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Bemidji State inks Swiss exchange agreement

University officials from Bemidji and Lucerne, Switzerland, convened at Bemidji State University to sign a student- and faculty-exchange agreement Tuesday for both institutions. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – We view the world through our own glasses, Swiss professor Gustav Arnold said Tuesday as he signed an exchange agreement with Bemidji State University.

“As a Swiss person, I’m wearing my Swiss glasses and seeing the world through my Swiss glasses...

“I think it’s nice to exchange glasses and see, how does my world kind of differ when I start wearing (different) glasses.”

Arnold, a professor of professional scientific English at the University of Lucerne in Switzerland, was in Bemidji to ceremoniously sign an agreement with Bemidji State University President Richard Hanson, opening up foreign-exchange opportunities for students and faculty between the two universities.

BSU’s agreement with Lucerne is one of 12 that have been signed or will be signed by BSU as the university aims to provide 120 low-cost study-abroad opportunities for its students.

Martin Tadlock, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the goal is to offer semester-abroad opportunities to BSU students that would cost no more than $1,000 more a semester than if they stayed and studied in Bemidji.

Forty-five such opportunities will be available next fall, including Lucerne, and BSU will reach its goal by next spring, Tadlock said.

Such exchange opportunities will include China, Malaysia, Korea, Comoros Islands, Brazil, Argentina, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.

“This literally opens the door and the window … for our students and faculty to reach out to the world,” Hanson said.

Andra Sander, who oversees Lucerne’s student- and teacher-exchange opportunities, said the University of Lucerne has about 40 such agreements in place, most of which are with European universities.

“Now we would like to extend our partnerships around the world,” she said.

Arnold, who has a doctorate in English from the University of North Dakota, said he visited Bemidji last summer as he met up with Janet Moen, a BSU sociology professor who also was an adviser on his dissertation committee.

“I was welcomed by the drumming of Native Americans,” he recalled. “It’s really moving. This is what makes it very unique, that we have the opportunity to actually be in a place surrounded by Native Americans.”

BSU’s connection with American Indian history and education is a definite strength, Arnold said.

“In Switzerland, many students are very interested in Native American studies and in intercultural diversity,” he said. “So one of our strong points in our education is intercultural confidence, to navigate in different cultures. Not only in mastering the language, or trying to master the language, but also the codes of behavior.”