After one week of exploring new grounds, developing global perspectives and putting their hard-earned skills to good use by contributing to environmental and economical development around the world, Niagara College students returned from midterm break changed individuals.
The 2018 Be World Ready International Field Studies took NC to Los Cacaos, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica where their involvement was anything but a day at the beach. Students signed on to the experiences not only to try something new and make their NC story special, but to test their work ethic and help make a lasting difference in their places of travel.
Touting that the Be World Ready initiative gives NC students the upper hand in the workplace after exposure and immersion to practical issues and solutions on a global scale, the college prepared another strong group of students that are work and world ready.
Community engagement in Los Cacaos
For Aidan Topping, a second-year Greenhouse Technician student, it was his first time travelling on a plane and setting foot outside of North America. “It was rewarding experience and a good adjustment,” he said. “Everyone became a little closer. It brought me out of my box – when I got there, everyone helped each other and pushed you forward… it was a humbling experience.”
His classmate, Denzil Rose, shared the sentiments of comradery that the trip to the Dominican Republic fostered. “The fact that we went there as strangers and made genuine connections and became so close is incredible.”
The students were integrated in the South American culture, staying in the small communities over night and interacting with the locals.
“We went from farm to farm to learn their intercropping, pruning and cultivation techniques. The way they plant is very organic, almost laid-back – everything’s not as linear like North American farming,” Topping added. “I would absolutely makes this trip again. I signed up for courses next year and I’ve put this on my list as something I want to do annually.”
Sulmira Marroquin, originally from Guatemala said that the experience was an emotional one. “It was really emotional. We went to one school and the children were using the books that I used read when I was younger,” she said, reminding her of the days when she didn’t have shoes to wear to school. “They were smiling and were so happy to see us because we were new.”
Marroquin, also taking the Greenhouse Technician Co-op has been working at a greenhouse for the last two years and will become a supervisor once she completes her courses. Like Topping, she too plans on returning to the Dominican for future contributions as an alumni.
Trekking the Andean highlands
Meanwhile, the exploration continued in Peru where NC backpacked their way through the Urubamba Valley and harvested resources to make traditional medicine out of natural tea leaves.
NC Cultural and Global Engagement assistant, Danielle Jewer has been working for Be World Ready for three years but has never travelled on one of the experiences, though she has been to several countries. The backpacking elements piqued her interest in the trip, offering something outside of the typical tourist stops she’s done on previous travels.
“It is so different from what I’ve done before – I’ve done the highlights of the countries and of course I tried the local food but I never got to be fully immersed in a culture in this way,” she said.
It was Aman Arora’s first time in the country as well. The NCSAC executive vice-president appreciated the smaller things that North Americans may take for granted after a week that lacked the comforts of sprawling buildings and convenient appliances.
“My experience to Peru was amazing and something I can never forget in my life,” he said. “We should respect our mother earth and be happy with whatever we naturally have, rather than always wanting more and destroying our natural resources.”
The students participated in hands on work and team building activities, living in a farm with no electricity and relying on the natural resources. Arora comments that the journey was an experience you couldn’t put a price on.
Continuing development for Me to We
In Nicaragua, Justice Studies students continued their Me to We initiative by starting where they left off at the build site in El Trapiche in 2017, where they began the foundation for the new school.
Like the other trips, NC students formed a tighter bond with each other that they possibly wouldn’t have otherwise made.
“The teamwork I saw on the build site with everyone helping one another and making sure everyone was hydrated and feeling okay was admirable,” said student Breanna Thornton. “Even on the first day still not knowing everyone, we all checked in on one another and made sure everyone was okay.”
In small groups, students worked on different projects around the build site. These projects included: building new bathrooms, stairs to get up the hill, leveling the group for the rainy season and removing stumps, pick axing the ramp to implement stairs and painting the playground for the children.
El Trapiche only received water for the first time in 2005. The stories of its people travelling four kilometres each way to collect water are ones that made a great impact on Thornton. Despite these harsher realities, she noted the gratitude and warmth of the community.
“The community is very close with one another,” she added. “To this community, there are 24 strangers that are coming into their small community and the community members took every opportunity to say thank you to us when they could.”
Eco-restoration in Costa Rica
From observing Sea Turtle hatcheries to making traps for restoration in a benthic habitat, Costa Rica provided students an up-close look at how the country is taking its steps to achieve peak sustainability. At the Rancho Margot eco-lodge, students got involved in carbon offsetting with cacao, took guided tours to learn of the property’s reforestation techniques and coffee production.
Building traps for rewilding experiment on some local watersheds here in Costa Rica. Benthic Invertebrates slightly more diverse here than at home #understatement @BeWorldReady @niagaracollege #beworldready pic.twitter.com/tNHctY1duQ
— Alan J. Unwin (@alunwin) March 1, 2018
— K Altoft (@kaltoft1) March 2, 2017
There are more IFS to come in 2018 as Niagara College continues its commitment to give its students a unique experience with valuable takeaways that they will use as they develop their professional careers in or outside of Canada.
For more information on the IFS trips and the Be World Ready program, click here.