Exploring the World: Portage College Global Skills Opportunity Grant-Funded International Travel
March 22, 2024

Few experiences in education match the transformative impact of international travel. It goes beyond visiting new places; it's about expanding horizons, understanding cultures, and building global connections. At Portage College, this journey has been made possible through the Global Skills Opportunities (GSO) grant, a project initiated to support the International Education Strategy 2019-2024 by the Government of Canada.

Portage College, among the 47 colleges and institutes in Canada selected for this prestigious grant, has been utilizing the funds to provide life-changing international experiences for its students. Thanks to the support from College and Institutes Canada (CiCan) and Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC), over 100 Portage College students have been able to engage in virtual or physical international experiences.

The primary goal of the GSO grant is to ensure that all students, especially those from equity-deserving backgrounds such as Indigenous, disabled, and low-income students, can participate in international travel. These experiences are designed to enhance intercultural competency, communication skills, and global networking opportunities, setting the stage for success in today's knowledge-driven global economy.

Portage College's implementation of the GSO grant has been a huge success, with virtual experiences in Fine Arts, Natural Resources Technology (now Environmental Technology Diploma-ETD), and Community Social Work (CSW) kicking off in 2021-2022. These experiences ranged from online lectures on cutting-edge technology to live discussions with professionals abroad, providing students with invaluable insights even as the world slowly emerged from the pandemic.

CSW with view

As international borders reopened, Portage College students seized the opportunity for physical travel. Environmental Technology Diploma (ETD) students explored environmental sustainability initiatives in Costa Rica, while Fine Arts students immersed themselves in the vibrant art scene of New York City. Most recently, Community Social Work (CSW) students embarked on a journey to Ireland and Scotland, delving into the historical and socio-cultural landscapes that shape their profession today.

The Ireland and Scotland trip, led by faculty members and trip organizers, was a whirlwind of exploration and learning. From tours of prestigious universities to visits to historical sites and engaging with local practitioners, the experience left a lasting impact on both students and faculty. Reflecting on the trip, CSW student Sherwin Javier remarked, "As an immigrant in Canada, I felt instantly connected during our visit to the Irish Emigration Museum."

CSW at brick building

Each day of the trip brought new discoveries, from exploring Belfast Murals and Stirling Castle to engaging with social work practitioners in Scotland. The journey highlighted the interconnectedness of global issues and emphasized the importance of international networking.

Looking ahead, Portage College is gearing up for more exciting adventures. The Business program is set to travel to Tokyo, Japan, with a focus on understanding international business practices and building cultural competencies. Additionally, trips for the Educational Assistant and Early Learning and Childcare (EA/ELCC) programs are in the works, promising further opportunities for students to expand their horizons and gain valuable insights.

These international travel opportunities are not just about sightseeing; they're about equipping Portage College students with the skills, perspectives, and networks needed to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. As students return home with a heart full of memories and a newfound global perspective, Portage College eagerly awaits the success stories that will undoubtedly follow in the wake of these transformative experiences.

But the impact extends beyond the students themselves. Faculty members who organize and accompany these trips play a crucial role in shaping the experiences and facilitating learning. Jana McKinley, CSW Faculty and Trip Lead Organizer, emphasizes the significance of real-life examples in reinforcing classroom teachings. "Students were able to see real-life examples of a lot of concepts we teach in class," McKinley explains. "Including the treatment of people living in poverty throughout history, conflict, factors that influence immigration, and the impact of colonization."

Moreover, the ripple effect of these experiences extends into the communities served by Portage College. As students return with enriched perspectives and new skills, they become agents of change in their local environments. Lisa Wesley, a CSW student from Cold Lake, reflects on the impact of her trip to Ireland and Scotland, highlighting the importance of building connections. "It was a great experience that I would recommend to everyone," Wesley shares. "In getting to spend more in-depth time with fellow students, instructors, and the Social Workers from Ireland and Scotland, the CSW trip has solidified the importance of building strong connections with others."

On the horizon, more exciting opportunities await. Leslie Boake, Business Faculty and Trip Lead Organizer for the upcoming Tokyo trip, emphasizes the educational value of immersive experiences. "We have developed a project-based course that immerses students in international business," Boake explains. "Providing them with the skills to navigate and strategize for a global market."

With each trip, Portage College enhances students' education, preparing them for a globally interconnected world. These travel opportunities aren't just trips; they're transformative experiences shaping futures and inspiring generations. As Portage College anticipates future adventures, the spirit of exploration guides students toward learning, growth, and global citizenship.

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Portage College Corporate Communications Department
780-623-6671 or E-mail

We acknowledge that Portage College’s service region is on the traditional lands of First Nation Peoples, the owners of Treaty 6, 8 and 10, which are also homelands to the Métis people. We honour the history and culture of all people who first lived and gathered in these lands.
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