Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to take part in international development

Katharine Mathison

This article was first published in FE News on 2/6/2022. 

For many years Borders College has enjoyed funding for international travel via the Erasmus scheme and has made visits to a variety of European countries including Sweden, The Netherlands and Spain. With the decision for the United Kingdom to leave Europe, Erasmus funding ended and the UK Government replaced this in 2021 with the Turing Scheme.

The Turing Scheme is a global programme offering periods of study or work abroad and providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to undertake activities leading to personal and professional development. The Turing Scheme provides funding for outward mobility to destinations worldwide and encourages participation by students with additional needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Borders College submitted a bid for Turing Scheme funding to offer 6 students and 2 staff a short programme of study in North America. In April 2021 the college reached out to several institutions to identify a partner interested in hosting our students.

Centennial College, Toronto responded quickly to our initial enquiry and were keen to work with us on a suitable programme for the students.

Centennial College started out 50 years ago as a small community college offering a range of vocational qualifications. Since then they have grown and now have a presence internationally with about 50% of the students undertaking programmes of study at the college being inbound international students. They now have around 25,000 students across a range of programmes in childcare, construction, sports, hospitality, business, and creative arts. They have a strong focus on sustainability and are keen to develop students as global citizens – something which Borders College also describes in their Strategic Ambition.

In addition, their values and behaviours are very similar to those at Borders College with a strong focus on inspiring learners, innovation, collaboration, and empowerment.

Borders College selected a group of 6 hospitality students to undertake the programme and in May 2022 they embarked on what would be an epic adventure for them all. The excursion included the opportunity to join classes in culinary skills, baking and patisserie, room and restaurant operations and work-based learning. Additionally, the group enjoyed visits to Ripley’s Aquarium, the CN Tower, Niagara Falls, Toronto Zoo and Cirque du Soleil. They saw the Toronto Blue Jays triumph over the Seattle Mariners at baseball and spent time visiting different cultural hotspots around the city.

As one student commented: 

"This was so exciting for me as of course; it’s been a goal of mine to travel with this job and explore other parts of the world and to have a connection like this is so beneficial and exciting for graduation next year."

Toronto is a city of around 3 million people and has an enormous range of different cultures and cuisines. From Anhui dumplings to Canadian waffles and everything in between there is something to suit every palate. One Canadian favourite is Poutine – crispy fries with cheese and chicken gravy which was eagerly sampled along with Fuwa Fuwa pancakes – a slow cooked fluffy pancake served with fresh fruit and cream. The group also sampled a hot pot in Chinatown:

“All I could think/say in my head was to hurry up and put it in the hotpot already so that I could devour it all down. When in my mouth the meats just melted on my tongue and the flavours of both broths when mixing in my mouth was like having a little party in there.”

While the experience was demanding – the size of Toronto, the number of people, traffic, and jetlag all presented challenges – it was also rewarding and exciting. One student stated:

“I enjoyed my time here in centennial college and I would definitely come back to Canada at some point in the near future. I think I have gotten more confident and I don’t know if I am but who knows what can happen. I think coming here is a brave thing I did and I wanted to get the opportunity while it was there.

“I have really enjoyed myself here in Toronto and I will remember it forever and take away many happy memories so overall I have had a really good day today and an amazing experience here in Canada.”

Excursion leader and Director of Enterprise and Business Innovation Katharine Mathison said:

“I think there is no doubt that this has been an exciting opportunity for our students. At times it has been challenging but as time goes on and we are able to reflect on this experience I think we will agree that it has offered a great many positive benefits. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Centennial College and further developing this programme for future students.”

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