The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) manages SFD with financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Since SFD's launch in 2005, nearly 1,000 Canadian students from over three-quarters of our universities have gone abroad on internships. Upon returning home, interns share their experiences in public forums to spark interest in Canada's role in international development.
Typically, interns talk about the need to roll with the punches. As part of a plan to promote tourism, for example, Kayleigh was supposed to help teach English to women in a remote village. The women, however, rarely showed up because they were too busy working in the fields.
"It wasn't their fault," Kayleigh points out. "Attending English classes is clearly not a priority when you're farming for subsistence and providing for your family." Without missing a beat, she found a new placement as an elementary school teacher. Now she wants to teach English as a second language for a few years after graduation.
Kirsten Joe, who entered her third year of International Studies in September, was also involved in teaching. She helped create more awareness of reproductive and sexual health to reduce both the high rates of adolescent pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
"I prepared presentations and interactive games to reinforce the topics," says Kirsten. "I was worried about not being dynamic enough to hold their attention, but since I was the foreigner they were very focused on me. The internship cemented my belief that eventually I want to live and work overseas."
For her part, Carlene Bates worked on a tourist project, identifying people who wanted to open their homes and showcase micro-enterprises like weaving and raising guinea pigs. She helped establish a partnership with a local group to train and advise participants, and also contacted hotels and tourist agencies in nearby Urubamba to get them on-board with the project.
"The experience has definitely focused me more," says Carlene, who graduates in 2012. "It's made me think about the overall picture of my life, and has got me excited about getting 'out there.'"
In 2010, CIDA approved a new, long-term approach to SFD, enabling Canadian universities to build more effective relations with their partners and ending the annual scramble to put summer internships in place in May.
Over the next four years, 660 Canadian students from 37 universities will spend at least three months working with 100 partner organizations in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. In addition, as part of the new CIDA agreement, students from developing countries can now spend three months studying in Canadian universities. And Canadian universities can also receive funding to connect with institutions and students abroad through new communication technologies.
The University of New Brunswick, for example, is sending 23 Canadians on internships, hosting four exchange students, and harnessing its TakingITGlobal platform to build a sense of community between UNB and its partners in Malawi.
"It's not too late for universities to get involved," stresses Claire Millington, who manages AUCC's international exchanges. "They should contact us for more information."
AUCC – Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada
Visit AUCC's website to read student blogs and profiles of SFD alumni, and contact your Internships Office to find out how you can apply for an SFD internship,