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Participation and Preparation

This section includes considerations for: inclusive and accessible programming; promotion and recruitment; selection criteria and application process; local participation; and pre-departure and on-site preparation.

Inclusive and Accessible Programming 

Educational programming at Ryerson seeks to be inclusive and responsive to the needs of our diverse student body. Important work has been done to advance this goal by the Office of the Vice President Equity and Community Inclusion, the Learning and Teaching Office, the Mental Health and Well-Being Committee, and others across campus. Global Learning programming, as with all other educational initiatives, should align with this imperative. International travel and engagement with diverse cultures and knowledges brings unique challenges and considerations to the forefront (see key considerations listed below).

When developing inclusive and accessible programming, key considerations include:

  • Assessment of program components to identify any barriers to participation for students with disabilities (physical, mental, etc.).
  • Assessment of program components and location to consider how social norms in the host destination may affect students (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, etc).
  • Assessment of immigration regulations and regional context to determine if barriers exist for students of varying citizenships and travel histories.
  • Timing, duration and cost of the program seeks to optimize participation for a wide variety of students taking into consideration family and work obligations, as well as socioeconomic status.
  • Priority should be given to students who have not previously had the opportunity to participate in a learning opportunity abroad.

Whenever possible, steps should be taken to make programming as inclusive and accessible as possible. When barriers can not be eliminated, they should be clearly communicated to students so that they are able to make informed decisions regarding their participation and seek additional support if/when required. 

Once student participants have been confirmed, all program components should be re-assessed in relation to inclusion and accessibility, taking into consideration the composition of the particular student group and the types of additional supports or research that may be required. This should be done in consultation with relevant departments at Ryerson depending on the context, for example Academic Accommodation Support, Accessibility Services, Centre for Student Development and Counselling, etc.  Ryerson’s partner International SOS is able to provide a pre-travel medical and/or security briefing that can be tailored to address any particular concerns of participants (i.e. based on their individual profile, an existing medical issue, etc). Note that all consultations and planning must take into consideration privacy and authorization for disclosure. When in doubt, inquire of knowledgeable staff as to the most appropriate path forward regarding disclosure protocol and student support.

In addition to the goal of making our programming as inclusive and accessible to all students as possible, it is also important to recognize that globally, international travel is still a very privileged endeavour. Historically those that tend to participate come from backgrounds of high socio-economic status, from families or communities where travel is normalized and encouraged. Furthermore, if the faculty and staff creating programming are not diverse and representative of our student body, the destinations that are chosen and the types of activities that are pursued won’t necessarily be either. For example, while Ireland is a top destination of study abroad programming for North American students wishing to connect with their Irish ancestry, are the same opportunities provided to students who wish to connect with their Vietnamese heritage? 

Due to the fact that Canada is founded on settler colonialism and our educational systems have been and continue to be prefaced on eurocentrism, it remains that our international programming has historically reflected this as well. So while we encourage programming that is inclusive and accessible as possible to all Ryerson students, we also recognize the need for programming that is developed by and for social groups that currently don’t have options of interest available to them. An example of this is a program developed by Dr. Mark Campbell and a group of students titled Awaking Sankofa. Through Ryerson International’s Experiential Learning Initiatives Fund (RIELIF), Dr. Campbell’s project was funded to support a group of 5 students who self-identify as of African descent to travel to Ghana to participate in an artist residency during the summer of 2019. 

For more information regarding who typically participants in international programming please review the publications below. Unfortunately Canadian statistics and analysis are limited. Stay tuned as Ryerson International is developing a resource library that will include scholarly publications and research in this area. 

There are a variety of scholarships and grants available to students participating in international experiential learning programming. Students should be encouraged to visit Ryerson International’s site for more information and to check in with their home department and faculty about program specific funding.  Students may also be interested in fundraising either a portion or their entire program fee through student-run initiatives.

Note that participants are typically expected to cover at least some portion of their own expenses, although this is contingent on the particular student and program in question. This helps to ensure that students who accept offers of participation do so with a sense of commitment and it also provides opportunities for students to learn about the budgeting process related to travel.

Coming Soon: Case studies and program examples that highlight inclusive programming.

Application and Selection Process for Ryerson Participants

Note that defining selection criteria is keenly connected to ensuring inclusive programming. When you are determining what criteria to use for your program keep the criteria as open and flexible as possible to allow for a diversity of student applicants and participants. Selection criteria should reflect the most relevant aspects of a student’s profile, those that are fundamentally required to ensure successful participation (academically and personally) for the student, as well as the well-being of other students alongside non-Ryerson collaborators and/or participants. It is beneficial to develop a holistic set of selection criteria that are based on a variety of factors, for example, academic profile, past experience, depth of preparation, and/or intercultural competence/awareness. 

Faculty and staff involved in the selection process should consider the potential for unconscious or implicit bias when selecting participants. Resources and training may be available through the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Community Inclusion. See OVPECI’s 2016 report on PDF fileTypes of Unconscious Biases and Ways to Counteract.

  • Student status (i.e. full-time and part-time)
    • Is there a reason why part-time students shouldn’t participate?
    • Would providing part-time students the opportunity open space for non-traditional groups to participate?
  • Academic profile (i.e. good academic standing + a minimum GPA requirement)
    • Are you able to be flexible with the GPA requirement?
    • Consider allowing for letters of recommendation and/or support to demonstrate the students academic profile if GPA requirements are implemented by can’t be met by students.
  • Academic program (i.e. is the program only open to students from 1 academic discipline?)
    • Can you consider a multi-disciplinary, providing opportunity for students from different areas to interact?
    • Are there programs similar in qualifications and key academic components that may be interested in collaborating in the development and implementation of the program?
  • Skills, training or work experience requirements
    • In what circumstances do students require pre-existing skills (i.e. the activity involves engineering based expertise)?
    • In what circumstances might they be able to acquire the skills prior to departure (i.e. training in research ethics and participatory research)
  • Competencies, dispositions and self-efficacy 
    • What types of soft skills, competencies and/or dispositions do you consider essential to a students’ success and well-being in the program (i.e. flexibility, adaptability, problem-solving, intercultural outlook, ability to deal with ambiguity, etc)?
    • What type of knowledge or understanding may be essential due to the local context (i.e. heightened political/historical awareness, one’s social location and how it may be perceived by others, colonial/imperial relations, etc).
  • Application form to gather basic information of applicant. Consider including option to self-disclose accommodation requirements (physical, academic, etc), any medical or health concerns, etc. 
  • Letter of intent or statement of interest
  • Letter(s) of recommendation and/or support
  • Interview
  • Portfolio, sample of work, CV, etc
  • Set a clear application deadline in order to focus marketing and recruitment efforts during a particular time period. The deadline also ensures a cut off point to assess student participation and whether the number of applicants is sufficient to ensure the program’s functionality.
  • Consider including a deposit as part of the application process. This helps to encourage applications from students that are invested in participating. After students accept a place in the program the deposit typically becomes non-refundable and is used towards the final program fee. See the Planning and Logistics section for more information about financial planning and recommendations for student deposits and refund protocols.
  • For successful applicants consider providing a conditional offer of acceptance that requires students to:
    • Maintain good academic standing
    • Successfully complete any requirements set out by program lead and/or the partner/host entity
    • Complete all Ryerson International mandatory risk management steps
    • Attend all program related activities (prior, during and post travel)
    • Comply with any further applicable policies and protocols (i.e. immigration, research ethics, student code of conduct, etc)
  • It is essential that a clear withdrawal and refund policy is developed for your program. Key considerations include:
    • Set a cut-off date for full refunds of the initial deposit and/or the full program fee based on when reservation costs and fees that must be paid to providers (i.e. accommodation, travel, etc). 
    • Develop an emergency and/or special circumstance withdrawal policy that clearly states how students can apply for withdrawal from the program and what they may need to provide in order to do so (i.e. supporting documentation). 
    • Clearly stated deadlines for deposit and other program fee payments (either in installments or as one complete payment) that communicates the consequence of students lack of compliance with payment deadlines (i.e. withdrawal from the program).
  • Once the participants are confirmed be sure to reference the section on Planning and Logistics, particularly the section on Risk and Safety Abroad.

Local Participation 

If your programming will include participants from the region that you will be visiting, the method of their participation and whether a selection process is required depends greatly on the nature of the participants. If, for example, local participants are students from a partner university it is important to discuss with your counterparts questions of accessibility, eligibility, participation requirements and the overall application process for all students involved (in theory they should be similar if not the same for both institutions). If local participants are not students but rather community members or collaborators from other spheres, the determination as to who can participate and how would look quite different and should be identified in close collaboration with the relevant partner and/or collaborator.

If Ryerson students will be partnering with local participants to work on collaborative projects consider utilizing learning technologies in order to initiative initial connection as part of the pre-departure process. This is contingent on who the local participants are and whether they have access to the appropriate technologies required to do so. A large factor that affects collaborative capacity is of course language. When travelling to non-English speaking regions consider the need for language requirements, pre-travel student language preparation, and/or on site translation support.

 In spaces of heightened power differentials where local participation is identified as a desired and functional part of programming for all involved, it is important to consider the form that questions of inclusion and accessibility may take in the particular context. What types of supports may local participants require for participation (i.e. financial, educational, etc)? How do you ensure that the content of the programming itself is applicable not only to Ryerson students but also local participants? If only a certain number of local participants are manageable within the programming, are you potentially creating inequities or tensions within the community or organization in terms of who can participate and why?

Promotion and Recruitment

The host unit is responsible for the promotion and recruitment of the GLPA, while Ryerson International is available to assist in promotional planning and dissemination alongside any relevant communications contacts from the home unit. It is important to promote the program as intensively as possible within all relevant academic departments and sectors of the universities. Consider participating in relevant events, giving classroom presentations, holding info sessions, including information on your department’s website, social media, flyers and posters, etc.

The key items that you must finalize before you can begin promotion include:

  • Program title, content and main itinerary structure (timeframe, content and intended activities, etc)
  • Location, and key partners and collaborators 
  • An application process, including selection criteria and application and payment deadlines
  • The estimated cost. Note that the final fee charged to students must not exceed the advertised cost (i.e. it can be lower, but not higher). If you don’t reach the minimum students required to run the program by the application deadline then cancellation should be considered. Students should not be asked to contribute more funds than advertised in order to allow the program to run.

When considering the narrative used to attract students to programming it is important to prioritize and demonstrate learning objectives and how the experience may connect to student’s academic and professional aspirations. Avoid text and images that centre narratives of travel and fun as the primary motivation for participation. This is essential in order to ensure that students maintain appropriate expectations regarding their potential participation, the content of the program and any requirements that may be needed.

All programs must utilize responsible communication practices in relation to promotion, recruitment and publication of materials. Words, images and symbols must be utilized respectfully, realistically, accurately and consensually. Outreach materials must serve an educative function and seek to shape student expectations regarding the nature of programing. While Ryerson International is developing guidelines specific to our community (coming soon!), a point of reference in the interim of particular relevance to programs operating in ⥈ contexts of heightened power differentials is Dochas’ (The Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organizations) Code of Conduct on Images and Messages found here:, external link, opens in new window

Pre-Departure Preparation

There are two key components of pre-departure preparation. The first is Ryerson International’s mandatory pre-departure sessions. All students travelling abroad for a Ryerson activity are required to complete one of these sessions, which include:

  • cross-cultural living and adaptation
  • logistical preparation
  • health, safety and risk management abroad
  • detailed information regarding the service that International SOS provides

It is strongly encouraged that the program lead also attend one of these sessions. For larger groups, individual sessions may be coordinated, whereas smaller groups are expected to register for the general pre-departure sessions that are hosted regularly by Ryerson International. For more information regarding the pre-departure session and all required risk management steps please visit the Planning and Logistics section. 

The second key component of pre-departure preparation are the program specific orientations led by the program lead. A minimum of one session is required, although multiple sessions may be needed. Note that if working with a partner organization or collaborators in country their input and participation in the development of this pre-departure preparation is essential. Other points of input to consider are diaspora communities, government bodies (i.e. consulates or embassies), other staff and faculty with relevant expertise, etc. A final source of information is found via Ryerson’s Partner, International SOS, who as mentioned in the Planning and Logistics section, are able to provide pre-travel medical and/or security briefings for individual participants and/or for the group as a whole (via the program lead). This briefing should be used to inform all pre-departure preparation.

Areas typically covered at program specific orientations include:

  • Orient students to the specifics of the program (overall content and itinerary, etc)
  • Assist them with any pending logistical considerations
  • Ensure that they understand the requirements of participation and general expectations
  • Any information that a partner organization or program collaborator requires program lead to share with student participants
  • Any potential health or safety risks specific to the program location and/or particular sites, including socialization of the Travel Risk Management Plan (if required)
  • Trainings or other preparatory activities (see "Additional Training and Requirements" tab below)
  • Required documentation (see "Documentation and Forms" tab below)

Additional pre-departure preparation includes any trainings or further preparation requirements as determined by program lead and/or host and partner organizations. As noted in the guidelines, participants are expected to undertake only those activities that they are qualified for or otherwise eligible to conduct at home.

In spaces of heightened power imbalances this is an essential consideration as student participants may have the opportunity to undertake activities regardless of their past experience and training. Examples include working with children (e.g., if a student is not considered qualified to teach English at a school in Canada, why should they be able to do so in another region?) and vulnerable populations (i.e. provision of health care), or construction (e.g. building a house or a retaining wall). Program content and planned activities must be assessed in advanced with partner and host organizations in order to collaboratively determine appropriate protocol in the region alongside expectations and standards of care as held by Ryerson. An example resource for pre-health students is the Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety (GAPS) toolkit, external link, opens in new window developed by the University of Minnesota. 

In collaboration with other departments, Ryerson International is available to support in the development of additional sessions in order to ensure that students are fully prepared (examples include student health and wellness, anti-racism and anti-oppression training, research ethics and other forms of research preparation, photo and documentation guidelines, etc). Other workshops and trainings currently available at Ryerson that may be of benefit to both student participants and program leads include the Notice, Engage, Refer + Debrief workshop focused on mental health delivered by Ryerson’s Student Health and Wellness team and the trainings and workshops delivered by Ryerson’s Community Safety and Security team.

Additional documentation to consider for your program includes:

  • Participation agreement: serves to clearly outline students responsibilities and the expectations associated with their involvement.
  • Student Code of Conduct: remind students of the importance of the code of conduct and its applicability for off-campus Ryerson activities such as GLPAs.
  • Photo Release/Consent Form: if you intend on taking group photos and utilizing them for future promotions and publications it is recommended that students sign a consent form.
  • Final travel itinerary and contact information for students: copies of travel itineraries and any other essential information relating to accommodation and in-country contact information.
  • Essential participant information: depending on the location, it may be advisable to prepare a series of documents that the program lead carries with them at all times including information from participants such as any self-disclosed health information, emergency contacts, copies of passports, copies of health insurance, etc. It is essential to remember that ISOS is the primary contact in all emergency situations, however as the program lead you may be required to support any immediate situation that arises and having this information on hand can be useful.

Coming soon: Draft examples of documentation mentioned above.

On-Site Preparation

Once students have arrived on site it is important that they receive another orientation. If working with partner organizations or collaborators their participation and input in this session is key. Re-visiting the itinerary and overall program is valuable as well as a location specific orientation based on the area where accommodation and main activities will be located (i.e. nearest hospital, emergency services and police, consulate/embassy, location specific safety and immediate health concerns, bank, grocery store, etc, all of which can be provided by ISOS). Depending on the location and length of the program, regular check-in meetings that allow students to ask questions, de-brief, and reflect on their experience, are also highly encouraged. 

Coming soon! On-site, Re-entry and Post-travel Student Support + Ryerson International Responsible Communication Guide (including best practices for recruitment and promotion, as well as in country considerations for students and staff).