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Foreign exchange students flourish at Notre Dame

| Friday, November 7, 2014

As Notre Dame students scatter across the globe to study at foreign universities, many of those universities send their own students to Notre Dame.

According to the Notre Dame International (NDI) website, the University has student exchange partnerships with 12 colleges and universities in Europe and Asia. David Younger, associate director of NDI, said each university typically sends one to three students to Notre Dame per semester.

Younger said the exchange programs are similar to Notre Dame’s study abroad programs: students apply and are accepted through their home universities, though Notre Dame makes the final application decision. He said each exchange partner typically sends one to three students per semester.

Younger said the appeal of studying abroad at Notre Dame often stems both from the University’s academic reputation and its conventional college setting.

“[It’s] a traditional American college experience — going away to college, living on campus, having athletics programs that are by and large relatively successful, ways for students to engage with faculty, ways for students to engage with the community, things that really feed into a stereotypical university experience,” he said.

Exchange students can take any course for which they qualify, and with the exception of the University of East Anglia partnership (which is open only to English and American studies students)  students come to Notre Dame to study a variety of fields, Younger said.

“We’ll get students from Hong Kong in both chemistry and American studies or economics, really all over the place. Engineering, even,” Younger said. “We have students from all the different disciplines.”

Léa Michelin is a student at Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (commonly referred to as Sciences Po), where all students go abroad during their third year. Michelin said she chose Notre Dame after reading other students’ reviews of the University.

“What appealed to me was the familial experience, the fact that everyone seems to be so nice to each other,” Michelin said. “… I’m Catholic, so the fact that it was a Catholic school was kind of appealing too.”

Michelin, who is taking classes in political science, American studies and peace studies, said she appreciates that Notre Dame professors go out of their way to help students.

“It’s really different, the fact that teachers are really here to make us learn and make us love what we are doing,” she said. “I feel that they are not a distant person telling something and leaving. They’re really in the class trying to make us understand. They are much more present.”

Nadège Lejeune, a second-year Master’s student at Université Paris Diderot who is completing the final year of her English degree at Notre Dame, said classes at Notre Dame are smaller and more discussion-based than in France.

“Classes are very different,” she said. “At home you have a very large number of students, and you just sit down and write what the professor says. We write everything down and we don’t talk, whereas here, I’m in classes with seven people and the class is basically conversation. I was quite taken aback; it was quite difficult for me, but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s interesting to see the different ways of learning.”

Michelin said one of the biggest differences she found between Notre Dame and Sciences Po was the depth of relationships.

“It’s complex to have profound relationships and to be true friends with people,” she said. “It stays at the ‘what’s up’ stage. I call it the ‘what’s up relationship.’ . . . At first, when I heard ‘what’s up,’ my French reflex is to say, ‘Oh my God, I’m so tired, I have so many things to do’ — to actually talk about things that really matter. And they’re like, ‘oh yeah. Well, see you…’ Now I understand it’s another way to say hello.”

Despite this, Michelin said she liked how friendly people were both in academic in social settings.

“It’s quite difficult to make close friends here, but the fact is, it is really pleasant to be able to talk to everybody and never be disregarded for something,” she said.

Lejeune said she was considering applying to Notre Dame for her Ph.D. and studying abroad affected her career plans.

“It’s changed a lot of the things that I’ve been thinking over the past few years,” she said. “I didn’t want to teach, and now I’m considering it.”

Michelin said her time at Notre Dame helped her improve her English proficiency as well as her knowledge of other cultures.

“I will become much more open-minded to each person,” she said. “I will be able to speak with people really different from who I am much more easily. It’s easier now to speak to someone who is from another culture, another nationality.”

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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