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Magellan Exchange new study abroad opportunity

February 27, 2008

On Feb. 18, The International Programs office and the College of Business and Economics announced a new study abroad opportunity for students: the Magellan Exchange.

  Founded in 1996 by Marvin Swanson, the Magellan Exchange is a coalition of 23 universities that provide a variety of international exchange programs with the mission of providing “an affordable, educational and cultural experience in a foreign country.”

  With its inclusion, UW-River Falls joins the ranks of prestigious institutions in 10 countries spanning the U.S., Europe and Mexico.

  “We’re very excited to have [UWRF] aboard,” Tori Patterson, the Magellan Exchange’s vice president, said. “We think their programs will be a great addition to our organization.”

  Barb Nemecek, dean of the College of Business and Economics, began talks with the Magellan Exchange nearly one year ago with the original intention of creating programs primarily for students in the CBE. Eventually, the ideas expanded to a much broader range of majors and disciplines, Brent Greene, Global Connections director at the International Programs office, said.

  Greene said the Magellan program differs from traditional exchange programs that require a one-to-one student transfer ratio between universities.

  “All we have to do is plug a student into the system, and they can go to any one of these institutions,” Greene said.  “We’re hoping this process is going to be a lot less labor intensive for the student and for us.”

  Greene said the flexibility of the program will be a big pull factor not only for students studying abroad, but foreign students hoping to study in the United States.

  “One of the biggest issues we’re seeing is greater interest in U.S. students going to Europe, rather that the other way around,” Green said. “The internship component compels a larger flow of European students to come to the United States.”

  Participation in the Magellan program is a positive step for the university because its internships also promote undergraduate research along with developing the repertoire of international programs, two main proponents of Chancellor Don Betz’s “Living the Promise 2007-2012” strategic planning initiative, Green said.

  According to Greene, 30-40 percent of UWRF students study abroad at some point during their academic career. A large majority choose the shorter study tours during J-Term or spring break over the commitment of a full semester overseas. The goal of the University is to expand this participation to 50 percent within seven years, he said.

  Along with concerns about culture shock and language barriers, Greene said the largest reason students hesitate to study abroad is the cost, which can be substantial for students paying tuition at other universities. With exchange programs like Magellan, however, students pay tuition through their home university, no matter where they study, which can greatly reduce costs.

  “This is going to be a very inexpensive way to study abroad,” Greene said.

  For students interested in a study abroad experience, Greene recommended they speak with their advisor, who can help them choose the options that most suit their interests. From there, students should visit the International Programs office at 102 Hagestad Hall. Even if students are uncertain about their plans, they should at least consider the benefits of a study abroad experience, Greene said.

  “You don’t have to be sure about anything,” he said. “Just start making plans to go somewhere, sometime.”