Global Mobility Peer Support project provides a platform for students who have not experienced a study abroad program to engage with study abroad alumni who have completed at least one overseas study abroad program.
Project Dates: December 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021
Funding Amount: 45,000 for a consortium of three colleges
Students Hired: 3 students
This is to facilitate peer support and interaction in order to address perceived barriers and challenges in considering study aboard experiences by various groups of students.
Anecdotal evidence acknowledges that attitude, confidence, appetite for risk taking, knowledge about opportunities, lack of encouragement to participate, time away from family commitments, time-away from employment, and financial challenges have potential to discourage certain groups of students to consider study abroad as an opportunity for experiential learning.
For this pilot project, we proposed a consortium of three Canadian colleges: College of New Caledonia (CNC), North Island College (NIC), and Aurora College (AC). The lead for the initiative was the College of New Caledonia, with the other two colleges supporting the initiative as equal partners. The main argument supporting this pilot project was that, if we were to eliminate financial challenges through scholarships, what other factors would prevent students, particularly from groups that are underrepresented in the study abroad, to consider study abroad as a learning experience? Traditionally, we have observed that attitude and lack of confidence around the idea of international travel and mobility are important factors that challenge students in considering study abroad opportunities. Having the opportunity to share and directly talk to their peers in and outside the province, as well as providing the opportunity to participate in virtual experiences with overseas partners or former exchange students residing outside of Canada, might contribute to a change in attitude in considering study abroad as an opportunity.
The proposed pilot program facilitates engagement with the aim to better prepare students to transition to a physical mobility program. Often students, especially students that traditionally were underrepresented in these types of activities, perceive study abroad programs as something that is not realistic for them to engage in. The project includes activities planned to engage them once a week:
- A workshop on Study Abroad preparation and engagement;
- Guest speakers from Romania, Costa Rica;
- Engagement sessions with international exchange students that completed a Study Abroad program at CNC and NIC;
- A workshop on Intercultural Skills; and,
- College wide survey about interest and perceived factors as barriers to engage in study abroad opportunities.
All these activities are organized in virtual spaces for students to share experiences, discuss challenges to consideration of study abroad, and explore opportunities to provide a peer support group. In addition, a survey will be conducted to the entire student body at NIC to inquire about attitudes and challenges to considering study abroad opportunities.
Romana Pasca, Manager, International Projects, Partnerships, and Global Education
Online engagement sessions were organized for participants to engage with study abroad alumni students (SAAS), destination partner representatives (international partner institutions), and past exchange students. Participants reported increased interest and confidence to participate in an outbound mobility experience in the future, increased knowledge of other cultures, and increased confidence to engage in cross-cultural dialogue. The project had a focus on engaging students from historically underrepresented categories for study abroad engagement such as Aboriginal/Indigenous students, low-income students, and students with disabilities.
The objective of each online session was to increase interest and confidence to participate in outbound mobility experiences. To this end, webinars utilized a combination of interactive discussions and presentations from SAAS, destination presenters and former exchange students. Both the benefits and the challenges to participating in outbound mobility were discussed through these peer-to-peer engagements. Participants were given opportunities to engage in intercultural dialogue they would not have otherwise had access to under the pandemic circumstances. Survey responses from participants indicated that most felt more informed about and interested in participating in an outbound mobility experience in the future.
College of New Caledonia, Prince George, BC
Aurora College, Northwest Territories