CBO - Spring 2022

Summer Exchange and Engagement: Will 2022 be the year?

For many of us, 2020 and 2021 are years we’d sooner forget than look back on. The bright side of that, however, is that it is now 2022 and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The uncertainty of days ahead is much less stressful and planning for the future seems more realistic as opposed to an exercise in futility. 

For most Canadian high school students who are planning for their careers and exploring post-secondary options, the pandemic has certainly limited options. Cross border travel was at a standstill for much of 2020 – 2021, and even today has limitations and restrictions that make the access to international programs challenging.

But many of the colleges and universities were quick to respond to the need for virtual or online offerings and continue to evolve and expand the ability to access short-term exchange and pre-college or summer programs. 

In-person experiences will likely remain the first choice where available. Having the opportunity to enroll in a US college program, live on the campus and experience the culture and environment of a campus that could be your new home is at the top of the list for many. For too long, many of these courses were moved to an online format. Despite the resurgence of Omicron which seemed to suggest this might be the case through 2022, more and more colleges are welcoming students from around the world back to in-person learning, or at least offering a hybrid model for consideration. 

Short-Term Exchange

There are several different options for Canadians who are looking to take advantage of short-term exchange as way of familiarizing themselves with a college or a destination. 

Some programs will work with you to find you suitable accommodations – your home away from home. This may include placement within a host family which will offer the foundation for the experience. These families will always have been thoroughly screened, interviewed and evaluated before they’re approved. An integral part of the process is matching applicants with suitable and compatible hosts who may share similar interests and family dynamic for a smoother, and quicker transition and adaptation. The individual will reside within the home and become part of “the family”. This path will provide the student with an immersed cultural experience enabling them to thrive in their destination of choice while in a real-life setting.

Another option programs may provide is residing in dorms. This is a terrific alternative for the more independent individual who is motivated to explore and meet locals and mingle with fellow-minded travellers. These such programs are very closely monitored and are arranged directly through the college or through a program service organizer. 

As always, the need for all applications to be submitted with accompanying documentation in advance of the enrollment deadline will be mandatory; living through a pandemic may continue to present challenges and students must be sure they’re aware of, and in possession of all requirements. Students may also be asked to share grade, averages to ensure the program they’re applying to will provide them with the appropriate balance that combines an academic and cultural experience best suited to them. 

The Youth Ambassador Program1 with Canada for example, is a leadership exchange program for Canadian youth ages 15 – 18. This program provides full scholarships for 13 students and two adult educators from Canada to take part in an eight-week program, exploring civic education, digital leadership and community service. This is all executed through an in-person exchange. 

According to the Fulbright Canada website, 2022 exchanges will take place during the summer with exact varying dates. At this point, program formats are subject to change and activities may take place as an exchange to the United States, a Canadian domestic program or a 6-week virtual exchange – all dependent of course, on the public health guidelines. 

Fulbright Canada says this program is “designed to support energetic applicants who are ready to develop their skills in order to be effective leaders in their schools and communities.” There are eligibility criteria which includes:

  • Canadian citizen
  • Between 15 – 18 years of age at the start of the exchange, with a minimum of 4 months of high school [or CEGEP] remaining before graduation
  • Demonstrated leadership potential and community involvement
  • Willing to complete a Community-Based Service Initiative in their Canadian community after the exchange
  • Virtual program alumni from 2020 and 2021 cohorts may reapply if they have successfully completed the program and their community project (and still meet the requirements above)

Pre-College Summer Programs

A pre-college program will offer high-school students the opportunity to take classes at a college and experience college life during the program. They are offered by colleges and universities across the United States for Canadian high school students; the benefit to prepare the student for the transition to an international, post-secondary education. The programs will often feature college-level courses; some will be online while others will give the chance the experience college life, living on campus. Pre-college programs will typically run for several weeks over the summer and are a great addition to enhance one’s academic resume. 

These programs are best tailored to high-achieving, academically motivated individuals who are looking to challenge themselves by exploring a rigorous schedule. This allows them to explore a college fit, academic majors and careers before making a formal decision. For many students, the primary aspect of enrolling in a summer, on-campus program is that it allows them to – likely for the first time – experience independent living, away from their homes and family. It enables them to develop the maturity one may acquire through adjustment and through learning with peers in a shared space with one or more dormmates. Summer programs can be costly, however, so it is important that the student is serious and committed to using the time and the experience for future academic evaluation. 

Many such programs offer a similar curriculum as in undergraduate courses but are condensed into a shorter, more intense timeline. The courses also allow individuals to learn about themselves while learning; finding the areas of study that they excel in or may find their more passionate about. It gives them the chance to test the waters in new areas with the shorter commitment that they may otherwise not consider for a full semester. 

Some programs will have open enrollment which allows anyone to attend. There are others, however, that will require admission through a formal application process. This will include SAT’s, letters of recommendation and application essays. 

Whether your student thrives in the sciences, has a knack for business and entrepreneurship or is a natural in the public limelight, there’s a program to fit all sizes. It’s been a long two years and many have struggled. It may be a little longer but looking ahead to the future is something we need to continue to pursue and prioritize. Explore the options, find the resources and ignite the student to propel them to the future. 

Be positive and encouraging. The world’s opening so let’s not leave anyone behind! 

1 https://www.fulbright.ca/programs/youth/youth-ambassadors

By: Lindsay Taylor