How to incorporate global learning into your U of A experience — without leaving campus
By Susie Muncner
As the leaves start to fall and the first snow of the season blows in, many of us can’t help but dream of faraway places. While the U of A offers tons of opportunities for international exchanges and internships, you actually don’t need to leave campus to experience the world. Here are some of my top tips for incorporating some international learning into your degree without venturing far from home.
1. Get involved with University of Alberta International
One of the best ways I incorporated international learning into my degree program was by volunteering at the International Services Centre at the U of A. They have so many different programs, for both incoming and outgoing students, and there are many ways to get involved. Whether you promote international learning opportunities for other Canadian students, attend presentations, workshops, and lectures put on during International Week, or volunteer to welcome incoming international students, you can hear the stories of and contribute to the international community here at the U of A. Working with the International Services Centre, I met many students from all over the world! One of my most meaningful experiences while volunteering was organizing a welcome group for incoming exchange students and touring them through Edmonton. These are still friends I keep in touch with today!
2. Pursue a Certificate in International Learning
The Certificate in International Learning (CIL) is a program offered by University of Alberta International (UAI) in recognition of students’ international knowledge and skills acquired throughout their degree program. The best part: this is open to anyone in any undergraduate program! Working towards a CIL will require you to participate in international learning experiences including coursework, international or intercultural experience abroad or here at home, and gain competency in another language, intercultural communication training, or participate in clubs or events on campus. The CIL is an organized way to gain some well-rounded intercultural experiences through different programs offered at the U of A.
3. Live at or participate in International House Events
International House is a university residence nestled in the beautiful tree-lined streets of East Campus Village. I-House is unique in that it is composed of approximately two thirds international students and one third Canadian students, and is home to a community that organizes and hosts intercultural learning events. These include cultural celebrations, workshops and seminars, and volunteering opportunities. Everyone who intends to live there must submit an application to prove that they will, in some way, positively contribute to the international dynamics of the community. I spent two years living in International House, and my favourite events included the Mongolian New Year Celebration as well as the Caribbean Carnival Celebration. I became neighbours with students from every continent, and this was an incredible way to learn from the global community that lives right here at the U of A!
4. Join and volunteer for a club with an international focus
If social justice and international development are more your interest, there are many groups on campus that focus on causes that address global problems, or work with immigrant or refugee communities within Edmonton. For instance, Students Invested in Health Association (SIHA) works to fundraise for and educate about sexual health in Tanzania, and World University Services of Canada (WUSC) supports refugee students on campus (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information). If you missed the chance to join during clubs fair, you can check out alberta.campuslabs.ca or the UAlberta Involvement Opportunities Facebook club to find an organization that is right for you! As well, you’d be surprised at how many unique global opportunities you can find on posters lining the halls on campus!
5. Join a cultural community club
Out of a total of about 40,000 students, about 8,000 of those attending the U of A are international students. Approximately 150 countries are represented by these students, so interacting with international friends and colleagues is very easy! However, if there is a particular community or country that you are more interested in learning about, consider joining a cultural community club. There are tons to choose from and you definitely don’t need to identify as a member of that culture to join! I have been a part of the Iranian Students Association at the U of A (ISAUA) as well as the Russian Students Association, and the Latin American Students Association (LASA). These groups throw amazing events and it is a fantastic way to get a glimpse into the culture from the comfort of campus!
6. Learn a foreign language
Immersing yourself in a foreign language truly opens the doors for deep cultural learning. Whether you want to perfect your sentence structure and idioms, or you need the very basics, there are lots of options to learn a foreign language on campus. The U of A offers language courses in everything from Danish to Latin to Hindi, so there are plenty of languages to choose from (there are also courses offered by the Faculty of Extension). If something more informal is more your speed, the Student Volunteer Campus Community (SVCC) offers free, discussion-based language groups for French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese. This is an excellent way to improve your speaking skills, as well as make some new friends!
You don’t need to go far from the U of A to incorporate meaningful and diverse global experiences into your degree program! We are very fortunate to be a very international university, so even if an experience abroad isn’t for you, you can definitely find an opportunity to learn more about the world around you from close to home!
Susie Muncner is a second year medical student who has participated in international exchanges in France and Malta. When she’s not studying or day-dreaming about her next adventure, she can be found trying out new restaurants or playing ultimate frisbee with friends.