International Internships Provide World of Opportunity
A pair of Selkirk College alumni has returned from Rwanda and Jamaica with a transformational understanding of the world around them and their future in it.
Anika Wallace and Brodie Parachoniak graduated from the Contemporary Music & Technology Program in 2018 and 2017, and recently returned from six-month Global Affairs Canada international internships that provide opportunities for post-secondary graduates between the ages of 19 and 30.
“This internship was one of the best steps I've made for myself towards a more serene and uplifting future,” says Wallace, who spent six months as a music/English instructor with Ecole D’Arts et de Musique de Nyundo in Rwanda. “I am content with what it has given me and I feel humbled to have had this opportunity to grow and explore myself and a new country.”
Opportunities Open to All Post-Secondary Graduates
Selkirk College, along with partners Bow Valley College and College of the Rockies, offers eight placements funded by Global Affairs Canada through the International Youth Internship Program for a total of 28 placements for graduates of diplomas or degrees. Administered by post-secondary institutions and NGOs in Canada, the program offers meaningful opportunities to graduates in a multitude of programs for placements all across the world.
The eight Selkirk College-sponsored internships are based in Rwanda, Guatemala, Jamaica and Kenya with a range of projects and skill sets required.
Parachoniak took the opportunity to get involved in international development in order to step outside his comfort zone and experience a new culture. He headed to Jamaica, where he filled the role of social media officer at the Women’s Resource & Outreach Centre in Kingston between June and December.
“I quickly realized that the international development community is all about wearing as many different hats as possible,” says the 26-year-old. “During my time in Jamaica, I worked closely with a communications specialist to help further develop their online and social media presence, acted as their event and in-house photographer, and helped organize and facilitate various events, workshops and skill-building camps.”
Now living back in his native Manitoba, Parachoniak says working for six months in a new culture changed the way he looks at the world.
“A person’s concept of fairness, equality and justice are totally relative to their own human experience and the social climate which they consider normal,” he says. “The full spectrum of emotion exists at every level of social class and understanding the history of a country and its people can be extremely helpful in establishing context and understanding when dealing with social norms different than your own.”
Finding Inspiration to Make a Difference
Wallace first heard about the Ecole D’Arts et de Musique de Nyundo in Rwanda while in her first year of study at Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus when now-retired Contemporary Music & Technology Program instructor Gilles Parenteau told students about his time spent at the African school. When Wallace discovered that an internship was available at the school, the Vanderhoof native jumped at the opportunity to travel overseas.
During her six-month placement, Wallace taught and tutored music classes along with creating her own curriculum for an independent English course. Though she had never formally taught at that level and had little experience in developing curriculum, Wallace was provided with the confidence to succeed.
“I never thought that I’d be teaching at that level in another country, but the way life unfolds is something we will never truly understand,” she says. “I have learned to revel and appreciate what comes with the unexpected instead of fearing it. To effectively communicate with those around me and create genuine connections that I can carry with me is an important takeaway.”
During her time in Rwanda, Wallace says the openness of the students, faculty and community made the experience that much more impactful.
“The people I spent my time within Rwanda made it a true home for me and I've felt more comfortable there than I have anywhere,” Wallace says. “Re-adjusting to Canadian living and social aspects have been more difficult for me than going into a new country and culture completely.”
An enthusiastic advocate of international development, Wallace says others considering getting involved should not hesitate.
“Go in with the high expectation of complete change and excitement for the inevitable idea of the unknown and what new and exciting experiences can come with being surrounded by new people and a completely different culture,” she says. “Choosing to be a part of an internship means you need to completely surrender yourself to a world of new possibilities and be ready to roll with the punches and be a very flexible and accepting person.”
Application Deadline Approaches
Pat Bidart, the Dean at Selkirk College who was responsible for bringing the program to the West Kootenay, believes these opportunities provide graduates a valuable international learning experience that will benefit them going forward in their careers.
“Learning to work in a different culture, working with a variety of people, living in another country and in some cases learning a new language are great employability skills for the participants,” Bidart says. “I was really proud of the group of interns we had involved in our program… they worked hard, participated and used initiative at their sites.”
The eight Selkirk College-sponsored internships are open to graduates from any Canadian post-secondary institution who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Interested alumni or students can contact Selkirk College Dean Pat Bidart with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.