GVSU extends study-abroad partnership with University of the Sunshine Coast

Arpan Lobo

Grand Valley State University students who wish to study on the other side of the world will continue to have that opportunity.

Last month, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, GVSU President Thomas Haas signed an agreement to extend the existing partnership between GVSU and the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), located in Sippy Downs, Queensland, in Australia. Haas and other GVSU representatives made the trip to Australia to extend the partnership for another five years.

USC is one of the many international institutions that offers a partnership program for GVSU students. Partnership programs allow students to study at an international institution for at least a semester, giving them the opportunity to immerse themselves in their host country’s surroundings.

“Semester-exchange programs allow students more time to integrate into their host country and host university,” said Rebecca Hambleton, director of study abroad and international partnerships at GVSU’s Padnos International Center (PIC), via email. “We often hear from students that they wish they could have gone abroad for a longer period of time. For many students, a semester is just the right amount of time to be abroad.”

According to Hambleton, 203 students spent a semester abroad during the 2016-17 academic year, and another 24 spent an entire year participating in a partnership program. The appeal of a partnership program, rather than a faculty-led study-abroad program, is the freedom that comes with it.

“Our exchange programs offer maximum flexibility in terms of independence,” Hambleton said. “Students are essentially guest students at our partner institution for the semester. Apart from attending the required orientation at the beginning of the semester and attending classes, they are free to schedule their free time as they want.”

Jade Brown, a GVSU student who studied at USC during the fall semester of 2016, believes it is a great opportunity for any prospective students.

“The experience is great,” said Brown, an advertising and public relations major. “USC is smaller, like Grand Valley, so it’s not overwhelming. This experience really helped me grow as a person. I was really shy before I went. While I was there, I needed to basically come out of my shell to live on my own and find my way around.”

USC is also a host institution for the 2018 Partnership Delegation program sponsored by PIC. The program is an opportunity for faculty and staff members to work with their USC counterparts.

“We learn so much from collaborating with colleagues from around the world,” Hambleton said. “There are often similar challenges facing colleagues at our partner institutions, but oftentimes new and innovative approaches that we can learn from. 

“The more our faculty become familiar with curricular offerings at our partner institutions, the easier the curriculum integration process becomes.”

The PIC developed a set of learning goals for the Australian Partnership Delegation program, which also includes Macquarie University, located in Sydney. The goals, in short, are to introduce faculty to modern and traditional Australian culture, encourage the development of intercultural communication, educate faculty on the process of traveling in a foreign country, establish a new network of colleagues between GVSU and the partner institutions, and increase the knowledge of the international opportunities GVSU offers. Hambleton and the PIC believe the program is a great opportunity for members of the GVSU community. 

“We believe strongly in offering opportunities, not just for students, but also for faculty and staff, to development in intercultural communication and cultural understanding,” Hambleton said.