April 8, 2021

We have a lot more in common than we might think and most community challenges are universal – those were among the main takeaways at the February Global South Forum for students, many connecting with Indigenous peoples from the Global South for the first time. 

Originally envisioned as a four-day UBC Go Global study tour in Argentina for under-represented student populations in Canada, the concept was to create non-traditional exchange experiences for cross-cultural collaboration and professional networking. The program focused on giving UBC students sociological perspectives from other Indigenous peoples and exploring issues Indigenous communities face within Canada and the Global South. 

But after COVID-19 hit, the Go Global team quickly overhauled the format to virtual workshops and lectures, funded by a grant from Universities Canada. With the help of translators, 17 UBC Indigenous students joined counterparts from both Argentina and Brazil online Feb. 15-18. The travel ban spurred the group to conceive a program with a platform for meaningful dialogue, connection and relationship-building between groups of people who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet, Go Global Director Taryn Cigagna said.

Noted Annabelle Awashish, a third year UBC student: “This experience has shown that we can still come together virtually to learn and communicate with one another to expand our knowledge and understanding of the challenges we commonly face. This, in turn, speaks to the incredible power of Indigenous solidarity and its ability to go beyond borders, time and space.” 

Artwork by student Jade Grimard

Student Jade Grimard’s final reflection project (photo: Jade Grimard)

Two academics collaborated on the curriculum: professor Félix Acuto, faculty in the International Program at Universidad Austral in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a full-time researcher at the Argentine National Council of Scientific and Technical Research, and professor Vanessa Andreotti of UBC’s Department of Educational Studies, also Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change. Both participated in workshops on context, history, colonialism and current struggles, with opportunities for questions and to hear from the community directly about their own experiences, cultural practices, world views and spiritual links. 

Hearing others speak in their own Indigenous languages, as well as Portuguese and Spanish, made the experience memorable, said Hunter Lang, a second year UBC student. “I was directly learning from community members who are the ones who feel the effects of colonialism and cultural genocide/invisibility,” she said.

Along with active participation in four lectures, students completed post-forum surveys and created a final multi-media or written piece. Participants will get priority access to a future study tour UBC and Austral are planning in collaboration with colleagues who work with Indigenous students across UBC for 2022. The broader aim is to expand the forum into a larger collaboration with partners from the Global South. 

“It is critically important that principles of decolonization and partnerships with Indigenous students and colleagues are a part of our global engagement initiatives,” Cigagna said. “Students wanting to participate in study abroad face many barriers and it is part of our mission to reduce systemic challenges. For Indigenous students, these barriers can be even higher. Once travel resumes, we are committed to continue building accessible programs that centre local and global Indigenous voices.”

Find out more about UBC’s Go Global student programs.


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