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BSU inks study agreement with Comoros

BEMIDJI – University students here will soon have the chance to study abroad in the Comoros Islands.

Bemidji State University announced Monday that it and the University of the Comoros, a publicly owned institution in the Comoros Islands, have signed a memorandum of understanding setting the groundwork for faculty and student exchanges between the institutions.

The memorandum, announced in a news release, allows for faculty exchanges to begin immediately and sets the foundation to allow BSU students to pursue semester-long study-abroad opportunities in the Comoros beginning spring 2014.

Martin Tadlock, BSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, noted in the release that details still must be worked out on the student exchanges.

The agreement came during a conference of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities following a meeting between Tadlock; Patricia L. Rogers, dean of BSU’s College of Health Science and Human Ecology; and the director of the association’s international program, which helps facilitate links between American institutions and overseas universities, according to the release.

The University of the Comoros, founded in 2003, had been invited to present about its efforts to seek partnerships with schools. Tadlock and Rogers were introduced to the delegation and the agreement was quickly completed.

“We talked with their president and set up a meeting to talk with them and learn more about them,” Tadlock said. “We wanted to share with them the kinds of agreements we were setting up and the things we’re trying to do here and asked if that would work for them.

“The next morning they said, ‘Yes, we’d love to do it,’ and we signed the agreement with them at the conference.”

The Union of the Comoros is a sovereign archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel approximately 200 miles off the eastern coast of Africa. Other countries nearby are Tanzania to the northwest and the Seychelles to the northeast. Its capital is Moroni, on Grande Comore.

At 719 square miles, excluding the contested island of Mayotte, the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area and has an estimated population of around 800,000. The Union of the Comoros has three official languages – Comorian, Arabic and French – though French is the sole official language on Mayotte.

“Comoros is an interesting place, being French-speaking and about 90 percent Muslim,” Tadlock said. “This is a very unique opportunity. We didn’t want to just offer the traditional kind semester abroad. We want to give our students the most unique kinds of experiences we can.

“Comoros is a developing nation, but they are trying to develop their university and their education system quickly. They already have 8,000 students at the university. It’s a very unique situation.”

BSU has exchange agreements with four universities in China and one each in Malaysia, Iceland and Seoul, South Korea.

The agreement with The Comoros and an agreement to be announced in the near future will bring BSU’s number of international partners to nine. These agreements allow Bemidji State students to spend a semester studying abroad at a low cost, less than $1,000 above the cost of studying full-time at BSU for a semester.

“Ideally we would like to have 12 locations with 10 slots each,” Tadlock said. “That would get us to our goal of having 120 opportunities each semester for our students to study abroad at an affordable cost.”

Tadlock indicated BSU should have signed agreements in place to reach that goal of 120 opportunities per semester by the end of this summer.