Edging forward — A return to normal for Pilon’s Mobility Study Abroad Program
By Stan Kamzol
Through a disruptive, challenging and incredibly creative time, post-secondary schools around the world have carved steps towards increasing internationalization while conventional Mobility Exchange Programs were halted. COVID-19 not only altered the programs, but also the confidence of what had been a cornerstone of internationalization.
As the pandemic spread, colleagues in Mobility Programs around the world shuttered their initiatives, guided students through tumultuous times and brokered new gateways for academics, administrators and students to cautiously plan for a return to normal. Sheridan’s Pilon School of Business (PSB) was part of this adjustment.
Our students who were abroad when COVID-19 first appeared were ushered back to Canada and their home campuses. Similarly, partner students who were here had to be repatriated back to their home countries. But as the pandemic continued, we fashioned alternative experiences, including virtual learning through Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) pilot projects, remote participation in summer schools abroad and, to our credit, the establishment of a Virtual Student Exchange during this Fall semester. Each effort was a reminder that the cross-cultural experience that has been foundational to internationalization would not be halted.
During the Virtual Student Exchange, Pilon was able to offer a number of students from our partner institutions the opportunity to study at PSB via a remote exchange. A team of PSB staff (Karen Booth, Margaret Bawtinheimer, Marianne Sy-Lucero and Sarah Dickson) facilitated both academic and social experiences for the students to enjoy. Peer Mentors, like PSB’s Alyssa Bianca Valmadrid (OUTBOUND to Switzerland 2022) were assigned and the overseas students who enrolled in the program “experienced” a Sheridan INBOUND exchange. Offered through a synchronous delivery, we were able to create course deliveries that matched INBOUND students’ needs. When federal and provincial restrictions were lifted in September, these students were able to come to Canada and bridge their experience in a more traditional and in-person manner.
In place for more than eight years, dozens of Sheridan PSB BBA students and partner INBOUND students have experienced the rewards of participating in a semester abroad. The Study Abroad Program at PSB provides a remarkable opportunity for nominees to experience a truly maturing cross-cultural experience while studying at one of our partner institutions in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain.
Beginning in November, information sessions will be conducted to reignite our undergraduate awareness of the Study Abroad Program. Established as a foundation of our internationalization commitment, the program provides an opportunity for BBA students to contemplate and pursue a semester abroad as they earn credits towards their PSB degree. Ideally set up for students in their third year of study, students are introduced to the program during their first year at PSB. This early introduction allows for the requisite planning, both in terms of personal and academic preparedness, to be in place by their third year of study.
In addition to the scheduled information sessions, interested students can approach their professors and the program lead, Professor Stan Kamzol, to explore how such an exciting opportunity can be a part of their Sheridan experience. Further, our students are able to review the Sheridan PSB Study Abroad Portal as part of their exploration.
Students at PSB can apply for a full semester abroad — either a Fall term of study from August to January or a Spring session from February to July. In either case, selected students work with the PSB’s BBA advisor, Jessica Angus, to choose a range of courses for which they are eligible. Learning agreements are established and guidance from Sheridan’s International Office provides the support for students as they prepare for the OUTBOUND exchange abroad. Upon successful completion of study at the partner school, students will be awarded advanced standing for the courses successfully completed.
The coming year promises to be a concrete recovery step forward for the Study Abroad Program as both INBOUND and OUTBOUND students will once again be a part of Sheridan’s PSB experience. We look forward to this time as a reminder that creativity, experiential learning and internationalization have key roles in shaping our graduates and building our reputation abroad.
Stan Kamzol is a professor in PSB and coordinator of the International Academic Exchange.