July 10, 2018 — Students from Middlesex Community College (MxCC) spent 10 days learning in France thanks to a grant from the French Embassy in the U.S. known as the Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative—Partnerships for Innovation and Collaboration on Study Abroad Grants Program (PICSA). The grant, awarded to Tunxis Community College as the lead institution for Connecticut CLICKs: The CT Community Colleges’ International Education Initiative, contributed to the funding for eight students and three faculty members from Middlesex, Asnuntuck, and Tunxis community colleges to participate in educational and cultural activities with several French partner campuses. The group traveled to France from May 23 to June 1, 2018.
During the trip, called Explorers Experience, the Connecticut contingent learned about French academics, STEM, and student life while interacting with students and teachers in labs and classrooms. They visited Campus CESI Ile de France near Paris, a leader in technology-based, work-study programs for higher education in France, in addition to three Instituts universitaires de technologie (IUTs), the French counterparts to U.S. community colleges: IUT-Lannion, IUT-Rennes, and IUT-Montreuil (Paris).
MxCC French language student Sarah Rowe of Middle Haddam, Conn., was impressed with how well the French students could speak English. ““We met with French students and professors and talked about the differences between the U.S. and France,” she said. “A highlight of the trip was hearing the French language being spoken and learning the culture in person.” Rowe put her language skills to use when their French hosts sent the American students on a treasure hunt around the area, allowing them to only speak French.
To apply for the trip, students submitted essays on the personal, college, or career value they expected from the opportunity. The MxCC Foundation also contributed funding toward travel expenses.
In addition to France under the PICSA grant, the wider CT CLICKs initiative has been partnering with Mexico.
Last fall, MxCC Modern Languages professor Angelo Glaviano, who also traveled with the group to France, collaborated with a Universidad La Salle (Mexico City) faculty partner to incorporate a CT CLICKs module called Expression Through Digital Media into their respective classes. His Spanish 101 students used Facebook and virtual applications to meet online with their Mexican counterparts. Professor Glaviano, amazed at the cooperation and interest the students exhibited, described them as well-educated, punctual, and respectful. “Today, young people see the positive, not the negative like adults sometimes do,” he said, referring to his view of the current relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. Professor Glaviano will again bring the international experience to MxCC students during the 2018–19 academic year, teaching one or more CLICKs modules.
CLICKs’ work to establish partnerships with additional countries is ongoing.
“In the next academic year, with a second PISCA grant the initiative was just awarded, we plan to develop and run 10 CLICKs projects, enabling roughly 100 Connecticut Community Colleges’ students—plus 100 French students—to work together virtually, and for 20 of our students to travel to their partner campus in France for study and cross-cultural experiences,” explained Leigh Knopf, director of institutional development at Tunxis, who oversees the PICSA grant for CT CLICKs. Lead for this second PICSA year will be CT College of Technology (COT). An initiative participant, COT is a pathway program providing seamless articulation in STEM fields between the CT CCs and multiple four-year partner universities. Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch is COT’s state director, a Tunxis professor, and member of the CLICKs Leadership Team.
About PICSA: In May 2014, the U.S. Department of State and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs started their support towards Franco-American student mobility through the Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative. This joint declaration aims at strengthening the historic ties between the United States and France by diversifying and doubling the number of students from France and the United States studying abroad in both countries by 2025. Together with APLU and NAFSA, the French Embassy in the United States has a yearly call for proposals which funds colleges and universities that will maximize the institutional commitment to the initiative.
Since 1966, Middlesex Community College has provided high-quality, affordable, and accessible education to a diverse population, enhancing the strengths of individuals through degree, certificate, and lifelong learning programs that lead to university transfer, employment, and an enriched awareness of our shared responsibilities as global citizens. A part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, MxCC offers more than 65 degree or certificate programs at the main 38-acre campus in Middletown, MxCC@Platt in Meriden, and online.