Students earn academic credit while participating in summer study tours
Travelling to foreign lands, especially to places where cultures and climates are different from those of the Okanagan, is seen by many as a great learning experience.
For students at UBC’s Okanagan campus, the Go Global program not only allows travel opportunities for students, it also allows them to earn academic credit while they are thousands of kilometers away from the university.
“International engagement is a strategic priority for UBC’s Okanagan campus and is considered an enriched educational opportunity for our students,” says Dana Lowton, coordinator of the Go Global program. “There are more than 150 partners around the world where students can elect to apply for a summer term, a semester, or a full year of study.”
Gaining in popularity are the group study program opportunities, which are condensed, faculty-led courses in international settings—last year there were four summer study tours where UBC faculty organized learning experiences for students, says Lowton. This past May and June, Assoc. Prof. Sandra Peacock, from Community, Culture and Global Studies in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, took 23 students for a six-week group study to Nguruma Village, just outside of Arusha, Tanzania.
“Go Global is a wonderful opportunity for students to put what they’ve learned in the classroom into practice in the field,” Peacock says. “You learn a lot by doing fieldwork—things you’ll never learn from reading a textbook. Getting out of the classroom and into the community helped me grow professionally and personally—and that’s what I wanted to share with our students. I wanted to give them a chance to experience what it’s like to be outside of their comfort zone.”
As part of their coursework in Community-Based Research, the students partnered with The Vijiji Foundation, a local non-profit, to help that organization better understand the challenges faced by farming families. The students learned about bio-intensive agriculture, helped build demonstration gardens at three primary schools, interviewed farmers, and produced a final report on their findings for the Vijiji Foundation.
“It was such an incredible experience,” says fourth-year anthropology student Amy Routledge. “Each day we took things in stride, because you never knew what to expect. Each day was different and an adventure in its own way.”
An equally important component of the students’ coursework was critical reflection on how their participation in a group study program might impact the local community in both positive and negative ways.
“We used a combination of pre-departure readings, discussions, and journaling to reflect on the fact that as citizens of the Global North, we travel to the Global South from a place of power and privilege,” says Peacock, adding that students also made a conscious effort not to reinforce stereotypes of the Global South as they were communicating with friends and family via social media. “It’s all part of being a responsible ‘global’ citizen.”
Fourth-year psychology student Brandy Hagel says she came back to the Okanagan with a new perspective on life.
“I feel like a much different person than I was before I left,” she says. “It’s given me a better understanding of how other people in this world live, and I’m much more aware of how lucky we are to live in Canada.”
While the students gained a great perspective about communities and cultures in Tanzania and a greater appreciation for living in Canada, they also came away with new and far-reaching friendships.
“We became a family. We spent 24/7 together and we all got along so well,” says Hagel. “It was great to share this amazing experience with such great people and I know I’ve made life-long friends.”
Peacock plans to lead another Go Global program to Tanzania in May and June of 2014, returning to Nguruma Village to continue the work with The Vijiji Foundation that the UBC students started last summer.
“Teaching in Tanzania and working closely with the community there has been one of the highlights of my career. I’m excited to follow up on the programs we helped put in place and to start a few new ones, too.”
If students are interested in participating in next year’s Go Global opportunities more information can be found at: students.ok.ubc.ca/global/outgoing/group-study-programs