Matt Cowell, a student in the ICOM program at Niagara College, completed his Co-op term during a Work Abroad Experience in Jamaica. 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. Check out his blog for more details on his exciting journey


Completing a co-op abroad has been an experience which allowed me to utilize many aspects of my in class learning while at school and apply it to the working world while in a completely different culture and environment (Jamaica). I had the chance to apply my business skill set within an international company and really draw from the culture classes and exposure we experienced in class. Being able to make friends and have classmates from around the world has also assisted me as I had the chance to watch them experience our culture, talk with them on a daily basis and receive their input in class discussions and projects and then apply it to my situation.

My communication skills have strongly improved as I have learned to work in a new work environment where proper English is spoken sparingly. I have had to take the time to learn many phrases and statements to improve my understanding while also being patient with those I interact with when I had trouble understanding them.

Working abroad has certainly broadened my perspective on life as living in Jamaica is very different when compared to Canada and the norms I am familiar with. It has it made me realize how good we have it in Canada and the things we take for granted on a daily basis which are non-existent in the lives of many in Jamaica.

Much of the work I have completed since arriving has been completely independently with the manager placing an extreme amount of trust and faith in me. I have had instructions or tasks assigned by my Manager and left to complete set tasks without supervision unless assistance or questions needed answering. To begin, I felt very overwhelmed, didn’t know where to start and was worried about not completing things correctly or as expected. After working diligently the first week and speaking with my manager I had surpassed the amount of work which was expected of me in a much shorter time period. This experience has helped build my confidence and self-reliance in the workplace while assuring my initiative, independence and personality.

A portion of my work included dealing with local customs and agencies to fulfill the required needs of completing the Authorized Economic Operations documents within the company. This experience allowed me to apply what I had learned in my International Trade and Marketing classes and utilize it in another country. These skills were useful when dealing with persons involved as well as having knowledge of the requirements prior to exposure.

Since being in Jamaica I have spent time reviewing and updating my resume and sending it out to potential employers. Although I have a fairly well rounded resume and have developed a diverse skill set through the ICOM program, I have had several replies requesting interviews, all of whom seem particularly interested in my experience while abroad.

This was my first experience travelling outside of Canada or the US where I had independence in planning my travels, living arrangements and work habits. This has been a great experience which I will have to draw upon for my lifetime and has already encouraged me to explore and pursue other opportunities in the future.

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

Kristen Gouveia is a recent graduate of the Broadcasting Radio, Television and Film program at Niagara College. She participated in a Volunteer Abroad experience at The Edge in Auckland, New Zealand during a 2-month period.  Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how she has become even more “World Ready” as a result of her time abroad.

Gouveia with a view of Auckland, NZ.

It’s safe to say that before my trip abroad, I was a very different person. On the outside, I may still look the same, aside from the small tan that I was got from the New Zealand sun, but on the inside I’m a new person. Before I left to intern abroad, I was a very sheltered young adult. Now, that’s not to say that I never travelled anywhere, but my day to day life was very sheltered and protected. Like most North American kids, I was raised by “worried” parents.  As I grew older, some of that worry started shedding on to me. I started to be afraid to do things alone and constantly wanted a friend or someone to come with me when I went shopping or had to visit the dentist – not always but most times.

When I got to Auckland, my life changed the day my dad left for the airport (he’s Portuguese, so he came with me for the first week). After he left, I sat in my room and cried for 10 minutes, thinking about how much I was going to miss him and my family. Moments later, I specifically remember hearing a knock on my door and realized that it was my landlord bringing me a banana smoothie. I love banana smoothies. That night, I decided that I would come out of my room and take the experience by the horns.

The people who I lived with are Indian, both in their early thirties, with a beautiful baby girl (who I had the pleasure of being named an honorary auntie to). Living at their house was something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. They are the most generous and kind people that I have had the pleasure of meeting and I now consider them to be family.  Since their house was a bed and breakfast, I had the chance to meet wonderful people from all over the world. I can’t even express to you how eye opening it was for me to learn about so many cultures: Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, Austrian… and the list continues. I can now cook some Indian dishes, I know how to tie a sari, and I can proudly list a few swear words. It is safe to say my life at “home” was incredible.IMG_7520

Working with The Edge was also an amazing experience. I had unforgettable co-workers, who turned into friends for life. I learned so much about television broadcasting, not to mention got some amazing perks (meeting celebrities and going to festivals). Sam, one of my close friends from work, is actually of Maori decent, so I was able to learn about Maori traditions and religion through him.

Gouveira and colleagues at The Edge, a local broadcasting company in Auckland, NZ.

This trip was so much more than beautiful pictures posted on Facebook. I am no longer afraid to do things alone because I was alone… half way around the world, and I was successful! It has given me confidence in my life that I couldn’t have gotten any other way. My experience aboad has made me understand so much about different people and cultures. We are all SO different, yet we are all the same. I believe this trip will help me with my endeavors in the future because the trip helped me grow into the kind of person a broadcasting company looks for…educated, worldly, compassionate, daring, and adventurous.

Thank-you to my INCREDIBLE parents for always supporting me; for knowing when to hold on, and when to let go, and for making my dreams your own. I love you so much. Also a big thank-you to all the friends I made over in New Zealand (at home and at work)…you have all made my trip what it was, and I can’t thank-you enough for welcoming me into your lives.

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



Students and graduates of NC’s hospitality programs will have the opportunity to gain valuable international experience thanks to a partnership that will see NC become the first Canadian school affiliated with Hospitality Connections (HOSCO), a global hospitality network.

The Geneva, Switzerland-based HOSCO brings together more than 600 companies with 8,000 students from the 45 top-ranked hotel schools in the world.

“Enhancing the international practical-learning experiences for our students is a key strategic priority for us, and this partnership creates a world of opportunity for our hospitality students,” said Jon Ogryzlo, dean of International Partnerships. “It’s also a recognition of the high standards we employ in our hospitality programs, which are producing graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in any setting.”

Through the HOSCO partnership, NC students and graduates can create online profiles and apply for three types of job opportunities, including internships that range from three to 12 months; entry-level positions that require less than two years of experience; and graduate jobs that require more than two years of experience.

“Our students have told us that they are interested in working globally, and this partnership will help them connect with some of the top employers worldwide,” said Kristine Dawson, manager of Co-op and Graduate Employment Services. “We’re very pleased to be the first Canadian school to provide this exciting global networking resource for our students.”

As HOSCO aims to expand into the Americas, it is seeking schools with respected hospitality and tourism programs to build its network.

“With a proven strong reputation in the industry, Niagara College was a priority for our organization, and we are very pleased to start welcoming its students and graduates on board of HOSCO,” said Olivier Bracard, HOSCO managing partner.

NC provides international learning opportunities to students in a wide range of program areas, and promotes the value of international learning experience through programs such as Be World Ready, where students to gain intercultural skills and citizenship values at home and abroad, helping them to be work ready and world ready.

“Students and recent graduates who work internationally are able to broaden their cultural understandings, develop new language skills and gain new perspectives on the world,” said Ogryzlo. “These are all things that will give them a great advantage as they set out to succeed in today’s world.”

Students can access the HOSCO site by clicking here.