Developing global skills abroad


Developing global skills abroad

Queen’s graduate and master’s student Megan Zelle discusses her semester learning and living in South Africa.

By Communications Staff

February 1, 2024


Megan Zelle with her classmates in South Africa

Megan Zelle (third from left) with her Queen's classmates visiting South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

Over a two-month period last summer, global development student Megan Zelle, and three of her classmates embarked on a journey that took them to Johannesburg, South Africa with Professor Marc Epprecht of the Global Development Studies Department. Supported by funding secured by Queen’s through the federally sponsored Global Skills Opportunity (GSO) program, Zelle’s time in South Africa allowed her to draw upon her in-class experiences and develop further understanding of critical issues affecting sub-Saharan Africa.

“Throughout my undergraduate studies I often focused on themes of climate change, tourism, and migration in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Zelle. “There are so many topics and events I was exposed to while away, that I’m eager to explore in greater details—ranging from issues for energy equity to an ever-increasing wealth divide. This experience gave me first–hand experiences abroad that I feel deepened my understanding of these subjects and broadened my perspectives as a scholar and as a global citizen.”

Epprecht, who runs the program with colleagues at the University of Witwaterstand agrees. 

“With the support of the Global Skills Opportunity funds, Queen’s students can experience living and learning in a Global South context, accessing top-notch professors and engaging students from across the world,” he says. “They can see first-hand some of the pressing development challenges that the world faces today.” 

Global Skills Opportunity

Epprecht’s program is one of a growing list of undergraduate study abroad programs at Queen’s that have received Global Skills Opportunity funding. Administered by Universities Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada’s International Education Strategy, the program aims to provide thousands of postsecondary students across Canada with invaluable international study and work experiences to strengthen their global skills and competencies.

Special emphasis is placed on creating pathways for low-income students, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities to take part in mobility programs. The program also aims to increase mobility outside of the US, UK, France, and Australia—some of the most popular study abroad destinations for undergraduate students.

Queen’s submitted two successful applications for funding, including Momentum for Mobility: Global Pathways for Inclusion and Inclusive Global Pathways to SDG Collaboration securing $500,000 and $300,000 in funding respectively.

“The Global Skills Opportunity funding provides Queen’s students with new opportunities,” says Sandra den Otter, Vice-Provost (Global Engagement), “They develop international skills which are so vital to navigating complex and dynamic global environments.”

For Zelle, who has since entered her master’s program at Queen’s in global development studies, her experiences in Johannesburg continue to guide and bolster her worldview. 

“I am the kind of person who is always open to new experiences and new learnings, but because of my background in global development I am also extremely aware of how my privilege may intersect,” she says, “One thing I found myself journaling often about was the cost of living in Johannesburg, and how far the Canadian dollar goes. I really had to consider the power this afforded me as a visitor, and I made a conscious effort to prioritize things like supporting local businesses.”

Established Queen’s undergraduate study abroad programs that be may eligible for Global Skills Opportunity funding are encouraged to reach out for an assessment

The recently unveiled Queen’s Global Engagement Strategic Plan includes global student learning among its core aims, alongside other major points of advance, including growing international partnerships and collaborations, increasing global research engagements, and bolstering equity, inclusion, diversity, and Indigenization.

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