February 14, 2013 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Story by Agnes Chick

As the King’s community celebrated cultural diversity with a night of vibrant performances at the 10th Annual Cultural Festival last week, it provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase international learning programs offered through the university college.

The festival’s Information Fair featured booths and cultural displays from organizations and groups around King’s, Western and London. Some of the groups represented at the fair included Austrian, Brazilian and Korean Exchange Students, Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Association, Polish Student Union, Social Justice and Peace Club, and Western’s International and Exchange Student Centre.

In addition to the Information Fair, the festival highlighted the stories and experiences of international and Canadian students who have worked, studied or volunteered abroad. Through programs linked to King’s, students have travelled to China, Mexico, Great Britain, France, Ghana, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzgovina, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, India, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea, Brazil, Costa Rica and Jamaica.

Shawn Johnston and Jane Yoo, fourth-year students in the Social Work program, shared their extraordinary journey last year to Guangzhou, China. An experiential learning trip offered through the School of Social Work, they were given the opportunity to stay at the South China Agricultural University where they took an introductory course on Mandarin and learned about Chinese culture and customs.

During the two week excursion, Johnston and Yoo studied how social work is implemented in China, visited social service organizations, volunteered in local communities and presented to students at the university about social work in Canada.

“The most rewarding part of the trip was the friendships we made with the students from South China Agricultural University,” says Johnston, who recalls memorable experiences sharing each other’s cultures and exploring the beautiful city of Guangzhou. “There were many new customs to learn every day and this was an experience in itself.”

While many inspiring stories were shared at the Cultural Festival, there are countless students who have jumped at the opportunity to take an experiential learning trip at King's. Organized by Campus Ministry, Maria Sebastianpillai, fourth-year student completing a double major in Catholic Studies for Teachers and History, had the chance to travel to Fond Du Lac, Northern Saskatchewan. Along with a group of 15 students, Sebastianpillai spent two weeks this past summer in a Dene community; a First Nations reserve where they slept in tents, cooked on Bunsen burners and boiled their water.

“The purpose of our trip was to organize activities that would teach the morals and lessons of the Catholic Faith,” says Sebastianpillai. “We built relationships with the families, particularly the children. We played with them, listened to their stories and took part in their celebrations. This experience was a challenge for me. I saw another world in Canada, but it was a good challenge. It set a fire in me to make a difference here.”

Sebastianpillai described a warm and welcoming community that highly depends on weather for resources and struggles to receive educational and medical support. The experience was humbling as she realized how important it is to provide care and assistance to communities across Canada.

By sharing their stories to the King's community, students demonstrate the meaningful impact international learning programs have on their personal and professional lives as they build the skills needed for succeeding in a global economy and fostering responsible and equitable relations.

To view the Cultural Festival's photo gallery, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/kingsatwestern?ref=hl#!/media/set/?set=a.513617055348511.125107.281129505263935&type=1

For more information about King’s Cultural Festival, please contact King’s International Office: international@kings.uwo.ca