It’s a small world after all

Photo by Travis Fortnum

Yobert Montillo Guzmán speaks to DC's Katie Boone during her recent trip to Trujillo, Peru.

The morning sunrise peeks over the horizon, its glow waking the world with the indication of a new day. Yobert Montillo Guzmán has just arrived home from his part-time job but must wake and begin preparing for another day of school. Guzmán is studying cooking while living away from home. He rents a room in the city and in order to afford rent, he spends his evenings working into the wee hours.

A familiar story, perhaps? Chances are you can relate. Statistics Canada says just under half of postsecondary students have jobs. But the city Guzmán is living and studying in is Trujillo, Peru, nearly 6,000 km away from Oshawa.

One might not think someone who lives on a different continent could live a lifestyle comparable to theirs, as cultural and geographical borders separate us. However, it’s true what they say: it’s a small world, and given advancements in technology and communication, it gets smaller every day. Thanks to cellphones, Facebook, Skype and countless other tools, globalization is more prominent than ever before.

Globalization is an important part of Durham College’s plans moving forward. Elaine Popp, the school’s Vice-President of Academic, has been working to forge mutually-beneficial partnerships, including one with Centro Experimental de Formación Profesional (CEFOP) in Trujillo, where Guzmán studies.

“I’m so glad that we are in a position where we’re able to share what we’ve learned as an institution here in Canada,” says Popp, “to help them strengthen their programs and create better opportunities, and then that improves their economy.”

Popp believes Durham College’s experience can affect their students and their economy. “The social conditions even,” says Popp, “because if you get an education, stats show, you’re likely to be healthier, more socially and financially affluent.”

Financial affluence is not something that immediately comes second nature to most college students, which is why so many have jobs.

Aside from working exhausting hours to make some extra cash, Guzmán deals with countless other factors students across the globe can relate to, such as parental pressure.

Originally, Guzmán’s parents were not supportive of him studying the culinary arts.

“They really encouraged me to do a different career and to go into medicine,” Guzmán says, “I didn’t really like that. I left and decided to go for what I’ve always been so passionate about and what I loved.”

Don’t be surprised if this hits close to home. According to the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, over 85 per cent of parents report being very involved or somewhat involved in their children’s education.

Although his parents were not supportive at first, Guzmán’s passion was ingrained in him at a young age.

“Really it was my grandmother that motivated me,” says Guzmán. “When I was younger I would always see her cooking. I could tell she had a love for what she was doing so I would ask her to show me. She would walk me through step by step and allow me to taste things.”

Guzmán was praised for his skill in the kitchen and pushed to pursue it by friends: similar to how the lucky ones among us are lead to a postsecondary program that teaches us how to turn our passions into a career.

It’s circumstances like these that confirm the student experience is fundamentally universal.

Student life in today’s world leaps across borders and oceans. The experience isn’t the only thing shared with those in foreign countries; it’s possible we share classmates as well.

Claudia Cubas Quiroz is a second-year student in the Human Resources Management program at Durham College. She too is Peruvian, from a small mountainous city northwest of Trujillo, where Guzmán lives.

Like Guzmán, Quiroz’s parents wanted her to study medicine close to home.

“My mom always wanted a doctor,” says Quiroz, “I always wanted to leave but my parents were like, ‘are you sure you want to? You’re our only daughter’. So I started university in Peru but I came here for a vacation to visit my family and see Canada, and I didn’t go back.”

Quiroz now lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin in Whitby. She says the biggest change she had to adapt to in Canada was the flow of traffic.

In Peru, drivers zip in and out of lanes at high speeds, slamming on the brakes when a stop is necessary. The sound of car horns fills the air. In Peru, the horn is used differently than in Canada, becoming white noise to locals.

“When I was coming to Whitby from the airport,” says Quiroz, “all the people were respecting the traffic signs. I was like… okay, this is a very different country.”

Claudia Cubas Quiroz says the biggest difference since moving from Peru to Whitby has been the flow of traffic.
Claudia Cubas Quiroz says the biggest difference since moving from Peru to Whitby has been the flow of traffic.

For the past 14 years, the United Nations has named Canada one of the top ten countries in which to live. Durham College alone has 627 international students enrolled this semester from 54 different countries. This is up from 523 students last year from 48 countries.

Katie Boone is the project coordinator with the college’s international office. She travels to countries around the world to visit the school’s international partners and oversee progress on foreign campuses. Recently, Boone visited CEFOP in Trujillo to touch base on progress made through their partnership with Durham College.

“There are four projects that I manage,” Boone says. “There’s Peru, a project in Guyana that focuses on automotive and electronics, a project in Vietnam which is focusing on food and pharmaceuticals, and then there’s a project in Barbados which is [focused on] leadership and change management.”

While working in the international office at Durham College, Boone crosses paths with much of the international student population. She also works with Durham students abroad. She has seen firsthand the progress the world has made towards globalization, and believes this is a great advancement for future generations.

“The best experience I’ve had was watching [Durham students] engage with the Peruvian students,” says Boone.

“I think that it allows you to build skills that are critical to personal and professional life, that are good stepping stones to build on, regardless of whether your career brings you to another international setting or not.”

Elaine Popp recently joined Boone in Trujillo, and has experienced the evolution of academics through globalization.

“Internationalization is embedded in our culture now,” Popp says, “and not only have we grown the numbers of international students coming to campus, but we’ve also grown our efforts to embrace internationalization in its full capacity.”

“The world is a lot more interconnected now and the chance that our graduates are going to interact with individuals that don’t just live in Canada or were born in Canada is much greater than it used to be.”

Popp has recently spoken to 11 international students as part of a process to renew the college’s strategic plan. She says similarities between students from around the world are undeniable. Perhaps most prominent is the question of what comes next.

“That almost anxiety or the fear of the unknown, that is something that I think you see in all students regardless of where they’re from.”

Mark Herringer, Dean of International Education at Durham College, hopes the adaptation to internationalization can see no student left behind.

“What we’re working on with our institutional team,” Herringer says, “is to determine how can we figure out how to get students who aren’t able to travel an international experience while they’re at Durham College.”

This goal has seen the increase in the use of a global classroom, which uses technology to link students at the Oshawa campus to experts and guests from around the world.

Globalization has entered a new phase. The Internet is credited with the breaking of borders, with more than 900 million people making international connections through social media.

Facebook alone boasts 1.79 billion active users in a month, according to Statista. A study by staff at Kent State University says 82 per cent of international students use it to keep in touch while abroad. Facebook has become so ubiquitous we seem to take for granted the connections it facilitates.

For Quiroz, traveling abroad has led to the discovery of a new home.

“I miss Canada when I’m in Peru,” she says. After graduating from Durham College in the spring she hopes to further her human resources education at UOIT.

Back in Peru, Guzmán looks forward to the opportunities presented by this globalized world.

“My dream job would be working on a cruise ship,” he says. “When I graduate I want to focus on studying some English so I can achieve that.”

Whether traveling to another continent or just another city, the changing face of interaction and integration between people around the world means never having to be far from home.

Despite location, the student experience is a common one. No matter where your campus is, the experience includes the desire to turn a passion into a career, the uncertainty of where your studies will take you and the fear of what your future will entail. The world can be a scary place when you think about your place in it. But with advancements in technology coupled with personal experience and education, we grow. And the world gets smaller.

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Travis Fortnum is a second-year journalism student. He has a love for politics and is passionate about covering campus news, community events, and sports. Aside from the Chronicle, his stories have been featured in the Oshawa This Week, Brooklin Town Crier, Whitby Snap'd and on