Sharing Indigenous Experiences Worldwide

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

For Catherine Pitawanakwat, a Great Lakes Ojibway student at UBC, the opportunity to participate in the Go Global program gave her the chance to connect with other travellers from all over the world and share her knowledge about Indigenous issues in North America with students who may have never previously been exposed to these.

While completing her undergraduate degree, Catherine decided that she would like to spend two semesters on exchange.  Students who are considering participating in an exchange or a study abroad program work with UBC’s Go Global program to first ensure that they are eligible to study in another country, and then to pick a destination.  Students who travel abroad remain enrolled at UBC, but take courses at one of many possible host universities.  Credits earned while studying internationally can later be applied towards a UBC degree.  Potential locations that students may consider include Australia, Chile, France, China, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, the UK and many more.  It is important for students to ensure that the host university they choose offers the courses that they require in a language that they can understand.

In the end, Catherine chose to study in Brisbane, Australia.  Although Go Global allows students to break up their study abroad experience, spending a semester in one country and then a second in another, Catherine enjoyed her experience in Brisbane so much that she decided to stay for two whole semesters.

Her time in Brisbane was spent learning about the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Australia, as well as sharing her own stories.  She notes that in “every classroom I attended, I asked for the opportunity to introduce myself and I spoke in my traditional language and I gave them a brief synopsis of what it was like to be an Indigenous person and why I was in Australia.  […] From there I was able to build stepping stones for more opportunities to talk about what our issues are and what we want addressed and what we want people to learn about us.”

Many students who wish to study abroad may feel concerned that the costs associated with doing so will be prohibitive.  Students will need to balance the costs of airfare, tuition, accommodation, food and entertainment in the host country.  In some instances, many of these may cost less than they do in Vancouver.  For students who are used to working while completing their studies, some adjustment may be necessary as they will likely not have this source of income.  Nonetheless, Catherine notes that there are “students I’ve talked to from across Canada that do get grants from their bands and from the government”, and many students are also eligible for a $1,000 Go Global travel award, or one of many other awards available for international studies.

Interested in studying abroad?  You may want to stop by the Go Global Fair in September to connect with students who have gone through the program, and gain some insight as to whether or not an exchange would be right for you.  Also, make sure to check out the Go Global site in order to keep on top of all of the application deadlines!