1. What programs are popular at the University of the French West Indies and Guiana (UAG)?
Our university offers several popular study programs. I should point out that we have campuses in three different territories—Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana—and each one offers specific programs that attract a certain student body. For example, in Martinique the focus is on literary studies and various subjects related to Creole culture. Many students from the United States and northern Europe, and some from Canada, come to our university to study Creole culture.
In Martinique we also offer programs in political science, and those attract a lot of students because the region’s political profile is so interesting: it comprises independent states, associate states and overseas departments. From a political science standpoint, it’s a very dynamic environment, and so those programs are very popular. We also offer dual-focus economics programs, which offer a combination of economics and geography (particularly land use planning).
In Guadeloupe, the sciences are most popular, particularly marine biology. We are in a zone of extremely rich biodiversity, and physics and mathematics programs that address materials corrosion are popular because the territory is subject to fairly high humidity levels.
In French Guiana, the biggest draw is our university and technological institute, which provides training in the engineering sciences. It’s located right next to the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, where the Ariane space transportation system is based, and some of our courses are taught by engineers from the space centre.
2. What attracts Canadian students to study in the French West Indies?
Canadian students come to UAG for several reasons. First, and this is no secret, they come for the climate: the tropical setting is very different from their home environment. Second, UAG offers all the advantages of the French education system without the disadvantage of having to travel to France. As French departments and territories, we have exactly the same education system, but we’re a lot closer to Canada: France is about an eight-hour flight from Canada, whereas we are only about four hours away.
3. What are the distinguishing characteristics of French West Indian culture?
Our heritage combines elements of French or Francophone culture, English or Anglo-Saxon culture, and Hispanic culture. Indeed, Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana are geographically surrounded by those cultures: Martinique and Guadeloupe have a more Francophone and Hispanic feel, while French Guiana reflects Anglophone and Portuguese influences. It’s a unique feature of the culture of the French West Indies and French Guiana. And I mustn’t forget to mention the rich history of the region itself. The slave trade played a big part in our history, and shaped not only our collective memory but the land itself: over the centuries, our territory has been transformed by events linked to the cane–sugar–rum industry. These diverse elements make our culture not only unique but singularly attractive.
4. What distinguishes the university experience in the French West Indies?
You’ll find part of the answer in the response to the previous question, but there’s more to it than that. Within our territory, you can travel to several different destinations with just a short hop by air. The islands of the Antilles aren’t very far apart: a 30 minute flight will get you to Dominica, Grenada, St. Martin, St. Barthélémy (St. Barts) or St. Vincent. We are on the threshold of several different worlds. As well, UAG has close connections to several institutions and governments, including the University of the West Indies, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, and we’re trying to expand our international outreach at the regional (pan-Caribbean) level. UAG students benefit not only from the French university system, but from the opportunity to visit and learn about the surrounding islands.
5. Do international students have an opportunity to travel during the academic year? How do they balance their studies with cultural experiences and adventures?
There are many opportunities for affordable travel. Our International Relations Office coordinates programs that include study trips and other travel options. Besides organizing trips and tours, our student associations provide an opportunity for students to discover Caribbean culture—for example, through themed evenings on various aspects of Creole culture, from cuisine to social structure. So students can travel not only literally, but metaphorically and intellectually as well. This kind of “virtual travel” is a great way to make connections and open a window on the world.
There are also heritage tours. Recently, on our Martinique campus, the Université du Temps Libre, which offers courses for seniors, organized visits to various historic monuments for local and international students. They notably toured the national naval base at Fort St. Louis, the largest historic monument in St. Martin.
6. How do your study programs reflect the particular features of the French West Indies?
Aside from the core academic curriculum (mathematics, French, Spanish, etc.), which is set by the French Department of Higher Education and Research, we offer courses specifically linked to Creole culture. For example, our Regional Language and Culture stream explores various aspects of Creole culture—language, history, politics, etc. Our courses are directly connected to local issues and realities. For example, our geography department offers environmental courses that are particularly relevant in the Caribbean context, with subjects like seismology, volcanology and meteorology. And of course our marine biology students can go diving and snorkelling on various coral reefs. We strive to offer study programs that complement the core curriculum with courses that are relevant to the particular territorial and regional issues faced by all regions of the Caribbean.
7. Why would you recommend studying abroad at UAG?
Simply put, it’s an unforgettable experience in an exotic setting with a wonderful climate. Second, UAG provides all the rigour and discipline of a French university education, but in the French West Indies and Guiana. Finally, students can discover a world that is completely different from North America, and whose cultural diversity presents many advantages.
8. What distinguishes UAG from other universities (in the Caribbean and elsewhere)?
What makes UAG unique?
One of our strong points relative to other universities is that, though UAG is a single institution, it has campuses in three territories, which means it benefits from three different approaches. As well, even though we are based in the Caribbean, we offer all the advantages of a French university education. Our students graduate with an internationally recognized diploma that will get them into any European university: so, for example, they can study or teach in Germany, England or Italy. Our university’s credentials are on a level with those of European academic institutions.
We are also fortunate to enjoy, by comparison with the Caribbean island countries, a safe and secure environment. Our political situation is stable, and our health and safety standards are high. If a student should encounter health problems, he or she can receive excellent hospital care without having to leave the country. Our social, economic and political systems are stable and secure.
For more information, please visit: http://www.univ-ag.fr/