Why Community College Abroad in France Makes Sense
To our readers: More than 1 million U.S. students studied abroad in 2015-16, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Today, GoodCall® examines two overlooked study-abroad options. Earlier, we looked at studying abroad in Asia; now, the focus is on how community college abroad can make sense for some students.
Study abroad programs are a staple in four-year universities and colleges, and some companies even offer work abroad programs. But students at community colleges have typically been left out of these cultural opportunities. However, Community College Abroad in France offers American students at two-year schools a chance at studying overseas.
Bénédicte de Montlaur, cultural counselor of the French Embassy, tells GoodCall®, “The Community College Abroad in France program falls within the framework of our Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative, a project of the French Embassy, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the U.S. Department of State.” She says the program was launched in 2014 as a way to increase mobility among students in the two countries.
“The Community College Abroad in France program is quite unique in that it is specifically designed for community college students who are traditionally underrepresented in study abroad programs,” Montlaur says. “Although community college students represent half of the U.S. student population, only 1.8% of these students study abroad.” Montlaur explains that both costs and time constraints are contributing factors, so it was important for the program to be affordable, while providing a quality education.
“To do this, we have partnered with institutions such as the n+i Network, which unites the top 50 engineering schools in France, and in the U.S., we have established a partnership with the Community Colleges for International Development organization.
Community College Abroad in France includes a boot camp and a four-year degree option.
10-day boot camp
“We wanted the 10-day boot camp to be short – to allow students currently enrolled in a community college program to commit without missing school,” Montlaur explains. “This year, 17 students in engineering and environmental studies from all around the U.S. were selected based on their motivation and academic records.”
What does the boot camp entail? “It includes a series of professional and scientific visits to learn about air quality control (Ballon d’air de Paris), renewable energies, environmental management practices for water distribution (Usine d’Austerlitz), innovative urban transportation, and lighting management in Paris.”
In addition, students can engage in such cultural activities as a private tour of scientific innovation at the Versailles castle and also picnicking on the Seine river bank.
“The objective is to give students an overview of the city’s initiatives on sustainable development, while also shedding light on professional opportunities and introducing them to French culture and to engineering studies in France.”
Four-year degree granting program
There’s also an extended study abroad offering. “The Diplôme d’ingénieur program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity: an affordable, four-year, degree-granting program in France following the completion of a two-year degree in science or engineering at a U.S. community college,” Montlaur says.
“After completing an associate degree with honors, a hand-picked group of top-performing students are given the opportunity to complete a Diplôme d’ingénieur (equivalent to the U.S. Master of Engineering) at one of France’s 50 top engineering schools in the n+i Network.”
However, students must first successfully complete the pre-Diplôme d’ingénieur year. During this preparatory year, they will learn the French language and also learn new study methods.
“The program is designed to offer students professionalized training while enabling them to auto-finance their degree,” Montlaur says. “It also incorporates first-hand professional training through a paid three-year work-study program, and at the end of the four years, the successful students are granted the French Diplôme d’ingénieur with the added benefit of having lived and worked in France.”
For U.S. students interested in Community College Abroad in France, Montlaur says information on the next program will be available on its website in Fall 2017. “Also, we’re actively looking for partners and sponsors to launch next year’s edition, which we hope to be able to offer to many more students.”
One person applauding this type of program is Mark Farmer, director of higher education and public policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Farmer tells GoodCall®, “This is a great opportunity for American community college students, especially since almost half of college students are enrolled at community colleges, but less than 2% of the students who study abroad are from these schools.”
Farmer also applauds the two different options available to students. “The engineering and environmental sciences boot camp is designed to attract students who would otherwise be unable to participate in a longer-term summer or semester-long program, which is crucial for so-called nontraditional students who may have additional work or family obligations.” And, he says the new Diplôme d’ingénieur program allows community college transfer students to gain both international experience and an international engineering degree.
“Community college students are an important part of the U.S. higher education system and it is exciting that the French government is recognizing the value that they can bring to French higher education,” Farmer says. “In order to significantly increase the number of U.S. college graduates who are globally competent, there must be a greater emphasis on providing education abroad opportunities for nontraditional students and a recognition from international higher education institutions that there are quality schools and excellent students in U.S. community colleges.”