Although students may start their UNB career in Fredericton, their studies may end up taking them somewhere far beyond the Maritimes.
In the summer of 2015, Alysha-Rae Weekes, a 2017 BBA graduate, went on a three-week study program in France; this gave her a taste of what studying abroad would be like, and so she decided was ready for a more immersive experience. The following semester, Weekes applied to go to Heilbronn University—a UNB partner school in Germany.
Initially, she was only going to be there for six months—but the school semesters in Germany had different annual schedules than those in Canada; because the fall semester started at the beginning of October and ended early February, Weekes said she “couldn’t come back to UNB as a student for the winter, so I decided while I was there, to look for an internship so I could stay for the whole year.”
The campus Weekes attended was located in a small city of about 120,000 people that reminded her of Fredericton; it even had a river running along the centre. “I think it was nice starting in the smaller town, getting a bit better at speaking German and then going [to a larger city],” she said.
After spending a year abroad and realizing she didn’t feel as homesick as she expected, Weekes decided she was ready to challenge herself and visit a developing country next.
“I think for me—and for a lot of other students, maybe you just need the progression—and it’s nice to have those shorter term trips available, just to see what you can handle and work up from there,” Weekes said.
In May of this year, Weekes and eight other UNB students spent a summer abroad in Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa.
One student on the trip, a fourth-year Biology student named Lua Samimi, learned about the opportunity while scrolling through her Facebook feed. A picture of Malawi caught her attention, and she soon found out that the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship program selected and sponsored students to go on an internship for three months.
After two days of travelling and countless others preparing to fly across the world, Samimi said she was “really excited to get all the logistics out of the way so we could actually start our internship and meet the people in Malawi.”
Each intern had a job in a different area, as well as a goal to achieve through the program. Samimi was placed at the Africa University for Diplomacy, Counseling and International Relations. Her main goal was to help them start up a clinic and expand on their current services. She ended up doing a lot more.
“I [ended up] expanding my internship and working with the University of North Carolina on a research project [that helps prevent] mother-to-child HIV transmission,” said Samimi.
Through this additional role, she got to participate in pediatric rounds at the local clinic. For her, it was insightful to see how healthcare worked in Malawi and to learn firsthand from the doctors there. She also got to witness how a lack of resources can sometimes be the main reason a patient isn’t able to recover—despite the doctor’s expertise and efforts.
“The whole summer in general taught me to not plan out my life out so much. I hadn’t planned to go to Malawi and it changed my plans for the future, […] so it helped me relax and become more flexible,” she said.
As Samimi was getting ready to return to Fredericton, Michaelene Toussaint was preparing to start her UNB Bachelor of Education at one of the university’s satellite campuses in Trinidad.
Growing up in the Caribbean, Toussaint knew from a young age she wanted to be a teacher. Even as a child, she would line up her dolls and pretend to be a teaching a lesson However, when it was time to choose a career, she felt confused as the pressure to study law or medicine—“careers deemed important” by her family and community—increased.
“But I knew deep down that I wanted to be a teacher. And then it dawned on me: a teacher makes a lawyer; a teacher makes a doctor. So I was, ‘Okay, this is what I should choose,’” she said.
She followed her gut and joined the 13-student first-year BEd class at the University of West Indies in September.
Toussaint believes that if she can help a child realize that they have the potential to become what they aspire to be, she would be contributing to her community to the best of her ability.
Toussaint also aspires to be a motivational speaker and has begun to write a column for The Brunswickan. She hopes that by doing this, she will get to experience more from the Canadian culture without leaving home—and believes this will help prepare for a semester abroad at UNB Fredericton in the future.
As Kelly Berg, UNB international programs advisor, says, one of the primary benefits of an international experience is the ability to challenge oneself and learn what you can do on your own. “[Students] return with so much self-confidence; they are proud of their new skills, their experiences and friends from all over the world, and it’s such a joy to see their development throughout their involvement in the program,” she said.
Berg also noted that UNB has short and long-term study and work programs in big and small cities around the world. The destinations can be English or non-English-speaking countries in Europe, Oceania, Asia or the Caribbean—as well as in North and Latin America.
“We feel that we are able to accommodate most requests from students,” she said. Berg acknowledges that her own international experiences have given her the ability to be comfortable working with people from various cultural backgrounds.
“I think this is a very important skill to have in the 21st century.”