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F2F int’l study programs return, ex-participants share advice

by Natania Shay Du | February 16, 2023

The SU Foreign Exchange Students and Japan Summer Service Learning (JSSL) programs announced the opening of applications on Feb. 6 after a three-year halt of the programs’ in-person modes. 

The Foreign Exchange Students program, under the Student Scholarship and Aid Division (SSAD), will give students the chance to study at a foreign institution abroad for the school year 2023–2024.

SU’s partner institutions include Sophia University, International Christian University (ICU), Shikoku University, Ferris University, and Yamagata University in Japan; Hannam University in Korea; Satya Wacana Christian University in Indonesia; and Université Catholique de Lille in France.

The JSSL program, under the Office of Community Engagement and Service-Learning (OCESL), will send students to ICU for an immersive service-learning project with local community partners in Tokyo, Japan, and Tenryu Village. 

Other participants of the program include students from ICU, Middlebury College from the USA, Union Christian College, and Lady Doak College from India.

The program will run from July 4 to 26.

Foreign Exchange Students program: On financial constraints and delays in academics

Rodora Sagun, head of the SSAD, advised students to consider a number of factors when they decide to apply for the Foreign Exchange Student program, such as financial capability.

“Even if the tuition cost [for the program] is waived and most of our partner institutions also provide dorms and food, there are still other expenses that the students really have to shoulder,” Sagun explained. “Especially things like processing [fees], airfare, and other day-to-day [expenses].”

Sagun pointed out, however, that there are existing grants and scholarships from foreign governments, organizations, and foundations that students can apply for.

“For Southeast Asia, you can actually apply for a subsidy from the student mobility scheme through the Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia (ACUCA), [and it is] now open for application,” Sagun said.

She added, “If you go to Japan, they also have the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) scholarship. [Three years ago,] they were giving around ¥80,000 monthly.”

Benrashdie Ngo, the first and only foreign exchange student from SU to Université Catholique de Lille so far, financed his participation in the program through a scholarship from the French government initially intended for master’s students.

Ngo emphasized the importance of resourcefulness and negotiation when applying for these scholarships.

“Trust me when I say that [this program] is not just for the rich or those with hefty pockets,” Ngo said. “You can always try and look for sponsors and foundations that can help sustain your education.”

Another factor students should consider regarding the Foreign Exchange Student program is their willingness to delay their academics since the subjects they take abroad may not always be credited, according to Sagun.

“The purpose of the exchange student is not academic in nature, it’s [for] cultural exposure,” Sagun explained. “So [there will be less] academics.”

Ngo also shared that the program can supplement a “holistic” and balanced college experience.

“It’s hardly ever encouraged to go beyond the four years [of college],” Ngo admitted. “But you never really get to know what university [education] is until you get a taste of being in two institutions at the same time.”

Allison Ladero, who was an exchange student at ICU, also believes that the Foreign Exchange Students program offers a chance for self-discovery.

“As life takes you to new heights and uncomfortable destinations, you become increasingly aware of how much is out there for you to experience,” Ladero explained. 

Ladero also warned interested applicants that the program may not be all “beauty and wonder,” but these bumps in the road make the experience all the more worth it.

To students interested in applying for the program, Sagun noted that limited slots are available for each partner institution.

Applicants will also be screened based on parameters such as their grades, familiarity with SU, leadership potential, and community involvement.

JSSL program: On community and service

The JSSL program, hosted by ICU, emphasizes service alongside intercultural exchange and academics by using the service-learning approach, according to Novee Maestrecampo, Jr., OCESL officer-in-charge.

“The pedagogy of service-learning is that students undergo structured learning activities with them providing service and at the same time reflecting on [what they learned],” Maestrecampo explained.

While this will be the first time since the pandemic began that the JSSL program will be held in person, Entrepreneurship student Ellen Gatanela was able to participate in an online version of the program in 2022.

“I had fun while learning the cultures of the different countries where my companions live,” Gatanela expressed. “[Among other things, we discussed] our everyday lives and the safe spaces of the children in our places, also known as ‘ibasho.’”

During in-person programs in the past, participants would visit elementary schools, welfare facilities, and facilities for the elderly in rural areas of Japan.

“It’s not only learning inside the four corners of the classroom, but bringing out what [participants have] learned and applying it to their day-to-day lives that they can possibly take with them in the future,” Gatanela added. 

With regards to expenses, the program fee will be free while accommodation and local transportation expenses will be covered by ICU.

Participants will still be expected to handle their own round-trip airfare, overseas travel insurance fee, visa, transportation, meals, and other personal expenses.

Maestrecampo suggested, however, that students apply for external grants and scholarships to finance their participation in the program if needed.

Gatanela further encouraged students to join the program now that it will be in face-to-face mode.

The JSSL program is open to SU undergraduate students. Applicants will undergo a selection process, where a maximum of two SU students will be chosen as participants for the program.

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