FIRST STEPS IN STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAMS: EXAMPLES FROM THE KAZAKH MEDICAL UNIVERSITY
Until recently, Kazakhstan was not integrated into the international educational space. However, today target indicators of academic mobility state that by 2020, 20% of Kazakhstan students will be trained in foreign universities. At the Kazakh National Medical University (KazNMU), the exchange programs for students were launched two years ago at the Faculty of General medicine where participating students received an opportunity to take a course of hospital management at the University of Barcelona, Spain.
To understand how the program helped students we organised two focus groups with 10 students of the fifth year of education before and after their participation in the exchange program. Participants of the focus group were asked to reply to several questions about the goal of the program, their expectations, potential benefits of the program for the participants and the university.
All participants mentioned that they applied to the exchange program to learn more about the system of education in a foreign country, and to improve their knowledge of English. Majority mentioned that their expectations from the participation in the program were fulfilled. Students stated that participation in the program helped to develop their self-esteem, to reconsider their view of their studies at the university level, and to understand importance of independence and creativity in learning process. All participants stressed that exchange programs benefit the KazNMU, since they contribute to the university's competitiveness in Kazakhstan, and its recognition abroad. Moreover, the university invests in the development of the human capital that might bring long-term benefits in the future. All students had difficulties in answering to the question about their own contribution to the exchange program. Only three participants mentioned that they tried to raise awareness among their classmates about exchange programs.