As work continues at York University to formulate an integrated institutional international strategic plan with input from the community, the students at Glendon College are living proof of the benefits of international experience.
A number of Glendon programs and courses offer students the opportunity to study abroad and immerse themselves in another culture. They include the Certificate in the Discipline of Teaching English as an International Language program, the Narratives of Costa Rica course and a French language course and internship in partnership with Université Savoie-Mont Blanc in France.
“Speaking the world is in Glendon DNA,” said Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, Glendon interim co-principal and associate principal research and graduate studies. “Internationalizing the students’ experience can take many forms to ensure that they acquire the mindset of a global citizen: traveling the world, working abroad, teaching others, discovering new ways of living and understanding how to interact with other cultures.”
The final course in the Certificate in the Discipline of Teaching English as an International Language (D-TEIL) program is a three-week practicum abroad which allows students to fully immerse themselves in work-focused experiential education in another country. They work in classrooms in either the E. A. Varona Pedagogical University in Havana, Cuba or at the State University of Mato grosso do Sul in Brazil. Since 2006, 135 Glendon students have completed the D-TEIL certificate. The program is highly successful given its unique experiential approach to training language teachers, which is unlike other programs in Canada.
While abroad, the students get the chance to apply the knowledge they acquire in their Glendon classrooms, including general principles of linguistics applicable to language teaching; the latest notions of language learning; concepts of language in society and bilingualism and the history and impact of English as a global language. They also gain an understanding of the sensitivities required when working in another culture.
Krysta Veneruz, who is currently completing a master of teaching and learning at McGill University and is a primary drama teacher with a school under the Commission Scolaire de Montréal, praises the certificate: “D-TEIL was what sparked my teaching career (…) and inspired my thesis topic. (…) that is about how module-style teaching that involves physical activity can increase motivation for second language learners. I learned a lot of practical skills in detail that set me apart from a lot of my classmates.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity unique to Glendon,” said Professor Ian Martin, one of the course directors. “It allows our students to gain intercultural and professional competencies while pushing learning beyond the pages of the textbook.”
Narratives in/of Costa Rica. Individuals, Communities and their Voices is a course in the Hispanic Studies program cross listed with the Communications program. Taught by Alejandro Zamora and María Constanza Guzmán, both Glendon associate professors, the course takes place at York University’s EcoCampus in Las Nubes, Costa Rica, as a part of the Faculty of Environmental Studies’ Summer Abroad Program. This course centres on the nature and function of narratives as they relate to the construction of subjects, communities and nations. Students engage in narrative field work with individuals and families living in the area, with Indigenous communities and activists, and with leaders of local cooperatives and farms.
Home stays with local families also offer students a unique experience to reflect upon their own cultural meanings, assumptions and values, and several excursions led by members of local communities, scholars and activists provide them with the necessary social and environmental context for such reflections. All these experiences become an integral part of the course material.
“My experience in Costa Rica was the most unique class I have taken during my degree,” said Marie Gomez, a communications student at Glendon. “It was amazing to be in a different country to experience their culture, language and natural environment. It made the discussions in class so much more relevant and enriching. It isn’t just a trip or a class, but the chance to truly build a relationship with yourself, with the world and with the people you share the world with.”
Developing intercultural competency and a global mindset are also important aspects of Glendon’s partnership with Université Savoie-Mont Blanc in the Chambery Region of France. The two institutions have established a partnership that allows all Glendon students to live in Chambery for two months while taking an intensive French-language course and undertaking a month-long, unpaid placement for credit.
Thanks to an agreement with the regional educational agency, the Académie de Grenoble, students in French studies and in French as the Second language have the opportunity to be placed in bilingual schools at the elementary and secondary levels. These placements allow them to share the expertise they have garnered during their Canadian bilingual education and, in return, learn the local cultural and pedagogical practices. The students are placed in bilingual schools that use the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) method, which is common in France, but less so in Canada. Their hands-on experiences allow them to compare the French school system with a Canadian equivalent.
The partnership fosters cultural exchange at all levels since the French-language course offered places Glendon students in a classroom with other international students, so they are exposed to cultures other than that of their host country.
“The program, which began as a pilot project in 2019, allows students to be completely immersed in the French language as most students choose to live with host families during their stay,” said Usha Viswanathan, an assistant professor at Glendon’s Language Training Centre for Studies in French and one of the course directors.
“This program is the ideal way to combine work experience and academic learning while developing intercultural competency – and enjoy the opportunity to live in France for two months,” said Swann Paradis, a professor of French Studies and another of the course directors.
As the President’s Council on Internationalization and Global Engagement works toward creating York University’s first integrated institutional international strategic plan, Glendon offers many examples of international experiences for students.
By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus