Sarah Andrews is a student enrolled in the Social Service Worker program at Niagara College. She had participated in an international field study experience In Philadelphia.  Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”! 

Sarah Andrews

When I signed up for this international field trip, I knew that I would see things that I had not yet learned in a classroom and experience situations that would challenge me. I never once considered how deeply this experience would change my entire outlook on life.

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The DePaul Catholic School will forever be the location that changed my view on the world. I was there at an after school program and this little boy who was 3 was collecting all my attention and I remember thinking, maybe Philadelphia is not all that bad. Maybe there still is hope for this community through the innocence of a child. Little did I know that with one question, my entire thought process and very core would be shaken. He looked at me and asked, “Sarah, do you know where you can buy guns?” and I looked back at him and I no longer saw that innocence and I awaited his answer. When I didn’t reply, he answered his own question with, “You know you can just go to Walmart, get a gun and walk out.” It took everything in me not cry and pull him into my arms and bring him back home with me so he could get that innocence he so rightly deserved. That moment, has forever changed me.

He taught me, sadly, that not every child gets to experience a childhood. Not every child grows up only believing in fairytales and unicorns. He taught me that by leaving my sheltered life in Canada, that my eyes could be opened by a child. This moment taught me to never take things for granted and that children are so susceptible to their surroundings. This will greatly influence how I raise my children and when I counsel parents and children themselves. No matter what I learn in all my years reading a textbook it will never compare to what he taught me in 30 seconds. I learned that children at the age of 3 know the bad things in life and this can greatly contribute to how they grow up and who they become. He may never have a chance. He may grow up and walk into Walmart and buy a gun because that is what he knows. That is what he saw growing up and to him that is normal.
He made me more “world-ready” because of all the lessons he taught me. Never will I ever assume that every child holds innocence in their eyes. It made me more aware of the hardships that children see and internalize. When I volunteer or work abroad and I come across a similar experience, I will remember the 3 year old boy who taught me understanding and really opened my eyes and be a better volunteer and social worker because of him. I am a better person because of him.

Volunesia is that moment you forget you are volunteering to help change lives because it is changing yours is the only way I can sum up my experience in a sentence. This trip changed my life.

Kyle Walsh is a student enrolled in the Electronics Engineering Technology program at Niagara College. He had participated in an international field study experience In Dominican Republic.  Read some of the excerpts from his reflection to see how his experience abroad has helped him become “World Ready”! 

Kyle Walsh

In October of 2016 I had the privilege of visiting the Dominican Republic, spending time in both the capital, Santo Domingo, and the small village of Los Cacaos located about two hours away. My time spent in the Dominican provided me with memories that will last a lifetime. Even as I write this reflection three weeks after returning, I can still feel the intensity of the experience continuing to impact me as a person and shape my understanding of the world.

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I had travelled only once before, visiting Europe and traveling through Scandinavia for two weeks in the summer of 2015. It was a wonderful experience, but Scandinavia is a part of the world that is arguably even wealthier and better off than Canada. Visiting the Dominican was very different because it’s undoubtedly much poorer than Scandinavia and what I’m accustomed to back home in Canada. In the Dominican, the government is more corrupt, regulations are less stringent, and the social welfare safety net we enjoy in Canada is absent. But at the same time, their society works. People get by despite these omissions. Roads are built, businesses operate, people eat and have families, and life goes on.

I can’t help but point out, however, that there is a liveliness and boldness to the people there that seems lacking in Canada. Perhaps the lack of security or socialised medicine that we enjoy in Canada makes the population less risk averse and more likely to embrace life as it comes. Like the motorcyclists weaving dangerously in between vehicles on the freeway, or the children climbing a tree on a cliff’s edge to collect its fruit, the Dominicans take risks every day that would land a Canadian in prison! In Los Cacaos, the locals were very social and cheerful, often blasting music and racing around on their motorcycles, seemingly full of life and enthusiasm. The children would run up to us and excitedly ask for a footrace in Spanish. The poverty and the lax regulations in the Dominican were as much a culture shock to me as was the spirit and energy of the locals. Some might think that the Dominicans must be despondent and heartbroken because they lack the wealth and prosperity that we so often praise and desire back home – but this could not be further from the truth.

These observations, and my experiences in the Dominican, have made me more world ready because they revealed how different cultures, much like people, possess both good and bad qualities. I have learned to suspend judgment of other cultures and to recognize that the good and the bad are often opposite sides of the same coin. For example, with all our wealth and security here in Canada, have we not lost something in the process of securing all this abundance for ourselves? In gaining security, have we lost some of our capacity for tolerating risk? I can’t say for sure, but it is something that I think about often.

While I originally felt culture shock in the Dominican, returning to Canada I experienced it again.

Maybe our children are too protected from the bumps and scrapes that life is sure to bring? Maybe we’re too insulated from our communities because of our technology? While I originally had criticisms of the Dominican, returning home I found myself critical of Canada in ways I would not have expected. The greatest benefit of my travels was to be able detach from any one cultural perspective and to see the flaws and the strengths of all cultures. I am learning not to be biased towards other societies because of my own ingrained cultural perspective. I am learning to be not just a citizen of Canada, but a citizen of the world.

Marissa Leavens is a student enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program at Niagara College. She has recently participated in an international field study experience In Dominican Republic.  Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”! 

Marissa Leavens

The Dominican Republic…I haven’t written this because I still can’t put my experience into words nor express my emotion, except for grinning ear to ear when someone asks me how the trip was. Before this trip I haven’t experienced anything like it. When we first arrived in Santo Domingo I felt really overwhelmed. It was nothing like home, no “rules” really. I started second guessing myself as to if I made the right decision to attend this trip or not. I’m not much of a city person to begin with so it was hard to adapt to but I took it day by day and it got better.

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Some of the things that made the Dominican so culturally diverse from Canada was their driving. There were no speed limits, motorcyclists didn’t have helmets, truck beds piled with people driving down the highway. To explain it more or less, it was chaos; but more like organized chaos because everyone drove the exact same way. That was the first sign of culture shock, I just had to keep telling myself “it’s their way of life and they’re used to it, I’m the one that has to change and fit in with them”.

The language barrier was also a huge culturally diverse learning environment. Before going I had no idea how to speak Spanish, only a few words mainly what I learned from watching Dora with my nieces. The language barrier was frustrating at first but the week went on and you really start to catch onto little words or even using simple hand gestures helps you connect a lot. After getting my toes wet in Spanish, I plan to take the Spanish elective hoping when I return to Dominican in October 2017 I will be able to have a full conversation with the local people and children.

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What made me understand local and international perspectives even more was the fact that everywhere is a completely different place. You can’t travel thinking you’re going to be seeing and following the same laws or bi-laws you do in your country, because it is totally not like that. You have to stay open-minded/hearted at all times changing for them because you are in their country. Be respectful.

Yes, I was able to connect my global learning for my own future career success because not only did we learn a lot about their native plants, natural landscapes and installing greenhouse frames, we learnt a lot about other cultures and how us Canadians with as many resources as we have and our education we can help out around the world with growing tips and tricks to propagating plants to tackling and overcoming diseases. I am a tropical plant lover and would love to go to various different countries to do some studies on various invasive native plants and their diseases, and do as we did in the Dominican. Meet that countries “plant needs” and help them out whether it be building them a greenhouse as well or aquaponics systems that are more efficient.

Needless to say this was the best experience of my life, I will forever remember this trip and I can tell you…..it was my first time but it won’t be my last!

Doing ordinary things in extraordinary places will assure you of an extraordinary future.”

– Marissa Leavens

Alexis Sneider is a student enrolled in the Dental Hygiene program at Niagara College. She has recently participated in an international field study experience In Honduras.  Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”!

Alexis Sneider

While in Honduras I experienced many things. One was how culturally diverse our learning environments were. In Canada each student has a desk, in a large school with walls and doors. In Honduras we visited some communities where only a few desks were available, there were no doors and the walls were old and unsteady. Our schools here are equipped with smart boards and lighting with outlets to enhance our learning experiences and ensure we are exposed to the best of the best in order to achieve full knowledge. In Honduras most of the desks were broken, there wasn’t much (if any) tools to write on boards or anything to really make understanding what was being taught easier. Canadians are fortunate enough to have a variety of different schools, public or catholic to choose from and each provide us with the same level of learning as the next. In Honduras there are so many different levels of poverty that schools all varied in safety, learning experiences, and size, which resulted in no real consistency in their education.

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There is such a difference in how people live in Canada compared to how the locals live in Honduras. I fully understood what poverty really meant when I had the chance to visit the different communities. What is considered safe and “normal” for them is something that most Canadians would fear and consider dangerous. Walking around the streets of Honduras I was exposed to gang members, homeless men women and children, and hunger. These people have nothing besides the clothes on their backs (if that) and are fighting every day just to survive. In Canada when you are experiencing poverty you usually do not have children, however in Honduras they have a different mindset. They believe the more children they have the more help they have earning money, and the higher chances of one of their children moving abroad and earning money to bring back to them. With little education and more and more children being pulled out of school to help their families it is a vicious cycle of deteriorating health, wellness, and overall chances of survival.

These health risks were evident in most of these communities, especially what I (as a dental hygiene student) witnessed in their mouths. It is not in my scope of practice to diagnose without doing full assessments, which we were unable to do because of the lack of proper instruments; however there was evidence of a lot more decay and even some rare issues that one normally wouldn’t see in a Canadian client. This experience really helped me see the progression of disease in a mouth when it is not properly taken care of; I was able to see things that textbooks don’t do justice. I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to be apart of such an amazing experience; it is something I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

I believe I am a much more compassionate and understanding person because of it, and my communication skills and oral hygiene coaching has improved tremendously, and will only get better from here on out.

Not only did this experience enhance my career success in the future but also it was an amazing and eye opening experience for my soul. I felt so connected to each and every person I met and have taken steps into changing certain aspects in my life here in Canada just because I appreciate everything I have even more. Returning home made me angry and sad, speaking to others about my experiences and them relating it to not having their favorite food in the fridge or having to take the bus to school made me frustrated. No one really understands poverty until they go to a country like Honduras and I felt like I was talking but no one really understood what I was saying. I understand that we were born in an amazing country that doesn’t see poverty to this level of extremity so we can’t relate unless we witness it for ourselves.

I feel so privileged that I grew up in Canada and I still have both my parents who love and support me, while others have nothing. I realize now that the anger I felt was having no positive impact on anything, and decided to do my best to ensure I wasn’t taking anything for granted here.

I am so happy and fortunate I was given this opportunity to donate my time and knowledge to the people of Honduras and I plan on returning.

Vandra Ruppel is a student enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Management Operations program at Niagara College. She has recently participated in an international field study experience In Munich, Germany.  Read some of the excerpts from hher reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”!

Vandra Ruppel

My trip abroad taught me an abundance of things, some things about others and their cultures, and some things about myself. When I signed up to go to Munich with some of my classmates from the Brewmaster program, it didn’t immediately hit me that travelling somewhere outside the States or Canada could be so, well, different. In terms of “world readiness”, to be honest, I arrogantly thought I already was, but the trip honestly changed that for me. I would say that I am a bit more prepared now, after having traveled for a few weeks, but the thing is that everywhere in the world is different, and everywhere is going to be a new experience, until you go.

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While in Germany for class, we stayed in a small town called Freising, it was beautiful, although a bit old fashioned in its perspective on women leaving the home. Or drinking in public. Which, for a female brewer, can be a bit difficult. All that aside, the things I found most interesting in terms of the effects they could have on my future career would be the heavy use of automation in brewing equipment, and the ever present adherence to the Reinheitsgebot purity laws.

It’s no secret that German beer is world renowned for superior flavor, and clean brewing techniques. How is that so? Well, the aforementioned automation of equipment doesn’t hurt. So automated brewing equipment is just like automated anything else you can think of. The machine a human would normally operate is routed into a computer system, some fancy (and incredibly expensive) valving, and wiring is done, then presto! Push a button, and beer. Of course it is more complicated than that, when it comes to writing a recipe and being creative, nothing beats the human mind, and the people, after all are the ones who wrote the program for the software that runs the machine. With the automation of brewing systems the element of human error is largely removed from the brewing process, meaning the beers created there are essentially exactly the same. Every. Single. Time. This kind of consistency is something that a brewer without an automated system only dreams about. For me, however, this is losing some of the romance of beer. I was brought into the world of “craft beer”, which for me means small batches, and a high level of experimentation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad that a brilliant German somewhere was able to connect computers to equipment to deliver me heavenly beers time after time, but I would never want to stand around and push buttons all day. Not for me.

Okay, so the second thing. Reinheitsgebot, AKA German beer purity laws that state the only ingredients allowed in beers produced in Bavarian are malt, hops, water, and yeast. No double chocolate cherry stouts here! No cucumber jalapeno pilsner. Certainly no lemongrass pale ale. It may seem like a hamper to creativity, but German brewers have been making incredible and delicious beers for centuries with these guidelines. There is something to be said for brewing a beer with the most basic ingredients, brewing it well, and brewing it consistently. It’s so impressive to be able to witness these things first hand. Being able to brew a simple beer with pure ingredients, and nothing to hide potential flaws behind is, to me, an art form.

Finally, what I learned for future travels. First, always learn at least a few phrases in the mother tongue of the country you are going to. Not only is it just good manners, it also could end up being very, very helpful. I took a German course a semester before we left, and was able to decipher menus, and at the very least ask for help and introduce myself. It turned out to be incredibly helpful.

Second, don’t expect a country that is not like the one you came from to be like the one you came from. Culture shock is indeed a thing. A thing I thought was silly in fact. That was until a very blunt German man told me that in Freising, a woman would not be out drinking with other men, but at home waiting for her husband to return. Culture shock, indeed.

Overall, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I toured institutions that have been standing for centuries, I saw technology that revolutionized the industry I work in, I drank beer with a brewmaster in a 600 year old beer cellar, and I ate 12 pretzels in 7 days. I call it a win.

Sarah Greig is a recent graduate of the Social Service Worker program at Niagara College. During her time at Niagara College, she participated in international field study experiences in both Philadelphia and Honduras.  Read her reflection from her time in Honduras to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”!

Sarah Greig

In travelling to Honduras, I learned many new things. Prior to coming on this trip, I lived in South Africa, so going places internationally was a challenge for me, rather this trip to Honduras allowed me to refresh my memory of the challenges that people face in other countries. We went into local villages each day and were given the opportunity to hear the stories of the struggles that the locals have faced for many generations.

Many of the stories were heartbreaking but hopeful at the same time. This is because although they have faced a multitude of difficulties in life, they have never given up hope, and each little improvement has meant the world to them.

This attitude is one that I will bring home with me as I believe that having faith, gratefulness, and hope will be the key to success in my future career.
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When I work in my field as a Social Service Worker it can often become discouraging as I will see many people that are stuck in situations that seem impossible to overcome, similarly to those that we met on this trip, but now, when I meet with these people I will have a restored hope as even the slightest improvement can make a world of difference in a person’s life.

A few key things that stuck out to me during this trip that helped me better understand Honduras, were hearing from both guest speakers who have risen out of poverty and people in the villages who were still in poverty. Hearing from both of these demographics showed me how incredibly difficult it is to escape poverty and it also showed me the drive and passion that every single person we spoke to has. This is a quality that I believe Canada is lacking.

Additionally, seeing the joy and contentment in the children from these communities showed me that children really are our future. I believe that we must educate and equip our children so that they may do greater things than we have been able to do. This is something that I believe is already occurring in Honduras and it makes me hopeful for their future there.

Finally, the last thing that I discovered was not about Honduras, but it was about myself.

I discovered that my passion to work with children as a teacher runs very deep inside of me. When we went to a school for the day, it was as if I was right at home in the environment. Children seem to draw near when I am around and I have great care and compassion for them. As a result of this knowledge, I now know that teaching is something that I will certainly pursue.

Overall, this was an incredible trip and an incredible experience that has forever changed me and how I view the world around me. Everything that I saw, heard, and experienced will influence how I act and behave moving forward, as I believe that it had a profound impact on me as a whole.

 

This essay has been slightly edited for flow, clarity, and grammar.

Russell Gibson is a student enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Management Operations program at Niagara College. He has recently participated in an international field study experience In Munich, Germany.  Read some of the excerpts from his reflection to see how his experience abroad has helped him become “World Ready”!

Russell Gibson
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I was first interested in Germany due to its large impact on the history and the culture of brewing beer. Germany is a country that has been around longer than Canada has been settled by European colonials; a large part of their history has been centered on beer. No more was this apparent as we saw how many different facets of German life were connected to producing the highest quality beers. Through extensive tours of brewing schools, professional breweries, hop museums and equipment manufacturing plants, we saw this dedication first-hand. Everything we saw was so clean and professional, that it became an inside-joke among some of us that it was due to ‘German Efficiency’.

Perspective is the biggest aspect I took away from this experience.

 

We experienced a culture that never saw the restrictive legislation our country saw in the form of prohibition, nor is it undergoing the craft beer revolution of today. The beers Germans are producing are limited to a

Germany3few styles (such as helles lagers, dunkels and hefeweizens with some variation), but there is no doubt that the quality of every bottle produced is on a world-class level because of the dedication to tradition, history and a good end-product. It can open your eyes on the type of work many other cultures put into brewing, which can lead to quality improvement in your own craft, and how to sell to other types of people and cultures. The best way to learn quality work is to see that quality work in action.

Passion, it increases the prestige and quality of beer, for beer is not simply brewed, it is crafted to perfection constantly.

 

This essay has been slightly edited for flow, clarity, and grammar.

Cory Pattison is a student enrolled in the Business Administration – International Business program at Niagara College. He has recently participated in an international field study experience In Osnabrueck, Germany.  Read some of the excerpts from his reflection to see how he has become even more “World Ready” as a result of his time abroad.

 

I first became involved with BWR when I walked into the Winter Orientation day back in January of this year (2016). I walked right to their booth and I knew right from that moment, at some point in my Niagara College life, I was going to be apart of a trip to somewhe13239418_10154225448360742_896328083970630255_nre. I had been monitoring trips that BWR had on their website since the orientation day, and when the trip to Osnabrück came up, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for it. The fact that we had the chance to study in a German University for a week in a class mixed with German students was something I had never thought I would get the chance to experience. We see it everyday in Canada, being one of the most diverse countries in the world, we are used to having students come from all over the world to study here. Never would I have thought that I would get the same chance they do, all while exploring the Netherlands, and other cities in Germany (Berlin, Wolfsburg).

The experience I gained while studying abroad is something I will cherish forever. One memory I will never forget is meeting, interacting and being in groups with the German students. While working with them, one thing that I found out and that hit close to home for me is that they go to work before going to school. The reason this is close to me is because I did the same thing, and in a society where we are told that we need to finish school and get a degree and figure out what we want right away, it is very hard. They say that working for a few years after High School, allows you to figure out who and what you want to be. Another memory that will stay with me for life was of the very first day in classes. We were describing cultures and we would describe both the German and the Canadian cultures using words. Both the Germans and the Canadians described the German Culture using words such as: Straightforward, Punctual, Efficient, Organized and Innovators. The words that were used to describe the Canadian Culture were slightly different. Our culture they said, could be described as: Maple Syrup, Hockey, Friendly, Apologetic, Happy and etc. It was at that moment I realized that because of Canadas diversity, it is very difficult to describe our culture.

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One other thought that will stick with me for the rest of my life is this, 35 students and 3 faculty members went on this trip together only knowing a handful of people each. By the end of the trip, we became a family. That is what BWR is doing, they are creating friends and family with these trips abroad and it is something everyone should experience. For us it was meeting stellar people and creating unforgettable memories that the group of us will never forget.

The experience of this trip helped me become World Ready by introducing me to cultures and countries I never thought I would get to experience. Being around the language differences, comparing how they do their business in comparison to how we do ours. Travelling and studying abroad helps you become more World Ready because you are faced with challenges that go beyond the walls of your own country. Challenges that you have to overcome and adapt to in order to completely experience life. Even though our time there was only a few weeks, you learn a few words that you will be able to take back home and share with friends and family. Each individual word that you learned while away has a lifetime of stories and memories to go with it. My perspectives have broadened beyond my own city and country, I am more educated on a culture I was not familiar with and for those reasons, among many others, I am more World Ready.

A remarkable and unforgettable experience, from the memories shared to the people met.

This essay has been slightly edited for flow, clarity, and grammar.