DC students reunite with new friends from Guatemala

The Rotary Global Classroom at Durham College (DC) was the site of an emotional reunion last week.

Earlier this year, professors Jennifer Bedford and Marni Thornton and 13 students from the Faculty of Media, Art and Design (MAD) travelled to Las Arrugas, Guatemala for a Faculty-Led Classroom Abroad (FLCA) trip. Working from a curriculum prepared by Bedford, the DC students provided the Guatemalan ‘youth mentors’ with lessons and hands-on learning activities focused on storytelling in all its forms, from videos and photo essays to writing accessible captions, hashtags, and media releases.

Strong bonds of friendship and mutual respect were forged on the trip, and on Thursday, April 13, a virtual reunion was held. Thanks to the state-of-the-art technology that powers the Global Classroom, the DC delegation was able to see and hear directly from their friends in Guatemala, many of whom prepared brief statements in English. Both sides shared memories and gratitude, as well as examples of the work they did together.

With the help of a translator, the students from Guatemala wowed the crowd at DC with their presentations. One group used the medium of video to highlight the importance of quality education, and the troubles they have accessing it in their communities. Another used a photo essay to illustrate the issue of gender equality.

"I couldn't be prouder of the youth mentor students and their incredible work in Guatemala,” said Bedford. “Their dedication, hard work, and passion for making a positive impact in the world are truly inspiring. They are a shining example of what can be achieved when we put our minds and hearts into making a difference." 

Each presentation was an example of how the youth mentors had taken the lessons shared by DC students and used them to tell their own stories, in their own voices.

DC may have brought knowledge, but the students in Guatemala had even more to offer according to Meagan Poole, a second-year student in the PR and Strategic Communications program.

They’re beautiful people,” she said. “The potential, the creativity, everything they bring to the table… I felt like I was being mentored.”

International trips like the one to Las Arrugas are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up, according to Sarah Varty, a second-year student in the Music Business Management program.

“It will change your way of thinking, it will change the way you communicate with others, and it will open your eyes to how blessed we are in Canada and how much we truly take for granted,” said Varty. “I certainly appreciate my life in Canada much more now than I did before the trip.”

DC partnered on the initiative with Students Offering Support, a non-profit organization that connects students and learners from diverse cultures and communities. The FLCA@Home and Away storytelling project is generously funded by Global Skills Opportunity (GSO), the Government of Canada’s Outbound Student Mobility Pilot Program. This innovative international learning opportunity is designed to engage with Indigenous and traditional communities around the world, with a focus on how Canadians can play their part to achieve meaningful reconciliation at home and abroad.

Read more about this trip, as well as other DC students who have taken their educational experience abroad, here.