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A global experience

Students travel to Glasgow, Scotland and gain an international perspective on child and youth care practice
By: Madeleine McGreevy
August 20, 2019
Photo: Not your average class trip: Forty-three students and two staff members from the School of Child and Youth Care visited organizations in Toronto and Glasgow to compare and contrast policy and practice.

Photo: Not your average class trip: Forty-three students and two staff members from the School of Child and Youth Care visited organizations in Toronto and Glasgow to compare and contrast policy and practice. 

Learning inside of your comfort zone is one thing, but stepping out of the classroom and into local and global professional environments can take your education to a whole new level.

In May, 43 undergraduate students from the School of Child and Youth Care (CYC) did just that and travelled to Glasgow, Scotland to broaden their understanding of the CYC field – one that engages young people facing adversity through a variety of therapeutic interventions.

As part of their final internship component, students toured children- and youth-serving agencies and organizations in Toronto and Glasgow to identify similarities and differences in CYC practice and policy. In Toronto, students visited organizations such as SickKids, Covenant House and the Tri-Mentoring Program at Ryerson University. In Glasgow, the group spent time at organizations such as Scottish Youth Parliament and Kibble.

Grace Doan, a student participant, was inspired by a visit to Scottish Youth Parliament, external link, opens in new window, and thinks Canada could benefit from having a similar system of democratically elected youth representatives. “Youth run parliament, the head of the parliament is a youth and most of the members of parliament are youth,” she says. “That is the voice of youth speaking up for themselves”

Doan also enjoyed learning more about Kibble, external link, opens in new window, an organization that houses multiple services for young people in one place. “They have education, youth justice, mental health – everything in one,” she says. “This is … a great thing to support youth, because they don’t have to transfer to different organizations in different phases of their life.”

CYC instructor Lisa Peña-Sabanal, who co-led the trip with instructor and student affairs coordinator Gurjeet Dhillon, believes the journey offered students important first-hand experience in the field. “They actually got a chance to see what different community, residential and treatment programs look like within an international context,” she says. “It really changes the dynamics of what they’re learning or even how they’re learning."

Student Caylie Jackson echoes that sentiment. “It really helped open my eyes to what the field is and what I can do with it if I choose to stick with it,” she says.  

The dynamics of travelling internationally in a large group allowed students to further develop not only greater independence but also enhanced interpersonal skills. “[The trip gave] students an opportunity to go out and explore, trust themselves, trust each other to keep each other safe, and hold each other accountable to the learning,” says Peña-Sabanal. 

For students Doan and Jackson, connecting with their peers formed a memorable part of the experience. “Getting to build more relationships with the people in my program ... was really nice,” Jackson says. “We have become friends and ... like a family,” says Doan. “We all hang out together, we do things together, we plan things together, we get lost together.”

International travel does not come cheap, and students and staff worked hard to raise funds to help cover some of the costs. Through a pub night, raffle, and other initiatives, the group raised over $10,000, which was distributed evenly among the 43 students. Students were also supported with travel grants from the School of Child and Youth Care and the Faculty of Community Services.

The School of Child and Youth Care has been offering similar trips on an annual basis for three years, and Peña-Sabanal has worked to develop partnerships with organizations and universities in each location. So far, students and staff have also travelled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Leicester, United Kingdom. Plans are in place for another trip to Glasgow next year.

Lisa Peña-Sabanal is a recipient of the 2018-19 Dean’s Teaching Award at Ryerson University. Both Peña-Sabanal and Dhillon are alumni of the Child and Youth Care and Early Childhood Studies (master’s) programs at Ryerson.