Marist Welcomes Exchange Program with British University

School of Science Students can Study Abroad at the University of Kent

Undergraduate students at Marist’s School of Science now have the opportunity to study abroad. Through the University of Kent, a public university located in Canterbury, England, students can take not only a wide range of Biology courses but also other specialized science and research classes, including virology and bioinformatics. 

While Marist students will receive the opportunity to spend a semester studying in the United Kingdom, undergraduates at the University of Kent will be welcomed at Marist in exchange. This is the first exchange program specifically focused on School of Science students at Marist and because of the exchange aspect, it differs from the other international programs that Marist offers. It is estimated that on average, two Marist students will spend a semester in Canterbury for each University of Kent student who comes to Marist for a year. “Studying abroad for a semester is typically difficult for science majors,” Dr. Neil Fitzgerald, Assistant Dean of the School of Science and alumnus of the University of Kent, explained.

In order for science students to accomplish international studies while still graduating on time, they must discuss the possibility with their advisors early in their college careers so that courses can be arranged accordingly in order to “bank the core,” as Fitzgerald states. “In other words, they take more science courses each semester while at Marist so that they can take just core classes while abroad,” he said. “The problem is that few abroad science courses count as equivalent to Marist courses and the curricula for science degrees tend to be very structured.” Now, with the exchange program with the University of Kent, science students can still study abroad if they decide later in their college careers. Many biology courses at the University of Kent have been pre-approved by Marist’s Biology department so that they can count toward students’ major course requirements.

As a school very large in comparison to Marist with approximately 19,000 undergraduates, the University of Kent is able to offer more courses, especially more specialized courses. Fitzgerald explained the kinds of classes that will be available to Marist students. As long as the assessment is available in the chosen semester, all undergraduate courses are available to the students. Typically, English universities assess both fall and spring courses at the end of the spring semester, which can make fall courses problematic for American students. To overcome this issue, many fall courses offer an alternative assessment.

With the large size and active research opportunities and graduate programs in the sciences, the University of Kent has a different feel from Marist and offers its students the possibility to take courses from professors who are well-known researchers in their fields. Fitzgerald raved about the city of Canterbury itself, stating, “Canterbury is a beautiful ancient walled city dominated by Canterbury Cathedral and well-situated for easy travel across Europe. It is possible to get to London in an hour and Paris in two hours by train.” With its proximity to major European cities, the exchange program offers both academic and cultural opportunities.

Fitzgerald studied at the University of Kent from 1991 to 1993, completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with Environmental Science. He describes the quality of the education at the school as “excellent,” enjoying his time there. “I don’t think I really appreciated the history of the city when I was there but I did like the location and the student-oriented feel of the campus and the city.”

Fitzgerald hopes that this new program will provide an option for students who have previously expressed an interest in an international science program. He wants to see more options for science students, as many decide too late in their college careers to go abroad. In the meantime, Marist’s campus in Florence, Italy, has begun offering chemistry and biology courses for science students that have already finished their core classes.

The hope is that international programs will continue evolving for all majors at Marist, as studying abroad grows more popular each semester. According to Marist’s International Programs, more than 500 undergraduate students at the Poughkeepsie campus study abroad each year. Only a small percentage of them are from the School of Science, until now.

“Marist’s School of Science has been steadily increasing abroad opportunities for our students and welcomes this new agreement with the University of Kent at Canterbury,” Dr. James DuMond, Dean of the School of Science, said. “We expect the achievements of our students to only grow from these types of experiences.” 

Written by Adriana Belmonte '17

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