Surfing the waves of globalization, the University of Calgary hosted students from the University of Chile in Santiago on campus last week. Part of an exchange program run by the Faculty of Management, it was an exercise in social and cultural awareness, and above all, international business.
Developed four years ago as an agreement between Chilean and Canadian universities, the program is similar to the Mexican Consortia and reflects continued interest in promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"The program was designed to promote better understanding, cooperative research and [the] exchange of students," said Dr. Alan Cahoon, director and cofounder of the project. "The University of Santiago came with the most interest."
"It's a good program because you learn about Chilean culture and your own culture too," says Winnie Kan, a third-year management student who went on the most recent trip to Chile. "There are lots of things you don't realize until you explain it to someone else, or see someone else's reactions."
The students sent from Chile also benefit greatly from the exchange.
"The [University of Chile in Santiago] is a public university, and the students are from various socioeconomic backgrounds," noted
Cahoon. "The fact that most expenses are paid allows more
students a chance to do this. In many cases, the entire family pitches in in order for this one member of the faculty to go."
This is the first reciprocated trip of students from Chile, following two earlier trips, in May of 1998 and 1999, by U of C students. The program also offers studies in Argentina and Mexico. The two-week study abroad is preceded by a semester of classes in background history, content focus and establishing of contacts with Canadian-Chilean businesses.
"There was lots of commitment as it was basically independent study," said Kan. "We had to organize flights, hotel reservations, and business contacts. [Dr. Christian Gravert, of the University
of Santiago] made sure things were confirmed, but we had to
decide what we would see. With the reciprocal visit, we also arranged hotels, site visits and entertainment."
The program is highly competitive, with 24 students accepted out of 100 applicants.
"We are limited as to how many can go. We send 12 students and two professors each time," says Cahoon.
Emphasizing that it is a highly intensive class with plenty of
work involved, Dr. Cahoon also sees the international benefits for
"It's a new program in that it is focused, intensive and part of a class, but there is a greater appreciation of work and lifestyle," he said. "We wanted to offer students a greater international experience. We would like to go to Argentina or Brazil next, but that would be dependent on students' interest and the connections made with other businesses."