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Ohio State has also made the program quite affordable. Regular tuition at Ohio State rates covers the cost of the program, including their dorm room in Ottawa. The only additional expense is a $100 application fee and the cost of getting to and from Ottawa. Presumably, the students would eat no matter where they were [although the collapse of the U.S. dollar against the Canadian dollar is not doing the students any favors at the moment].
Ohio State students generally get hooked on Canadian politics, which are, indeed, very interesting. They demonstrate this fascination in a variety of ways. A number of the previous interns take the Congress course I teach after they return. In the discussions in that course they will often make comparative points about Congress, citing the Canadian Parliament. [A number of students who go to Ottawa take the Congress course first and in the later classes on Canada make comparative points drawing on their knowledge of Congress.] This instinct to compare institutions furthers the students’ understanding of both of them, giving tangible support to the classic case for studying any political phenomenon comparatively.
Some of the students follow Canadian politics closely after returning. For example, the most recent federal election in Canada was held in January 2006. I was at my computer at home watching returns on the internet from a variety of Canadian sources. About midnight two of the students who had been to Ottawa the previous May/June began e-mailing me with their observations on the unfolding results and I e-mailed them back with my own observations. We continued this three-way round robin exchange until about 2:30 in the morning, when the returns were basically complete. They, of course, were particularly interested in how their “own” MPs had done, but they also were quite insightful in commenting on the overall trend and meaning of the election. [And it was a significant election, replacing a minority Liberal government with a minority Conservative government.]
Another student, who was in the program in the spring of 2006, continues to have e-mail exchanges with me after significant events in the life of the House of Commons and the government. She comments very intelligently on matters such as new governmental budgets, Speeches from the Throne outlining the government’s priorities, and various votes of confidence, any one of which could oust the government and cause an election.
One student was so enamored of life on Parliament Hill that he successfully sought full-time paid employment as a staff member for an MP. He was successful and after graduating in summer quarter following his internship in Ottawa he returned there to take up his new job. He has since moved to work for another MP. Naturally, not all of the students get as immersed and excited as the examples just given. But, whether they always know it or not, they have had an intellectual experience that broadens their horizons in studying the political system of the United States or any other country. They can always use their Canadian experience to make comparative points. And, of course, interacting with students from 12 to 15 other colleges and universities during the internship itself has enormous value as the students, with different perspectives and experience, learn a great deal from each other.
There are also practical values to this internship. The Ohio State students, of course, get to know the students from other universities and colleges who are participating in the program and I am sure they form some good friendships. They also make some Canadian friends. They are invited to use their MP as a reference for graduate school, law school, other internships, or jobs. And they get to see a bit of our northern neighbor, a country similar enough to the United States so as not to leave them lost, but different enough on a number of dimensions to be intriguing and stimulating.
DO’S AND DON’T’S
This program brings to mind some more general do’s and don’ts for internship programs overseas [or even over the Great Lakes, as in this case].
Do: --publicize the program widely, repeatedly, and to a number of audiences on campus.
--make sure the publicity contains not just the academic details of the program but also more practical aspects such as cost.
--prepare students carefully for the specific internship to which they are going.
--screen students carefully. A few, for a variety of reasons, would really not be good interns.
--be sure the assignments to supervisors/agencies in the host country are made with great care.
--give appropriate academic credit.
Don’t: --ignore any of the above items on the “do” list.
--waive any part of the preparation requirements on the home campus.
--send students to a program in another country where they are not accompanied by a U.S. academic who is with them for routine matters,
for emergencies of various kinds, and for helping put their experiences in context at the time they are having the experiences.
--give more academic credit than the program is genuinely worth.
I have been involved in a number of ways with a variety of internships in the United States [in Congress, in other Washington agencies and lobbies, and in
their analogs at the state and local level in Ohio/Columbus]. Those internships are extremely valuable. But I think the extra comparative dimension of an
internship in another country brings additional opportunities for stretching the mind and making comparative observations that simply cannot be offered by
internships in the United States. I would also argue that the comparative value of the internship is enhanced if the site of the intership is in a country that is,
by definition, different from the United States but not so different as to be somewhat incomprehensible. Canada fits this description very well and is an
excellent internship site that should not be overlooked.