This Spring, 19 University of Kent students participated in the University of Calgary’s Global Community Challenge YYC. Launched in January, it brought 136 students from 23 universities in 13 countries together to solve 24 challenges set by 17 community organisations.
This 8-week virtual exchange offered by one of our partner universities allowed Kent students to experience working in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary teams to identify potential solutions for local organisations in the Calgary community that have made an impact globally. The students also took part in a series of professional development workshops.
Four of Kent’s students made the challenge final with their pitches given live in front of a panel of mentors and judges from Calgary. Isis Harvey, 4th year Psychology (with studies in Europe) student was in the winning team. Read her experience below:
- How did you find the overall experience?
My team and I were tasked with coming up with a solution to increase diversity within Loft 112 (an art gallery in Calgary, Canada) through an art-based format. The experience was challenging at times. It was difficult trying to organise meetings with Loft 112 and each other due to the time difference because most of us were in different regions, but we pulled through. It was also very fulfilling. We not only managed to work seamlessly despite being a group of people from different cultures and universities who had never met before, but we also managed to put together an idea that could make a real difference in terms of making Loft 112 feel like more of a welcoming and safe space for minority groups in Calgary.
- How does it feel to win the challenge, and what does that mean for your team?
It felt amazing when we found out we won. We had worked so hard to come up with a fun idea that could include minority groups of all ages and bring these communities together, especially in a time when contact with others is restricted. Winning the challenge confirmed to us that our idea could be successful, especially as our presentation was rated by judges from a variety of backgrounds. It also increased our confidence in our various roles. Before the challenge, I was not a fan of public speaking and normally would have never volunteered to present, so presenting in the finals, of course with the help of my team, and then winning really boosted my confidence. My other team members also reported feeling more confident in leading a group, designing presentations, and contributing new ideas to projects. Winning the challenge also meant we were lucky enough to get group and individual sessions with life and career Coach Carol Wert, which was amazing.
- What have your learnt from the experience?
This experience has improved my confidence in working with new people from different backgrounds. We were all able to bring our different ideas and combine them into something amazing. I’d definitely say my project specifically increased my creativity in terms of creating safe spaces for different cultural groups. As most of my team was from a variety of minority backgrounds we were able to make the project suitable for different backgrounds by providing information about what may or may not work for different cultures.
- What would you say to those thinking about participating in the future?
I would definitely recommend this to others. You not only get to make a real difference in Calgary, but you meet some amazing people on the way, who you can stay in contact with. I even got a chance to help one of my team members, a fellow psychology student, with a podcast she was doing about attitudes towards mental health in different cultures outside of the project. In addition to this, for those of you wanting to improve your confidence in contact with other cultures or just team members in general, this challenge also provides workshops on increasing intercultural competency and how to work successfully as a team. Overall, it was an amazing experience.
If you would be interested participating in the next iteration of the Global Community Challenge YYC in the Autumn term, you can register your interest here.
Virtual exchange allows students to engage in meaningful, cross-cultural experiences as part of their education. It can broaden access to international learning for every student, regardless of their circumstances, background or ability. These projects provide the framework for students to develop their cross-cultural attitudes, skills, and communication in addition to improving their digital literacy skills valued by employers.