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April 17, 2012 4:26 PM

Conestoga welcomes first exchange student from the Netherlands

History was made at Conestoga last month, when the college welcomed its first-ever exchange student from Hanze University in the Netherlands.

Hanna Niebuur, a third-year International Facility Management student, arrived in Kitchener at the end of March and will study at the South campus during the summer semester, from May until the end of August.

Conestoga, which has exchange partnerships with several international schools, has been working with Hanze University since March 2011. The exchange opportunity is available to third and fourth year students in the college’s Architecture - Project & Facility Management program in either 10- or 20-week terms.

While Conestoga has sent nine of its students to the Groningen-based university since that time, including one who is currently there completing a co-op term, Niebuur has the honour of being the first to make the trip west.

The 21-year-old, who is considering pursuing her Master’s degree in Human Resources Management after she graduates, said she is looking forward to start studying in Canada.

“It’s very exciting,” said Niebuur, adding that traveling to Canada has been on her wish list since her family visited the country without her six years ago. “I always knew Canada was beautiful but I really had to experience it myself.”

Of her time at Conestoga so far, Niebuur said it has been better than she expected.

“The students I’ve met are very welcoming, and the faculty is really helpful and supportive.”

According to James Bechard, a professor in the APFT program, students who participate in exchange programs such as this one tend to benefit both academically and socially.

“Students gain friends and relationships that may last a lifetime,” he said. “They also experience Facility Management from a different perspective than our program. This adds breadth to their studies”.

“Also the culture experience is important,” Bechard added. “Facility Management has a substantial focus on people and people working together from different cultures, and studying at Hanze only increases this type of exposure.”

Niebuur, who said she is expecting Conestoga’s courses to focus more on the architectural aspect of her field than Hanze does, added that the international experience will also help her with her English skills and teach her to live independently.

“You’re really on your own and you’re far away from home, so you have to be independent and take care of yourself. I think you learn a lot from that.”

Conestoga’s APFM program is the only one in Canada, and one of only 17 in the world, accredited by the International Facility Management Association. The unique four-year degree program offers students strong foundations in architecture, construction, basic engineering and business, as well as a co-op work placement in their final year.

Three more Conestoga students are expected to leave for Hanze in the fall.

Story by Ryan Bowman, first-year student in Conestoga's Print-Journalism program.

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