Boarding Pass program takes flight

Paul Mayne // Western News

For students interested in an international learning experience, Western promises to be at the ready to lend a financial hand – to the tune of $1,000.

The International Learning Award – or Boarding Pass, as it has become known – will be available to all full-time, second-year main campus students planning an international learning experience in their third year of study. If they maintain a cumulative 80 per cent average, with a full-time course load at the end of second year, they will automatically be eligible for $1,000.

“Although other universities have often had awards for study-abroads, they don’t tend to be as ‘across the board’ as this one is going to be,” said Julie McMullin, vice-provost (International).

That ‘across the board’ could mean up to 5,200 students – Western’s first-year enrolment numbers – taking advantage of the program. Admittedly, it could be “quite a big ticket item,” McMullin said. Expectations are that between 30-40 per cent of students will take advantage of the program.

For those students, the International Learning Award looks to tear down the financial barrier.

Offer packets that went out to perspective 2015-16 students included a Boarding Pass.

“Having the boarding pass in all our offers allows students to start thinking about Western as a place where you can get your international experience in a way they haven’t thought of in the past,” McMullin said. “It gets students to start thinking about what they want to do before they even get here.”

The award is applicable to Western-approved learning experiences, including academic exchange, summer study abroad, international field courses, internships, Alternative Spring Break or other university-led experiences.

“We’re very flexible in terms of the opportunities that will be eligible,” McMullin said. “We’re looking to develop many more international opportunities that are faculty-lead abroad, making sure we have enough opportunities for the students to engage with.”

Western President Amit Chakma, a strong proponent of students being part an international study experience, praised for the new program.

“International experiences help students develop confidence, leadership skills and a sense of global citizenship,” Chakma said. “These kinds of learning opportunities are often life-changing experiences. They broaden students’ perspective by expanding their awareness and understanding of different cultures, historical contexts and belief systems.”

McMullin has already heard positive feedback on the program – from her own daughter, Emma.

“She applied to Western this year, was accepted, and got her Boarding Pass in the mail,” she said. “Even before she got it, she said, ‘Mom, some students were getting their offers and they’re saying Western’s giving me a Boarding Pass.’ So that’s really great to hear the excitement. Also, the overwhelming response from faculty, deans and academic colleagues has been really extraordinary.”