Select students at Acadia University will soon have an exciting opportunity to travel the globe to build Indigenous knowledge across international borders as part of a new short-term study abroad partnership in Belize.
Acadia University is taking part in a national program that will give thousands of Canadian postsecondary students access to life-changing international study and work opportunities. The federal government’s new Global Skills Opportunity program, officially launched in early November, is expected to enable more than 16,000 Canadian college and undergraduate-level university students to acquire the global skills employers want and the Canadian economy needs.
“Learning abroad provides a learning experience like no other,” says Dr. Peter Ricketts, Acadia’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “The Global Skills Opportunity is removing barriers for Indigenous students at Acadia and our sister institutions in the Maple League of Universities and immersing them in another culture in Belize. It’s an exceptional way to improve the future for all of us.”
The $95 million Global Skills Opportunity program is a component of the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy and is funded by Employment and Social Development Canada. Administered jointly by Colleges and Institutes Canada and Universities Canada, the program has been designed to allow participating colleges, universities and institutes to customize projects to their students’ needs.
While open to all Canadian postsecondary students, the program targets groups for whom such experiences have traditionally been less accessible – specifically Indigenous students, students from low-income backgrounds and those with disabilities. It also aims to diversify destination countries where Canadian students pursue international learning.
Acadia is participating as part of a successful bid by the Maple League of Universities (Acadia, Mount Allison, Bishop’s, and St. Francis Xavier). The Maple League was awarded a Global Skills Opportunity grant of $800,000 to develop a mobility program for Indigenous students called “Nation to Nation: Building Indigenous Knowledge Across International Borders.” The project will see 60 Indigenous students from the four universities travel to Belize to explore the local Indigenous culture through a comparative framework of lived and historical experience.
Through a partnership with Galen University in Belize, students will learn about language preservation, Indigenous governance, the environment, land rights, Indigenous innovations, and cultural heritage through food and education. Participants will meet with the local community, hear from guest speakers and visit cultural sites to learn more about the experience of the Yucatec, Mopan, Garifuna, and K’eckchi people. The students will be accompanied by a faculty member and an Elder to support their learning and understanding.
Acadia will begin recruiting students for the program after December 6, with the selection to take place in early January. “The majority of student positions will be reserved for Indigenous students, preferably with at least second-year standing,” said Michael Holmes, Acadia’s International Admissions Officer.
The new program is separate from Acadia’s exchange program, in which about 20 to 25 students go abroad each year to study for a semester or full academic year with partners in 13 different countries and regions.
“Our exchange program is open to all undergraduate students, but a common barrier to studying abroad is the cost,” Holmes says. “Global Skills Opportunity will address that issue directly. It will give students the opportunity for an international experience where it might not have been possible otherwise.”
Global Skills Opportunity is funding 124 projects at 56 universities and 54 colleges across the country, following a call for project proposals and a rigorous selection process. The funded projects are being run in collaboration with international partners in more than 100 countries over the next three and a half years.
“Study and work abroad programs are invaluable learning experiences that ensure students are culturally literate, resilient, adaptable and ready to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. This is perhaps more important than ever, which is why we are so proud to work with our partners to deliver Global Skills Opportunity. This ground-breaking program will allow more Canadian students to access these opportunities to develop the skills they need to gain a foothold in today’s global marketplace,” says Denise Amyot, President, Colleges and Institutes Canada.
Given the backdrop of the pandemic, many postsecondary institutions created or improved tools and approaches to offer students innovative and meaningful virtual mobility programming. Projects that involve travel abroad will prioritize student safety and ensure that supports and security measures are in place to support students while overseas. Physical mobility will only be permitted in alignment with government of Canada travel advisories.
“Global Skills Opportunity is breaking down financial, social and logistical barriers that have prevented too many underrepresented students from participating in global study and work opportunities. Through this ambitious and ground-breaking program, thousands of young Canadians will have transformational experience abroad. Their newfound global perspective and skills will inform the way they live and work for decades to come, says Paul Davidson, President, Universities Canada.
Beginning on December 6, students can apply for the short-term study abroad opportunity offered by the Maple League of Universities. Nation to Nation: Building Indigenous Knowledge Across International Borders will visit Belize in May 2022.
Visit the Maple League of Universities website to learn more and apply.