Imagine working on a real-world humanitarian problem with students in different countries from around the world. For one Vancouver Community College (VCC) student, the UMAP Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program allowed him to do just that.
Syed Hussain, a third-year domestic student in VCC’s Bachelor of Hospitality Management program, is the college’s first participant to complete the opportunity this fall – made possible by the University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific (UMAP), a consortium with over 200 higher education institutions from 23 countries in Asia and the Pacific Rim.
“My assumptions were challenged when working with international students,” says Syed, currently a duty manager at Coast Coal Harbour in Vancouver. “I also got to learn about new tools and technology I’d never heard of before and that could help me in my career later down the road.”
Over seven weeks from August to October, COIL students collaborated on projects related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Syed’s group consisted of students from Japan, Mexico, and Chile who researched drowning prevention around the world.
According to Syed, while Canadian statistics show a decline in drowning deaths over the years thanks to swimming education and the use of lifeguards, other countries such as Chile and Mexico lack such resources. Japan, specifically, has been doubling down on efforts to teach more citizens to swim, especially after the 2011 tsunami took the lives of thousands of people.
Gaining such global awareness and learning to work across borders are some of the most valuable benefits of the COIL program for Syed, who hopes to become a hotel consultant in the future and help businesses make data-driven decisions to better run their operations.
In January 2021, VCC became the International Secretariat of UMAP, which aims to provide intercultural learning opportunities to as many students as possible, either through fully immersive international exchange semesters or through virtual programs such as COIL for working students like Syed who are unable to travel abroad.
“Programs such as these bring new perspectives to the classroom, and, in turn, give students the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills to an informed global citizen,” says Chelsey Laird, director of UMAP at VCC. “These opportunities expose you to different ways of thinking and give you a chance to work with people abroad that you otherwise would not have had.”
While the thought of going on exchange or working across time zones may seem daunting at first, Syed encourages any student at VCC to jump right in if this is something they are considering.
“Don’t be shy,” he says. “This is a great learning opportunity, especially working with different cultures.”
Learn more about studying abroad and gaining intercultural knowledge as part of your learning experience. Contact the UMAP team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about the UMAP consortium and other exchange opportunities for students at VCC.