VIU students expand global knowledge through exchange

NANAIMO – University students are far away from the comforts of home, immersed in the culture of Ghana.

Fourth-year tourism student Katie Schneider

Fourth-year tourism student Katie Schneider

By Marilyn Assaf

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 are participating in two international field schools – Brown with VIU’s nursing department and Schneider with tourism and recreation management.

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 took 11 nursing students to the Sunyani, Brong Ahafo Region of West Central Ghana saturda for six weeks.

“It’s our third intercultural field school to Ghana,” said 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.

Nursing students will use dolls as training tools to demonstrate newborn resuscitation techniques.

Brown is excited “and a little nervous” about her first trip overseas. She signed up for the field school because she wanted to have a significant cultural experience while studying at VIU.

“I was born and raised in B.C. and don’t travel a lot,” she said. “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.

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

Weighill said the group’s primary focus is 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 said. “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.

To read about their overseas experiences go to the blog site.

For more about studying abroad, please visit