Oct. 29, 2020

Global learning experience continues during pandemic

Students develop global and intercultural capacity through innovative initiative

When COVID-19 hit, studying abroad came to an abrupt halt. That didn't stop UCalgary International from ensuring students were still able to obtain a global learning experience. Now more than ever, organizations must demonstrate the ability to pivot and respond to issues and needs as they arise.

The Global Community Challenge YYC (GCC) launched in October to bring students together into trans-disciplinary and cross-cultural teams to work with local organizations in Calgary, learn about the challenges they are facing and identify potential solutions that could have a global impact.

  • Photo above: Former Student Union president Jessica Revington, top right, meets virtually with her GCC team.

I’m tremendously proud of our team at UCalgary International for their work on this innovative new program, a first of its kind in Canada to use the virtual platform for university students to tackle challenges identified by local community partners with global reach,” says Cheryl Dueck, senior academic director (international).

“We knew that we wanted to develop more opportunities for global learning at home, since studying abroad tends to privilege certain students, and we want all of our students to develop global and intercultural capacity as part of their experience with us.”

The pandemic motivated the team to be agile and adapt quickly, and with the enthusiastic support of the Hunter Hub and the Leadership and Student Engagement office the GCC was rolled out in record time.

Students participating in the GCC are developing skills in teamwork, creativity, problem-solving and communication while building intercultural capacity and positioning themselves to become innovation catalysts for meaningful change in real-world challenges. In addition to UCalgary students, participants come from 16 exchange partner universities in 13 countries, which means they will have to work collaboratively through time zone, language and cultural barriers as they develop their proposed solutions.

Over 500 applications were received, competing for 54 spots on six teams.

“With the onset of COVID-19, it's become more difficult to engage with our communities in a meaningful way. For me, the GCC is a unique opportunity to work with a team of peers, mentors and experienced professionals to develop and innovate new supports for our various community partners,” says Jessica Revington, a UCalgary student participating in the challenge.

“The GCC allows us to look at a local challenge with a global lens. I'm hoping that the solutions we develop for these organizations over the next few weeks are ones that can be adopted by other communities facing similar challenges.”

The GCC is composed of nine challenges posed by six local organizations. The Immigrant Education Society (TIES), one of the community partners taking part in the challenge, provides Calgary-based immigrants and economically disadvantaged individuals with a solid foothold in Canada with programming focused on settlement and integration, language training, employment, and research and program development on settlement and migration.

Settlement agencies like TIES struggle to find enough translation and interpretation services for its interactions with its clients. Regular translation services are costly, and informal translation and interpretation services using client family members can be stressful. Their GCC team is working to assist them with the challenge of building a network of volunteer translators and interpreters who can help settlement agencies with their clients. The GCC will help raise awareness of this and other local and global challenges and build more connections between our diverse local community, the University of Calgary and our international partner universities, and students from UCalgary and around the world.

UCalgary International also recently offered webinars to universities and colleges from across Canada as well as its global partners to share how it has pivoted over the last six months. Global connection and collaboration in higher education has become all the more important during this pandemic year.

The pitch competition will take place Nov. 19 during International Education Week. Read more about the GCC here.