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Asia-Pacific Report: B.C. builds on its network of students in Asia

February 9, 2016

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

As B.C. increasingly focuses on international education exchanges in Asia, efforts are being made to connect Canadian students overseas in order to strengthen economic and cultural relationships and to foster future ties.

The most recent of these efforts took place late last month, when the B.C. Studies in China Network (BCSCAN) held a gathering with provincial officials and Chinese representatives at the consulate in Vancouver. The event drew several dozen students who have studied in China, as well as officials from government, educational institutions and businesses.

Randall Martin, the executive director of the B.C. Council for International Education, hosted the event. He noted that the concept of an alumni network makes sense for the province as it looks to globalize its economic and cultural links, and capitalizing on the relationships that are being created with increased educational exchanges.

“I firmly believe that we are doing our students a disservice if we do not give them the opportunity to learn firsthand about Asia,” Martin said, noting the 120-member alumni network will play a key role in bringing B.C. students with experience in China together with businesses looking to the Asia-Pacific market.

“BCSCAN is one aspect. It creates opportunities for our students to network with people with similar experiences, and also to engage with the business community,” he added. “If I have a business that wants to do business in Asia, what better employees would I have than students who have studied there?”

With international education an increasingly profitable industry, Asian governments have been enthusiastically promoting exchanges for local students to go abroad.

China, for example, offers an annual Government Scholarship Program, and many BCSCAN members are past recipients. Japan has an extensive initiative in place — the MEXT Scholarships, formerly known as the Monbusho Scholarship — where B.C. students can apply to study in East Asia. Japanese officials say Vancouver’s MEXT alumni also meet from time to time in the Lower Mainland.

In addition, Canadian students and recently graduated adults have the International Experience Canada program (more commonly known as Working Holiday agreements) where young people can travel and work in several countries. In Asia, B.C. students can take advantage of such stays (usually up to 6-12 months, while being eligible to work) if they are going to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan.

These countries have been pushing for Canadian students in recent years, and have also held alumni gatherings in B.C.

BCSCAN is currently the largest networking organization. Organizers say two formal gatherings are planned each year, one in the summer to act as an “anchor event” and as a send-off for new scholarship recipients to China, as well as a chance for students to meet others who have gone before them. The other event is in the winter, where returning students can gather to share their experiences.

For former senior Canadian diplomat Joseph Caron, who represented Ottawa as ambassador or high commissioner to China, Japan and India during his four-decade career, told the BCSCAN gathering that educational exchanges are highly valuable to any bilateral relationship.

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