News > Risk Takers and Novelty: Demystifying the Barrier of International Co-op and Exchange

Risk Takers and Novelty: Demystifying the Barrier of International Co-op and Exchange

posted on July 14, 2015

link to article originally posted on Simon Fraser University site here.


By Justin Wong

Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business Co-op Coordinator Tanya Behrisch is hoping more Beedie undergraduates will take advantage of the benefits of participating in the international co-op and exchange programs.

While Beedie already has one of the highest rates of student engagement in these areas on campus, it has the potential to go much higher.

“Students who participate in international co-op or exchange programs become more adaptable and get hired sooner after graduation than those who don’t,” says Behrisch.

“The benefits of doing international co-op or exchange are well known. In spite of this, we’re not seeing the level of student engagement that we’d like to see. In addition to benefits, I wanted to look at the barriers preventing student uptake in this area.”

With a grant from the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE), she examined why some Beedie students participate in international programs while others don’t.

She found that while many Beedie students want to participate, a low tolerance for risk and perceived barriers hold them back.

She adds: “Some of these perceived barriers are real and some are not.”

The biggest appears to be is cost. Free bursaries for both international co-op and exchange are available to help pay the costs of going international, but many bursaries go unclaimed, such as a $4,000 bursary for an academic exchange in Finland.

She adds, “Students who do international co-op receive a salary.  This helps cover the expenses of going overseas, but cost is still the number one barrier preventing most students from doing international co-op.”

The second biggest perceived barrier is that Beedie students felt participating would mean staying in school longer.

“This is not necessarily true.  Students receive credit for the classes they take on exchange.  It’s not a wasted semester of courses which don’t transfer back.”

Her study also unearthed a new discovery about Beedie students who participate—a craving for unique experiences driven by their high-risk tolerance to try new things.

She hopes her findings around risk tolerance, students’ craving for novelty and their perceived barriers, whether real or imagined, will help shift how the school reaches out to students, with the ultimate goal of increasing Beedie students’ engagement in international co-op and exchange.