Studies in National and International Development


National and International Development

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Why in the World? Understanding Trends and Motivations for Participation in Learning/Volunteer Abroad Programs

Rebecca Tiessen

School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa


1pm-2:30pm, Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room D214

Learning/volunteer abroad programs are increasingly popular options for young Canadians between the ages of 16 and 30 – or what I refer to as Canadian youth. In this presentation, I highlight some of the key trends in this growth industry of going abroad. Drawing on research carried out with 139 Canadian youth and 165 host country participants in seven countries of the Global South (India, Peru, Guatemala, Jamaica, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa), I provide highlights of the motivations for participation in these programs, perceived impacts and broader lessons-learned. Simplistic analyses of learning/volunteer abroad programs that we might find in op-ed articles are not sufficient reflections on this diverse and growing industry. Rather, the Canadian youth and host country participants underscore a broad range of challenges and opportunities arising from learning/volunteer abroad programs. I reflect on these empirical findings in relation to theoretical and ethical analyses examined in a recent publication: Globetrotting or Global Citizenship? Perils and Potential of International Experiential Learning, Rebecca Tiessen and Robert Huish (eds).

Globetrotting or Global Citizenship? book cover

About the Speaker: Dr. Rebecca Tiessen is Associate Professor in the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on the role of Canada and Canadians in the world. Since 2005 she has been examining the impact of learning/volunteer abroad programs on Canadian youth and host communities in the Global South. She is author of several book chapters and journal articles based on this research and her recent edited collection (with Robert Huish): Globetrotting or Global Citizenship? The Perils and Potential of International Experiential Learning was released in June 2014