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Frostburg State Students Now Can Study Abroad in Québec
01/24/2017

Frostburg State Students Now Can Study Abroad in Québec
Jessica Johnson-Clay, left, and Eden Biggs shared their experience in Quebec with posts like this through Frostburg State University’s Snapchat and Instagram accounts.

Two Students Given Opportunity to Scout New Program for Others

A new study abroad and exchange partnership with two Québec universities will allow Frostburg State University students practice French in a more accessible environment.

Students Eden Biggs of Cumberland and Jessica Johnson-Clay of Cockeysville said au revoir to FSU for a five days and bonjour to Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Québec, and Université de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Québec. They were there to learn about the institutions to allow them to encourage other FSU students to study in what’s affectionately known as Canada’s La Belle Province.

The partnerships came about through FSU’s recent membership in the National Student Exchange program, which is a network of universities in the U.S., Canada, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The two Québec universities are part of NSE.

Biggs was a study abroad veteran, having spent her sophomore year in Marseilles, France. She was surprised to find an even more French flavor to the Canadian community.

“Where I was living in France, if you went into a little store or boutique, everyone knows you’re American. They’re almost excited to try to speak English, and if your French isn’t that great, they would work with you,” Biggs said. “… In Sherbrooke, it really is only French speaking.”

This was Johnson-Clay’s first trip outside of the U.S., so she shared the first-timer’s point of view.

“Hearing French on a continuous basis was a new experience,” Johnson-Clay said. At the same time, this southern part of Québec just an hour from Vermont felt like America in many regards.

“If this opportunity had been available for me to study abroad, I would have done it,” Biggs said. “I think I would have gotten a very similar experience and French language education and wouldn’t have had the commitment of going 3,500 miles away.”

This new partnership is great for first-generation college students, giving them a taste of studying abroad before going overseas, said Dr. Richard Russo, coordinator of FSU’s International Studies program. From Baltimore, Sherbooke and Lennoxville are about 10 hours away by car and in the same time zone.

Each university provides a unique experience for students wanting to practice French, even with the Canadian differences in the language. The program is ideal for international studies majors at FSU, as the major requires foreign language courses, Russo said.

“Sherbrooke is French-language in terms of instruction, but they have a separate French-as-a-second language immersion program that people will come to from all over Canada and all over the world,” Russo said about the university, which has more than 40,000 students.

While Biggs is happy she went to Marseilles, she would have opted to travel to Québec because she felt she had a chance to improve on her French skills more in Sherbrooke.  

Fluency is not a requirement for the exchange, as these institutions are best to help advance French-speaking and -writing skills in the classroom.

While touring Sherbooke, the students had the chance to sit in on classes, including History of Québec, Advanced Oral Communications and Beginning French Communications, all conducted entirely in French, to get a vibe for how a typical course is conducted. They even participated in some exercises.

Classes have intensive instruction and are worthwhile, Biggs said, especially the Advanced Oral Communication class.

“We were changing verb tenses but we were using verb tenses I haven’t used in a long time like plus-que-parfait (past perfect),” she said.

Bishop’s has a Sherbrooke address but is actually in a small town called Lennoxville where half of the residents speak French and half speak English. The college is just as small, with 2,738 undergraduate students and is highly competitive for international students.

This program would be good “if a student wanted to take most of their courses in English but be in a French community,” Russo said. “You could step off campus and then you could practice your French. And you could take French classes there.”

Through NSE, FSU pay FSU tuition and the room and board for the visiting institution. The heavily subsidized education system in Québec means FSU students may save greatly on room and board rates. Some scholarships are also available for students to study abroad.

Since their return to campus, Biggs and Johnson-Clay have spoken to classes to help recruit students and will be at the spring Study Abroad Fair at FSU for additional recruitment.

They also provided that perspective in real time, taking over FSU’s Snapchat (@FrostburgState) and Instagram (@FrostburgStateUniversity) accounts during their November trip.

FSU students interested in studying abroad in Quebec or other NSE institutions in the 2017-2018 academic year must complete paperwork before Feb. 15, 2017.

The trip highlighting hands-on education was made possible through an FSU Opportunity Grant, made possible by the FSU Foundation’s Annual Fund. To support the Annual Fund, visit www.frostburg.edu/foundation/ways-to-give/annual-fund or call 301-687-4751.

Students interested in participating should contact either FSU’s NSE coordinator Amy Shimko, director of Student Development at 301-687-3132 or alshimko@frostburg.edu, or Dr. Richard Russo at rarusso@frostburg.edu for more information.

-end-

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