Selkirk College Alumni Embark on International Internships

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The importance and value of young Canadians placing a focus on global issues continues to be a priority for senior levels of government with the creation of international internships that provide essential work, develop new skills and result in vital knowledge.

A trio of Selkirk College alumni have embarked on six-month internships that send recent Canadian post-secondary graduates across the globe to work on international development.

Selkirk College, along with partners Bow Valley College and College of the Rockies, is excited to launch the first of eight placements funded by Global Affairs Canada through the International Youth Internship Program. 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.

Recent post-secondary graduates who are participating in Global Affairs Canada’s International Youth Internship Program include: (L-R) Darren Tyrell, Thomas Caldwell, Pat Bidart (Selkirk College Dean), Alyssa Nebel, Ashley Cheney, Brody Parachoniak, Stu Morrison and Anika Wallace. The group met at Nelson’s Silver King Campus in early June for a week of preparation for their six-month placements across the globe.

“It’s a great opportunity to get involved and immerse myself in another culture,” says Brody Parachoniak, a Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program alumnus who left for his internship in the Caribbean earlier this month. “Getting to spend six months in Jamaica means that I will not just scratch the surface, I can get more involved in understanding the sense of community and get a full experience.

A Variety of Placements and Locations

Seven of the eight participants involved in the Selkirk College-led internships gathered at Nelson’s Silver King Campus at the start of June to spend a week preparing for their six-month placements. The recent grads came to the West Kootenay from their homes all across Canada and then set off to Jamaica, Rwanda, Guatemala and Rwanda. 

The eight Selkirk College-sponsored internships range from a Business Development Officer for the Kenya Education for Employment Program through Colleges & Institutes Canada in Nairobi to a Communications & Social Media Officer for the Women’s Resource Outreach Centre in Jamaica to a Youth Health & Wellness Officer with the Cooperative of Nuevo Horizonte in Guatemala to a music/English instructor with Ecole D’Arts et de Musique de Nyundo in Rwanda.

The internship program is available to graduates under the age of 30 from a variety educational backgrounds. Open to eligible Canadian youth, the program aims to provide international experience, build knowledge, increase employment opportunities upon return, and afford participants the chance to promote international development efforts both in Canada and abroad.

“I want to have a positive impact and this gives me real-world experience in the field of development which is my main goal,” says Stu Morrison, a 29-year-old Halifax resident who is spending six months in Kenya. “It will be a huge benefit to me because I will gain skills in educational development which I will then be able to apply as my career moves along.”

Pat Bidart, a Selkirk College Dean with deep roots in international education, headed up the process to select the eight successful participants. With a post-secondary career that stretches more than three decades, Bidart has extensive international education experience having worked on projects in Kenya, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania, Mozambique, Belize, Jamaica, Suriname and Dominican Republic.

The Importance of Global Citizens

The eight Selkirk College sponsored internships will also take place in 2019 and 2020 for a total of 24 placements under the Global Affairs Canada program. Bidart says the opportunity to participate in the program in future years should provide incentive to all current and future students. 

Selkirk College is connected to their international partners as the Nursing Program has had the partnership in Guatemala for many years, the music partnership had recently partnered with the music program in Rwanda, in Kenya Selkirk College is a partner in the Kenya Education for Employment Program and in Jamaica previous contacts have resulted in the placement in that nation.

“We talk a lot about being global citizens,” says Bidart, who started at Selkirk College in 2016. “Going off on a holiday is different from working and living in an environment. What these students learn about themselves and learn about working in another culture will transform them. Projects we have like this that get our students abroad are amazing.”

Anika Wallace and Thomas Caldwell are the two other Selkirk College alumni participating in the internships. The pair are recent graduates of the Contemporary Music & Technology Program and both will be spending six months as music/English instructors at the Ecole D’Arts et de Musique de Nyundo in Rwanda which has formed a strong bond with Selkirk College over the last few years.

As he prepared for his journey to Jamaica where he will work with disadvantaged women and youth, Parachoniak admitted that he was likely the least-traveled member of the group who gathered for the week of preparation. The time he spent with other participants emboldened the 25-year-old Manitoba resident for the experience ahead.

“I’ve learned so much in just in the last few days preparing with the other participants because everybody comes with their own knowledge and experience,” says Parachoniak, who was a member of the Selkirk College Class of 2017. “It’s an incredibly diverse educational background and has really opened my eyes to international development.”

If you would like to learn more about the International Youth Internship Program and future opportunities, head to our program page. Interested alumni or students who are graduating in 2019 can also contact Bidart with any questions at pbidart@selkirk.ca.

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