Volume 9, Number 11 February 8, 2002

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A world of opportunity:
Internationalization at the U of S

Overseas internships give Aboriginal students a stronger perspective

By Wanda McCaslin
Research Officer & YIIP Co-ord.

As a provincial, national and transnational organization, the Native Law Centre seeks to assist in the development of laws and legal orders that respect and preserve Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.  To achieve this, the Native Law Centre undertakes various activities having the central theme of development and empowerment strategies for Aboriginal peoples.

In the international sphere, the Centre has developed cooperative linkages with like-minded international organizations.  These linkages are strengthened by the Native Law Centre’s implementation of the federally funded Youth International Internship Program (YIIP). 

Under YIIP, the Centre provides training, co-ordination and supervisory support for internships with academic and research institutions in other countries that serve the needs of Indigenous peoples. This provides the interns with new environments and challenges for refining and applying their skills.  While interns are working on their assigned research task, they gain a broader vision for meeting the development concerns of Aboriginal peoples.  The goal is to foster the development of Indigenous professionals to begin filling the need at the international level for expertise in Indigenous peoples’ development.  Secondarily, the interns will eventually return to their own communities with a heightened awareness of options and strategies and an appreciation of the strengths and opportunities of their own cultures. 

Jonathan Breaker, a Siksika Nation member, holds a BA in Sociology and is currently at UNESCO in Paris.  He says:

“I work with some great people and I am really enjoying the job.  The internship program at the NLC has been very receptive to my interests and continues to be supportive towards my placement.  I also really enjoy Paris and living in a new culture and language ... The internship placement has been rewarding personally and professionally.  I am learning a lot and gaining valuable personal insight that would be difficult to receive otherwise.  It’s really something.”

Adrienne Edmunds, a woman of mixed Inuit descent from Goose Bay, Labrador, graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Family and Social Relations and is currently with the New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Sydney, Australia.  She is conducting comparative research on the Labrador Inuit and the Wira-djeri of New South Wales.  She says:

“My experiences ‘downunder’ have been absolutely phenomenal!  … I will be forever indebted to the NLC for granting me this opportunity to not only spend time in this amazing country, but also for helping to initiate a very important step in what I hope will some day be an international career involving the world’s Indigenous peoples.  It’s the experience of a lifetime, and I would recommend the program to anyone hoping to launch such a career...”

Another intern, Jennifer Lawrence, with ties to the U of S Pharmacy program, is currently in Darwin, Australia.  She is working on a project to study the medicine supply systems for remote Aboriginal communities:

“I was instantly welcomed and made an insider in these organizations … I am privileged to have the opportunity to travel to remote communities and meet with numerous people including Aboriginal health workers and pharmacists … I would recommend this internship to anyone looking for both professional and personal growth.”

The Native Law Centre’s European Officer, Dr. Helga Lomosits, in Montpellier, France,  offers her view on the program’s benefits and value:

“Interns have to cope with being away from their traditional homeland and Canada in an overseas situation, thereby facing a multiplicity of languages and foreign work, study or research environments ... Some of the past interns in Europe have had the opportunity to conduct research in numerous European capitals which creates a need for reflection by the interns on their own language, methodology, and in turn, the experience strengthens their perspectives.  In fact, some interns have had the unique opportunity to attend at the United Nations.”

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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