April 25, 2013 - 8:30am

Katie Schneider and Courtney Brown will soon be far away from the comforts of home, immersed in the culture of Ghana, Africa.

The Vancouver Island University students from Nanaimo, BC are participating in two international field schools – Brown with VIU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and Schneider with Tourism Management and Recreation.

They are among 190 students participating in VIU field schools, exchanges and internships to nine countries around the world, according to Audrey Hansen, manager of VIU’s study abroad program.

Faculty members Jo’Anne Yearley and Maggie Kennedy are taking 11 Nursing students to the Sunyani, Brong Ahafo Region of West Central Ghana April 27 for six weeks.

“It’s our third intercultural field school to Ghana,” says Kennedy. “Students will be working in two hospitals, a children’s home, and collaborating with students and faculty in local colleges on community development projects to promote health and prevent illness.”

One of these projects, sponsored by Rotary Clubs on Vancouver Island, is called the NeoNatalie project and addresses the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child deaths in developing countries.

“We will work with our Ghanaian partners to present education sessions,” explains Yearley. Nursing students will use dolls as a training tool to demonstrate newborn resuscitation techniques.

Brown is excited “and a little nervous” about her first trip overseas.
“We’ve been preparing for this all semester,” she says. “We’ve had weekly group meetings with our instructors to talk about what to expect, and read books about the lifestyle in Ghana. We also learned a lot about the culture from VIU student Vincent Kusi-kyei, who was born in Ghana.

“He taught us things that you would never think of, for example, while in Ghana, we should eat, shake hands and wave only with our right hand. In their culture, the left hand is considered dirty. We also learned about the region’s we’ll be visiting and building friendships with the people in Ghana.”

Brown signed up for the field school “because I really wanted to have a significant cultural experience while studying at VIU. “I was born and raised in BC and don’t travel a lot,” she says. “Having this study abroad experience will open my eyes. I will take what I learn into my profession and be better able to help and understand people of different cultures.”

It’s Schneider’s second trip to Ghana. She was part of a 10-week research and study tour last summer led by VIU’s Recreation and Tourism Management professor Aggie Weighill.

“It was a life-changing experience,” says Schneider. “I fell in love with the country and the people. I asked my instructor if I could go back.”

Schneider’s role in Ghana this year is to work as a research assistant, team leader and mentor for younger students.

Weighill says the group’s primary focus studying the impact of tourism in Ghana. Students will complete data collection at the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary. “We’ll also spend two weeks on the coast where students will undertake personal research projects that are more specifically related to leisure, including tourists’ behaviour and play,” she says. “We are also hoping to visit Cape Coast University and meet some of the Tourism professors there.”

Schneider highly recommends a study abroad experience for any student at VIU, no matter what program.

“VIU provides so many opportunities,” she says. “A field school gives you with a unique hands-on learning experience. You gain a whole new understanding and perspective on the world and how different cultures interact. You quickly realize that we are all connected and equal even though we live very different lives. Travelling allows you to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of other cultures and makes you appreciate what you have at home.”

Spring field schools, exchanges and internships will see VIU students study in countries including China, Belize, Italy, Romania, Korea, France and England.
To read about their overseas experiences go to the blog site.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at VIU visit

Backgrounder on VIU’s Ghana connection

The VIU-Ghana connection blossomed more than a decade ago when a student from Ghana studying at VIU sparked the interest of two Tourism faculty members, Dr. Ken Hammer and Dr. Rick Rollins. They developed a proposal and successfully applied for funding from the Canadian International Development Agency for a five-year Ghana Canada Partnership (2006-2012).
That project provided a legacy of ongoing collaboration between VIU and Ghana including study tours, research projects, internships and exchanges. To date, this work has involved more than 50 VIU students and 25 faculty from several disciplines including Nursing, Forestry, Education, Geography, and Global Studies.
Interest in Ghana has also spilled out into the community, with Vancouver Island rotary clubs spearheading community development work. Their efforts have also led to the formation of a Rotary Club in Ghana.

Janina Stajic, Manager, Vancouver Island University
P: 250.740.6288 E: Twitter: @VIUNews

Tags: In the Community

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