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8 December 2023

Students from Yucatan region gain hands-on experience at Fraser International College

​Students from Mexico’s Yucatan region got to experience life on a Canadian university campus this summer through a partnership between Fraser International College (FIC) and the Yucatan Secretariat for Research, Innovation and Higher Education.

Between June to October 15, 2023, FIC hosted 63 students in three cohorts from the Yucatan International Mobility Program at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Campus where FIC is located. The students participated in an experiential program, promoting internationalization, and strengthening language and academic skills for students with limited economic resources.

The aim of the program is to create an environment where students feel valued and empowered, and to weave global citizenship throughout the curriculum and activities to draw connections from their lived experiences and perspective.

Students had the opportunity to participate in cultural trips while immersing themselves in the rich heritage and diversity of Canada and British Columbia, with a focus on Indigenous peoples and reconciliation efforts. This included visits to SFU’s Indigenous Art Walk and Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, to the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, as well as participating in National Truth and Reconciliation Day. Students made connections to their own culture and Indigenous people in Mexico, made beads and necklaces, and shared in songs and dances with Indigenous elders, some of whom were residential school survivors.

“It was truly a beautiful experience and the magnitude of being able to share this cultural moment was not lost on the students,” said Shannon Mayhew, UPNA’s Associate Director, Academic and Student Success Projects, who led the project.

Students also engaged in research innovation spotlights, where they visited a variety of SFU faculties and community partners and participated in workshops. These included watching 3D printing and laser cutting in action in the Media and Makers Commons, learning about food justice and food sovereignty with Embark Sustainability where students harvested from the learning gardens and brought produce back for snacks. They learned about spaces and physics at the Faculty of Science’s Trottier Observatory, mixed chemicals in a chemistry lab, and gained ‘hands-on’ experience in the human anatomy lab where they assembled a human skeleton, held a real human brain, and visited one of the very few anatomage tables in Western Canada where virtual cadavers are used for digital dissections.

FIC’s service leadership programming, which aims to develop students’ leadership skills and social responsibility through community service initiatives, was also a key element of the experience. Through hands-on projects and mentorship, it empowered students to become compassionate and proactive leaders dedicated to making a positive impact on society.

Students visited Pacific Spirit Park where they removed invasive plants that threatens the local environment, and the South Granville Seniors Centre where they developed, planned, and organized an afternoon with seniors with Yucatan cultural theme. They performed a Harana dance, played Loteria, painted their favourite memories, and shared what the students describe as “chisme” which is loosely the Spanish word for gossip but was much more than that it was an act of community, sharing, solidarity, and passing down of wisdom.

Mayhew says the English Language Enhancement Program was designed to give high achieving university students with varied economic resources the opportunity to participate in a short-term experiential program.

“In creating this program, one of our objectives was to engender confidence in students using their pre-existing English language skills, but beyond that we wanted to find a way to challenge preconceived notions and ensure that we didn’t underestimate the intellectual potential of our students solely based on their language proficiency.”

For her outstanding efforts in planning and delivering the program, Mayhew was nominated for a Navitas INSPIRE Award and achieved second place in the Intrapreneur category among other Navitas employees and instructors from across the globe.

“It has been my pleasure not only to bring this project to fruition, but to have incorporated elements of service leadership, research innovation, sustainability, and global citizenship.”

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