Global Opportunities Fair connects students to York’s international offerings

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Hand-in-hand with our shrinking world comes a growing need for the ability to increase cultural differences, and there’s no better way for York students to do so than to experience classes or workplaces in another country, whether in person or remotely, as influenced by the pandemic.

York International’s Oct. 28 virtual Go Global Fair offered students the chance to hear from the University’s partners around the world about internships and work placements in other countries – both remote and in-person – and study abroad programs. The fair offered a morning session and an evening session so York students in all time zones could participate.

Vinitha Gengatharam
Vinitha Gengatharam

“Working or studying abroad is a great way to learn about yourself and the world and develop personal and professional interests,” Vinitha Gengatharan, executive director of York International, told the students gathered online. “Travelling abroad isn’t the only way to do so, there are opportunities to develop intercultural competencies through remote or placements and globally networked learning. Be creative in managing your experience, especially during this time.”

Representatives from partner universities and internship providers took part in the fair, allowing students to query them directly about the substance of their offerings, as well as the costs and the application procedures. York International staff, who assist students in applying and preparing for these and other programs, were also on hand to field questions, along with YI’s global ambassadors, students who have thrived during studies abroad and are eager to share their experiences.

Chao-Jung Chan, a former York exchange student from Tamkang University in Taiwan, was on hand along with student exchange staff from her school to extol the virtues of Tamkang’s exchange program.

“There’s a difference in the learning and teaching styles in Canada and Taiwan,” she said. “In Taiwan, the focus is on the professor’s lecture and you may be graded solely on your mid-term and final exams.”

Tamkang is located a short train ride from Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, and Chan noted that it is easy for students to explore the city itself using transit and to take trains to see the rest of the island nation.

Katie Gibbons, the study abroad co-ordinator for the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), was among the presenters, as was Ana-Maria Martinez, the research associate for the Las Nubes Project in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York.

LA&PS offers academic exchanges, summer study and an iBA program, Gibbons noted, and is encouraging students to take advantage of virtual internships during the pandemic.

“We are also starting a virtual travel series, profiling a different country each month and offering activities related to that country’s food, culture and language, so join us,” she said.

The Lillian Meighen Wright Centre
The Lillian Meighen Wright Centre is the heart of York University’s activities in Costa Rica

Martinez introduced students to York’s Eco Campus and its summer and winter courses that are built upon a network of local partners to give students a richer understanding of Costa Rica, no matter which subject they are studying. The programs are targeted at third- and fourth-year students, as well as graduate students.

“Our programs offer students the opportunity to immerse into the Costa Rican culture, and not only experience first-hand notions of rural livelihoods but also learn from lived experiences of local stakeholders, organizations and communities, who are confronting or overcoming a wide range of issues. Overall, our programs help participants to put into perspective the connections between the local to the global, and the individual to the collective.”

Beth Alaksa shared an overview of YI advising and program management supports for students looking to study overseas – such as facilitating academic credits with Faculties and the Registrar’s Office, travel safety and funding – before students were invited to visit breakout rooms hosted by internship providers or remain to question York International staff.

In one of the breakout rooms, Casey, an undergraduate, talked with Michael Alderson of EcoSwell about his Peru-based program.

“We focus on delivering programs in the community where we operate,” Alderson told her. “We determine what the community needs and from that, we design our projects.”

Casey asked to speak to some students who had taken part in EcoSwell projects previously.

“I like the idea of giving back to the community and I like what your organization stands for,” she said. “I want to come out of my internship with connections and experience.”

In another breakout room, the women from Abroader, a Vietnam-based internship group, discussed the opportunities to undertake internships remotely during COVID-19.

“This is a special situation,” said Ngan. “Now, you can do a part-time internship while continuing your schooling, but you can also do an internship full time.”

During the pandemic, research opportunities have abounded. For example, one student conducted a survey for the government on its pandemic response and comparing that to the way other countries handled the virus.

“Students can maximize their learning while contributing,” she said.

The Go Global Fair offered lots of information and connections for students seeking to enhance their understanding of the wider world. However, any student interested in working or studying abroad can contact York International for additional details. Why not consider enriching the university experience with exposure to another culture?

By Elaine Smith, contributing writer