I currently had the opportunity to travel with 21 students and two colleagues from Wayne State University to Canada as part of the Network, RISE and Warrior V.I.P learning communities partnership with the Office of International Programs and Study Abroad. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to a number of countries from Argentina, China and Mexico with students. I firmly believe that when we make the world a classroom I believe students learn so much more.
As a first generation college student myself I remember my first experience traveling outside of the country. Applying for my passport was an experience itself. It wasn’t until college that I had that opportunity travel. During that first program I realized the world was much bigger than Grand Rapids, Michigan. In fact, many of my friends from all over Michigan hadn’t traveled out of the state either. Nearly 20 years leader I’ve kept in touch with many of them and we still talk about how life changing those experiences were to our education and influenced our outlook on the world.
As we arrived in Canada it didn’t take much time for our Warriors to learn the transportation system and get around the city. My colleagues (Kenya Swanson & Claressa Adams) and I debrief each day with the students about their experience in Toronto. The students had plenty of questions about the population diversity, currency, transportation and food. The students had an opportunity to meet with their peers and tour York University. During the table discussion portion of our visit at York the students from both universities discussed perceptions of Canadians and Americans. Those conversations could have went on the entire day.
I’d like to thank each student for representing Wayne State University so well. I’d also like to thank my colleagues Kenya and Claressa for all of their support. It’s because of them that this program was a success. Their leadership prior to departure and returning really provided an enjoyed experience for all involved. Also, Margaret Ogg was very helpful in securing all the logistics and so much more. I’m signing off for now but I’m looking forward to our next program opportunity for our students.
Leonard Savala Ph.D. Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement
Venturing to the suburbs of Toronto, where one of Canada’s most diverse campus is located, York University welcomed Wayne State University with open arms. Upon arrival we noticed distinct differences compared to our university. First, its size, the campus had multiple student centers, food courts, and many amenities for their students. Second, the demographics of their students; they have a larger population of students of Asian descent than any other ethnicity or race on their campus. Similarly, student centers and study spaces were busseling with students from all walks of life contributing to the rich atmosphere for diversity.
Following our brief tour of the campus, Dr. Vidya Shah gave a captivating lecture on inclusion in classroom among various types of learners. She displayed an image that represented equality, equity, reality, and liberation for discussion. From this image we were able to have eye-opening conversations with York University students, ultimately concluding that we need to center our attention on the actual problem not the people facing the problem. Dr. Shah also had us do an activity on power and privilege that served as an opportunity to humble ourselves but also appreciate others’ experiences.
After the lecture and fruitful conversation with York students we attended the Escola de Samba music festival. This show was put on by students of York University to show appreciation of Brazilian culture.
Overall, our visit to York University was enlightening. Moving forward we have been given new consciousness when it comes to diversity and inclusion with college, whether it be in Toronto or Detroit.
During our enlightening tour of downtown Toronto, visiting St.Lawrence Market and St. Lawrence Hall, our tour guide informed us of Toronto’s history of immigration that made this great city the embodiment of diversity worldwide. In discussing the political climate of Toronto, we noticed their openness to new cultures and people. Contrastly, given the United States past, where differences lead to violence and harsh treatment of its people, Toronto learned from our mistakes and became a model to treatment of humans. Similarly to the United States, Toronto had in influx of immigrants through their history. In discussing what it meant to be an immigrant one of our scholars described it as, “Someone who moves to a different place in search of a better home away from their home.” A large population of blacks in Canada, specifically Toronto, were runaway and escaped slaves. Their perception of them differs from the US, they saw them as people escaping bondage not runaway slaves, therefore treating them like people. In addition, they had an intake recess that helped them establish housing and jobs.
Given Canada’s inviting past they continued their hospitality they have opened their borders to Syrian refugees. Astonishingly, they continue to welcome different cultures and people into their country forming a rich educational environment.
Among our group, scholars explored libraries, saw artists creating art, participated in a meditation experience, and traveled with different means of transportation.
Day two of adventures brought us to new heights and different sights. Our visit to the CN Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, allowed us to see the city from the new perspective. We also explored the aquarium, science center, and various areas within the city. Some of our scholars noticed the differences and similarities of diversity here in Toronto and Detroit. From our point of view “Detroit is more inclusive because of our rich social and political history of strife,” we also have program initiatives that are focus on inclusion. Today we are headed to learn more about the history of Toronto to have a better understanding their history of inclusion that shapes their city today.
Through public transportation, exploration, and cultural differences we were able to connect with the city of Toronto. Reflecting on some of our adventures like visiting Casa Loma, the only castle in North America, we peeked into history. Standing in rooms where kings and queens prepared for battle, envisioned the city, and lived in luxury gave us insight of Canada’s royalty.
Unlike our home city of Detroit, Toronto has developed an efficient transit system consisting of subways, trolleys and buses. We saw many ethnicities, heard many languages, and felt Toronto’s young energy! One of our scholars describes Toronto’s transportation system as a great way to commute as a community. Further comparing transportation in the D to transportation in Toronto, it mobilizes the city in a way that does not exist at home. With this new experience Toronto’s transit system has prompted curiousity of their food, interacting with its people and the city itself.