – she originally wanted to go to South America, but COVID-19 was in full swing there when she applied.

“I debated going anyway because no one would know what it was like in a year, but it wasn’t a smart thing to do,” she said. “(Lamar) was kind of a spontaneous decision because I just scrolled through the partner universities and I (got) caught by stadiums and a lot of sports played by American universities.”

Scheel said she wanted to go on an exchange to the United States when she was 16, but her parents thought she was too young and too far away. The decision to study in Texas confused her parents, who would have preferred her to attend school in New York or Italy.

“It was good,” she said. “They had to live with my decision.”

Scheel said she was intrigued by the differences between US states, but still formed a cohesive community.

“I always thought Western countries were a bit similar,” she said. “But they definitely aren’t. I have family in Michigan and I always thought I knew what the United States looked like and acted like. I read American newspapers, but I don’t I’ve never had an overview. Different states of the country interact. I’ve already had ideas that I wouldn’t have had in Germany.”

Studying abroad is an immersive experience and has allowed her to develop her independence, Haas said.

“Students in terms of health and safety are fully taken care of,” she said. “But it’s an incredibly independent experience. A student goes to another country, another campus, not knowing anyone, immersed in the lessons taught by professors at that university — English speaking, all exchange program lessons are all taught in English, that’s a common misconception.”

The impact of studying abroad encompasses all aspects of a student’s life, Haas said.

“They incorporate this personal growth into their studies and their careers, as they approach new tasks with a completely different confidence,” she said. “We see employers looking for students who have a global experience because they know, ‘We’re a globally minded company, we hire international professionals, and we want someone who can communicate with respect, who can navigate cultural differences”, and who just has a different global perspective.

Scheel said she tries to participate in multiple activities and get different perspectives on many issues. She enjoyed discovering different aspects of American culture such as sports and food.

“I was at a basketball game and it was really cool to see how big the (court) was,” she said. “I love sports. I don’t do American sports but I really love how they’re so important here. And I spend a lot of time after school just at the (recreation center), not just doing sports but just to be there because everyone is there. I really like the climbing wall. I think a gym like this would add so much value to German universities.

There were also a few surprises, she says.

“You have huge parking spaces,” Scheel said. “Cities (in Europe) are trying to reduce cars and be more sustainable. In Germany everything is just smaller.”

Academically, the American and German school systems are different, Scheel said.

“I think the American system is much more like high school. It’s frequent testing, frequent homework, but it’s much easier than in Germany,” she said. “In Germany it’s more like you have three months to go to class, read stuff, maybe give presentations, then you have a month where you have your exams and you have to know everything and your grade depends on your last exam.

Lamar has classes that Scheel’s home university does not offer, which she is happy to take advantage of, she said.

“I want to get into the healthcare management field one day, it’s always been a dream,” she said. “I have this healthcare entrepreneurship course, which doesn’t exist in Germany at my university. I’m really looking forward to it and hope I can get something out of it.”

Haas said student health and safety is of the utmost importance, which is why study abroad programs had to be suspended in March 2020. But, she’s glad they were able to resume. .

“There are so many beautiful things about studying abroad and taking a break was so hard for students,” she said. “(The program) also puts health and safety first. When students go on exchange, it’s very similar to how they live on campus here. So they have their own independent accommodation there. , they have our international health And so they can live an exchange semester in a very, very safe way, which is essential in this pandemic.”

Even though the pandemic is still ongoing, Haas said the program follows Department of State travel advisories and guidelines from the Texas State University System. TSUS said universities may authorize educational travel to countries designated “Tier 4” or “Do Not Travel” if the designation is due solely to COVID.

“There is definitely a risk in terms of getting COVID, I think just about anywhere at this point,” Haas said. “But it is now our job to give students the safe opportunity and allow them to choose.”

Countries have different vaccination and quarantine requirements and Haas said she helps students understand all requirements and keeps them informed.

“We have to make sure our students follow what the border asks for which is of great importance, but we don’t ask them to disclose their status,” she said. “We make sure they are informed and well aware of what they need to do.”

Haas said one of the most common misconceptions about student exchanges is that they are extremely expensive. In many cases, that’s not true, she says.

“If you are a business student, we offer an amazing scholarship for student exchange. It’s up to 75% of your full program covered by scholarships,” she said. “If you’re in Honors College, you’re eligible for a $1,000 scholarship. If you’re not in any of these colleges, it’s still extremely affordable for a semester because you pay your tuition here, the only expenses you acquire is what you would pay on the Lamar campus.”

Expenses include accommodation, meals, public transportation, course books, and airfare to and from the exchange country. Haas said she walks students through their budget to help them find a way to plan a semester abroad.

“I want students to know that they really should come and explore this because it’s a lot more affordable than they think,” she said. “It’s these common myths students hold that keep them from having a life-changing experience. Just getting the right information and then making an informed decision is my best advice.”

Scheel said she will likely do another swap-type program in the future. Her school requires an internship abroad and she already thinks she wants to get her master’s degree in another country.

“I think it’s a great experience,” she said.

For more information, visit the study abroad page on the website or contact Haas at [email protected]

[email protected]

Ryan H. Bowman