The world is your classroom
Co-op and caipirinhas
As part of the co-operative education program at our university, this summer I took part in one of the most surreal experiences of my university career: four months in beautiful Brazil.
While most students find jobs in or near Ottawa for co-op, there are plenty of other opportunities across Canada and the globe. I ended up in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The trip not only offered me a great opportunity to learn about business development and international trade, but also a chance to pick up some Portuguese, and of course, enjoy the World Cup.
Although my internship was unpaid, my accommodations were covered by the company, and the university granted me a mobility scholarship that covered some travel expenses.
Adjusting to the office culture was quite easy, since many of my co-workers were also interns, and they were really helpful and welcoming all throughout the duration of my stay. I was lucky enough with my timing to experience the World Cup in its full glory, as Porto Alegre hosted a total of five games.
The chance to experience a new culture, see world class events, and meet new friends makes international opportunities with the university completely worth it.
I spent my third year of university on exchange in Reading, England, and without a doubt it was the best year of my life.
One of the best parts of exchange is meeting students who you never would’ve met otherwise. Although I was living in England, I met many friends from far-off places like Germany, France, Thailand, and Malaysia. Going on exchange allows you to have life-changing experiences with people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
Immersing yourself in a new culture may seem terrifying at first, but that feeling fades quickly. It’s fascinating to be surrounded by people speaking with a different accent or language, trying new food, learning the history, and absorbing their pop culture. After living in England, I listen to more British music and watch more British TV shows.
Overcoming any difficulties that come up during my exchange also furthered my personal growth. The process of getting over homesickness, however slowly, will make you realize that you are truly an adult capable of handling whatever is thrown at you.
Fieldwork in Berlin
On the first day of class, our professor taught us a very important lesson, one that I will never forget: History has two sides.
Before coming to Berlin for a field research course, my knowledge about the Cold War and the actions of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) government was very one sided. I was only taught, like most Canadians, the perspective of the Western allies. Never once did I ever stop to think, why did they do this? Or, what was it like for people to live in the GDR?
Our professor made sure to challenge us to think about the conflict differently, from a range of perspectives.
He brought us to various places of historical importance around the city like the Stasi headquarters, the secret police of the GDR; Hohenschönhausen prison, where prisoners of the Stasi were held; and Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, a memorial of the Berlin Wall. Our visits were often accompanied by contemporary witness discussions where we spoke to people who had lived through different stages of the war and had very powerful and touching stories.
Field research courses offer a chance to experience and learn about the world in a way that simply cannot be captured in classrooms or textbooks.