Center for International Education cancels Caen

When junior John Martell heard about the cancellation of the Caen, France program through the Center for International Education, he said he was surprised.

“I didn’t really see any problems or reasons to cancel the program when I was at Caen,” he said. “Overall, it was great. I enjoyed the program and university 100 percent.”

However, Director of the Center for International Education Karl Markgraf cited several instances when students from UW-Eau Claire encountered difficulties while studying in Caen.

The university provided Eau Claire with the wrong dates for arrival, Markgraf said, so students arrived 13 days prior to the opening of the spring semester. Not allowed to move into the university forced the student to hunt for places to live, he said.

“To manage a program as big as we have, we have to pay attention to details,” he said. “As a result, we had to cancel our exchange program (with Caen University in Normandy, France) because of miscommunication and lack of organization.”

Caen also did not conduct a mandatory orientation to explain medical benefits and insurance costs, and when three students had non-emergency medical problems, they did not know how to get access, Markgraf said.

“The students went to the international office and were not assisted,” he said. “It was like if a student studying at Eau Claire was sick and the medical assistants said they were going on a two-day coffee break.
That is not an adequate response.”

Markgraf said the reaction from Eau Claire’s international counterparts at Caen was a real let down because they blew off all concerns that seemed pretty serious to the students.

“When the students first arrived, nothing was going right and we were hearing from many of them,” he said. “They were pretty upset because the people there were not very responsive to the students or directors.

We … want the students to have an excellent experience and when something like this happens, it becomes a serious problem.”

With 450 students enrolled, the UW-Eau Claire study abroad program is 10th in the nation for Masters universities, Markgraf said.

To combat this problem, Markgraf laid out the issue to the French Department and discussed options for future exchanges at different universities in France.

The group looked at 10 different options for students studying abroad in the spring 2007 semester and ended up with recommendations to Pau University in France and Sherbrook in Quebec, Canada. Markgraf said these two universities were the least expensive and still able to offer the best variety of courses for students.

“We had a meeting with the 22 students that applied for spring 2007 and walked through the options they had for studying abroad,” he said. “We explained the reasons we cancelled and how we would handle their applications.”

As for the students currently in Caen, Markgraf said they are doing fine and enjoying France.

“The bumps in the road from the beginning and middle of the trip have passed and they are having a great experience.”