Tackling issues in West Africa

May 3, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Lindsay Anne Zibrik is travelling about 12,000 km outside her comfort zone this summer and she's a bit anxious about it.        

The recent Honours BA political science grad is one of 20 Canadian students who will partner with West African students as members of the Uniterra international seminar program, to study HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso and education in Ghana.

Zibrik will spend six weeks in Ghana learning about the barriers to basic education facing children, particularly girls from poor families in the northern region. "I am honoured to take part," says Zibrik of the Uniterra program, a joint initiative of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation. "But I'm also incredibly nervous. I've never been to a developing country before so it's going to be a major culture shock."

Lindsay Anne Zibrik

Launched in 1948, the program is designed to help improve international relations by encouraging students to tackle a variety of social, cultural and developmental issues through a mutual transfer of knowledge and ideas.

"It provides a real grassroots approach to learning," says WUSC executive director Paul Davidson. "Participants gain a solid understanding of development issues, learn to work in a cross-cultural environment and help support the work of our local partners in the field."

While overseas, Canadian participants and their local counterparts collaborate on research guided by Canadian and local advisors. Back in Canada, they share their experiences on campus and in their communities through presentations, media interviews and other outreach activities.

"I'm going to learn a lot about myself, which is what I'm most looking forward to," says Zibrik, who plans to pursue graduate work this fall. "After four straight years at SFU, it's time to find out where I fit in the world."

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