Classes, homework and exams don’t have to be the only part of your university experience. UBC students ?in Vancouver or Kelowna can also learn through work, while volunteering, on a different continent or by getting involved in a community project.
Trek Reading Week Programs??
Through the TREK and Reading Week programs, the UBC-Community Learning Initiative offers students opportunities to volunteer at schools and not-for-profits to explore real-world issues.
Volunteering has been part of Tlell Brown-Bentley’s life since attending high school in Surrey, B.C. After finding a TREK program brochure in residence, the first-year Integrated Sciences student signed up for the Math Mentorship program. For two hours a week, Brown-Bentley traveled to an East Vancouver school to help Grade 8 students with their math course. She spent most of her time working with students who were uninterested and unengaged, many of them taking the same class for the second time. Brown-Bentley’s perseverance paid off when the students started to open up: “I felt that at some point each of these students had a mini-epiphany and understood the math concepts better,” she says. ?“It was great to get into the community. I felt like I was really contributing to their education.”
Students in the Arts Co-op program in Vancouver alternate between academic terms and challenging, practical, and paid work experiences that provide transformative workplace learning.
For the first three years of his degree, Aaron Cheng found his classes stimulating and enjoyable. But the geography major also felt lost. He knew he was interested in environmental issues but didn’t feel like he was moving towards anything specific. This summer, Cheng landed an Arts Co-op position with the Capital Regional District in Victoria, compiling cycling data for the region and working on the city’s first bike maps. “Co-op gave me a sense of how much I can use my education in the real world,” says Cheng, who has since decided to pursue urban planning, a career that will allow him to make a difference in the community and the environment. “Co-op gives you the field experience and it helps you decide what kind of jobs you might be interested in.”
International ??Service Learning ??(ISL)??
From an early age, Donovan Duncan wanted to do international aid work, specifically for children. He got his chance at the beginning of his third year at UBC, when he spent three months in Vuvulane, a village in northeastern Swaziland, a country with the world’s most severe HIV/AIDS epidemic. Working with the relief organization SOS Children’s Villages, the Kelowna, B.C. native assisted nurses with non-medical tasks in the local clinic, and spent his “off hours” engaging in casual conversations with male teens about HIV and AIDS, promoting the use of condoms and the ease and benefits of circumcision, which has been shown to lower the risk of contracting the virus. “The highlight was being able to build personal relationships with the community members,” says Duncan, who begins working toward his medical degree at UBC this month. “As a result of this experience, I am more culturally aware, more culturally sensitive and more culturally open-minded than I was before.”
Community Service Learning (CSL)
Through CSL courses, the UBC-Community Learning Initiative offers students the opportunity to earn credits while they work with community partners to resolve complex issues in the community
Fourth-year Arts student Maya Reisz wanted more from her university experience than lectures, readings and writing papers. “I wanted to do more with people and I wanted to know what people do outside of a university,” says the Boston, MA native. A sociology and psychology double-major, Reisz has done three CSL courses, exploring the lives of Vancouver’s immigrants, on consumers and consumption, and the psychology of a community. “You need to be active,” she says. “The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.”
CSL ??Okanagan Campus
Patrick Murphy from the Okanagan campus learned first-hand how Mayans put food on the table last spring when he participated in the Spanish Summer Field School.
The Trinidad-born Murphy wasn’t thrilled about a 3:30am wake-up call or the cocktail of bug repellent and sweat, but learned to turn fresh corn into empanadas using a hand-cranked grinder and to embrace the simple things in life. “Their life is so much harder than ours,” says Murphy. “But they appreciate their lives so much more than the average Canadian appreciates ours.”
Part of the community service learning initiative, the field school took Murphy and [five] other students to three different communities in Mexico, where they volunteered in jungle villages and helped clean up a university research station ravaged by Hurricane Dean in 2007.