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North Island College connects students in Canada, Costa Rica and Japan, virtually

North Island College students will explore Indigenous literature and B.C. history alongside peers from Costa Rica and Japan, thanks to a pair of upcoming virtual exchange programs starting this January.

Students enrolled in NIC’s tuition-free ENG-096 – First Peoples Literature and Composition course will study the spoken and written texts of Indigenous authors in a shared virtual classroom with students from Tecnológico de Costa Rica in Cartago.

NIC English instructor Laura Johnston will also teach part of the course from Costa Rica, where she will connect with local Elders and learn more about Indigenous cultures in Latin America.

“I’ve always been interested in Indigenous issues, not just in Canada, but around the world,” said Johnston. “I’m so excited about this opportunity to bring students together into one classroom and explore Indigenous literature together.”

Johnston’s travels are possible thanks to a grant through the Faculty Mobility for Partnership Building Program, which provides Canadian post-secondary instructors with short-term teaching and research abroad opportunities.

ENG-096 combines English writing and critical thinking skills with contemporary Indigenous issues in a community-building framework, making it well-suited for an international classroom.

“My goal is to create a safe space for students to explore these topics, to learn from each other and to try different things,” she said. “We focus on community building where it’s OK to make mistakes, because that’s where the learning happens. They learn just as much from each other as they do from me.”

Meanwhile, NIC students enrolled in HIS-225 – History of British Columbia will use technology to become classmates with students in Japan. The course includes the two-week virtual field school ‘Pacific Rim Connections,’ which takes place in the seaside town of Mio, in the Wakayama prefecture. The area maintains deep Canadian connections, as thousands from the region emigrated to coastal BC, earning a living fishing and building boats.

The partnership gives NIC students the opportunity to learn about the cultural importance and history of the town and region from their Japanese peers. In turn, NIC students share knowledge of the B.C.’s history with an emphasis on the stories and lives of Japanese-Canadians who settled here, including the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to study beyond one’s borders and circumstances – building connections, relationships, and understanding across the Pacific, said NIC Humanities and Social Sciences instructor, Ryan Blaak.

The partnerships are a part of a multi-million-dollar strategy to provide meaningful learning experiences, through participation in international and study abroad experiences.

“It’s a huge opportunity for students to connect to other learners across the globe thanks to ever-improving technology,” said NIC vice-president, academic, Tony Bellavia. “Students who start their journey with us benefit from smaller class sizes, high-quality instruction and get amazing opportunities to broaden their educational experience beyond Vancouver Island,” he added.

Students interested in signing up for ENG-096 or HIS-225 can apply online at

For more information on study abroad opportunities in 2022, email

Black Press Submitted

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