Combination of cultural and curriculum-based programming engages participants
What do Wales and Canada have in common? Saskatchewan Polytechnic Justice Studies students explored the question during a study abroad to the UK.
Terry Fleury, Justice Studies program head, explains the destination was selected because a similar post-secondary program is offered at Cardiff and Vale College.
“Sask Polytech students were able to join classes at the college. Similar to Wales, the Canadian justice system is common-law based with the exception of Quebec that follows a civil law system. Students were able to do a research project comparing differences in each country’s legislative background,” explains Fleury.
The global learning experience helped the second-year students gain a broader perspective notes Kevin Krawec, Community Safety Programs program head, who was a chaperone on the trip.
“The courses students attended in Wales were relevant to our curriculum. Students benefitted greatly from the instruction provided. We also had tours of the Wales police station, prison and the Security, Crime, and Intelligence Innovation Institute of Cardiff University. It was good to see the comparison,” says Krawec.
The trip proved to be invaluable to student Rhiannon Lynch.
“We learned a lot in the classrooms through engaging lessons. It was fun. Everyone should experience a trip like this. It was educational, recreational and the relationships we built made it all so worth it,” she shares, noting she has a personal connection to the country through her Welsh ancestry. “My first name is Welsh. It’s cool to know my mom kept our culture alive in my name. I got to see where I come from.”
Lynch comes from a family with a history of working in law enforcement. Her mother was an RCMP officer. Lynch was eager to follow a similar career path. Graduating in Spring 2024, she’s thinking of working in corrections.
“It’s a good career. You’re not stuck behind a desk. The days of work are different,” she says.
The coursework in the Justice Studies program offers graduates multiple career options to choose from. Alumni have become correctional officers, police officers, deputy sheriffs, workers with young offenders and border services agents.
The study abroad offered participants a wide array of curriculum-based activities, while also giving students the chance to explore Welsh culture through food and tours.
Indigenous student Melissa Sugar is grateful for the exchange. She had a chance to bring some of her culture overseas, as she wore a ribbon skirt to tour destinations.
“I was very fortunate to be chosen to attend this program. I wore my beaded items very proudly and representing my culture overseas felt great. It was amazing, an experience that I'll never forget,” she notes. “One of our tour guides from Cardiff asked me if it would be appropriate for others to wear an Indigenous skirt. I replied that as long as they wear it with respect to Indigenous people and try to have an understanding of our culture, it is fine. I offered to make her a ribbon skirt because I make them and beaded earrings as well.”
Krawec adds the goal of the trip is to broaden students’ horizons, “Hopefully, they’re more open and comfortable with travelling and bringing these experiences and teachings back to their communities.”
Says Fleury, “We hope the takeaway for students is personal growth in experiencing a different country.”
Lynch says the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is something she’ll always cherish. “I’m not going to forget this trip. I got to experience some great classes and spend time with my best friend from class. I’ll never forget the buildings, the tours, the history, the food, the culture; that’ll stick with me.”
Adds Sugar, “It's a great opportunity for Indigenous students to experience travel and learn during a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Growing up being less fortunate, I knew I wanted to give my children more than what I've had, so I pushed myself hard to be where I am today. It was my first time abroad. I appreciate the people who made it possible for us to travel that far.”
The trip was funded by Employment and Social Development Canada’s Global Skills Opportunity program, which aims to empower post-secondary institutions to increase the participation of Canadians in international learning opportunities — especially Indigenous students, students with disabilities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds who have traditionally faced barriers to participation.
Learn more about the Justice Studies program.