Stepping into the unknown can generate a mixture of anxiety and anticipation – you need to be brave to let go of established routines and walk away from the security of friends and family.
But this impulse to push ourselves into new territory often brings unexpected benefits.
For Conrad Koczorowski and Katelyn Weel, two Lakehead grads profiled in this issue, working internationally gave them greater insight into what matters to them and, as a result, altered the courses of their lives.
Last year, Conrad put aside his PhD studies at the University of Toronto to complete a six-month internship in Uganda with Amref Health Africa. After years of academic work, he was itching to return to volunteering in the rural health and food security spheres, and his overseas sojourn reaffirmed that this is where his true passion lies. Recently named a "2014 Global Changemaker" by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation, Conrad has just left for a fellowship in Tanzania and is also contemplating going to medical school.
Conrad's experience is not surprising to Anne-Marie Kamanye, the executive director of Amref Health Africa, who says, "People who have worked for international organizations overseas tend to come back with a different perspective. They come back with practical experience, an open mind, and more cultural sensitivity."
Katelyn Weel also came away from a summer spent working as a field technician in Norway with a clearer sense of direction. Previously, she'd been involved in water quality research on the Lakehead Orillia campus. Her time in Norway introduced her to the critical role that non-conventional fertilizers can play in making agriculture more sustainable and she has since shifted her career specialization.
Lakehead University is keenly aware of the advantages that an outward-looking focus engenders. That's why greater internationalization is one of the pillars of our current strategic plan. We are taking a multi-faceted approach that includes partnering with universities and institutions around the globe to develop solutions to shared problems, collaborate on research, and encourage faculty and students to take part in international exchanges. Lakehead students now have the chance to study in Italy, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Finland, and Sweden, as well as several other countries.
A key element of internationalization is fostering a more culturally diverse student population and learning from our international students and faculty. In 2013-14, we were proud to have students from 46 nations at our campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay.
Building relationships with people from cultures other than our own – either by working and studying abroad or by extending a hand to newcomers and visitors to Canada – creates a more dynamic and resilient society.
As Lakehead President Brian Stevenson said in his convocation speech this year, "We want all Lakehead students to be citizens of the world. To allow our common humanity to connect us."