Oh, the places you will go

Saint Mary’s students seize travel opportunities supplements education

It is a big world out there for these International Development graduate students who hope to have some travel experience before they leave Saint Mary’s. (Photo: Rebecca Zimmer)

For now, he can only show his students a picture of a harbour resting at the bottom of a mountain. But soon, Associate Professor Gavin Fridell will take his students to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Fridell has seven months to prepare for a field trip that will take 15 Saint Mary’s University students to the island nation off the Caribbean coast of South America in May. They want to focus on how trade and commerce affect the isolated islands.

It’s just one of many travel opportunities Saint Mary’s University offers students.

Miyuki Arai, project manager of international activities at Saint Mary’s, says trips such as Fridell’s, and other exchange, internship and volunteer opportunities, allow the university to send students to Italy, China, Colombia and other countries. In the 2012/2013 school year, 169 students went abroad to supplement their education.

Saint Mary’s lists 73 organizations and universities around the world it partners with to exchange students and give them opportunities to study in different countries. The majority offer classes in English, along with their native language.

Third-year Saint Mary’s student Lydia Mazel earned her internship through a competition with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Students for Development have given her the chance to put what she has learned into practice on a trip to Bolivia.

Mazel and her colleagues are putting together presentations every month on Bolivian issues from a Canadian perspective.

“We are also working on a research paper for St. Mary’s which we will also submit to the NGO based on what we learned here,” says Mazel.

Fourth-year Saint Mary’s student Megan Julian is preparing for her trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines by taking International Development courses and applying for scholarships. (Photo: Rebecca Zimmer)

International Development Studies classes has helped fourth-year student Megan Julian prepare for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines trip.

“I already took a course with Gavin Fridell on international trade and development,” Julian says, “so I’ve already taken into account the trade situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and what has happened there.”

Graduate student Janet Music advises students to travel early in life, before other commitments come up. For Fridell’s trip, two weeks is a long time to give up when you have classes, work or a family.

“Parenthood, marriages, as you get farther up into graduate studies you’re less likely to be young people with disposable income and more (likely to be) people who are working,” says Music.

Critics often see International Development as “westerners” coming in to “develop” poor countries. But this is something Fridell is trying to change by providing a program with a different objective.

“We’re taking 15 students down there and they are going to learn from people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines … and learn about what they’re doing and also learn about what people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are doing to challenge that.”

As Fridell puts it, development is no longer a case of “add westerner and stir.” As a professor of International Development, he’s seen countries in need discover their own solutions. Fridell wants his students to learn other points of view rather than trying to change them.