Experiential Learning is a term that is receiving a lot of attention lately. However, the ability to directly learn from a personal experience is not a new concept. In fact in 450 BC Confucius said, “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

Just recently I spent study week participating in a work/study program through Seneca College called Students Crossing Borders. Together with dedicated volunteers, we worked in some of the most impoverished areas of Kingston, Jamaica: A school in a shanty community built on Kingston’s landfill site, a refuge home for children with HIV, an institution for children with special needs, and a home for abandoned seniors. The many projects in which we assisted saw us build homes, complete renovations and much more.

The students were all motivated and assigned tasks right away. They worked alongside teachers as equals, and took part in a Jamaican district-wide Teacher Professional Development Day. I witnessed each and every one of the students grow as individuals; developing confidence in their abilities, expanding their network of contacts and enhancing their resume, all the while applying skills they learned throughout their academic year.

Now that the school year is coming to an end, remember that learning never does. You don’t need a formal textbook or classroom environment to learn or challenge your view points. Students Crossing Borders is just one of the many programs available to assist life-long learners in exploring their potential.

If you want a chance to obtain unique experiences, look into formal international work programs. AIESEC is the world’s largest student-run organization, and provides university and college students and graduates with leadership experiences as well as the opportunity to participate in a Global Internship Program in more than 100 countries. This international work program is an intense learning experience that is facilitated by an entire global network. Each year, 3,500 students and recent graduates live and work in a foreign country while working in the areas of management, information technology, and social development. AIESEC Canada has blossomed into an ideal forum for professional development, cultural exposure and personal growth. If you are interested in exploring this opportunity contact the AIESEC Local Office closest to you: www.aiesec.ca or e-mail info@aiesec.ca.

Having seen first-hand the importance of programs like this in helping students to learn more about themselves, the world, and people I would strongly encourage everyone to consider learning outside of the classroom. I can’t begin to describe all the thoughts that went racing through my head when I was completely immersed in a new environment and surrounded by devastation and poverty.

Don’t be afraid to experience the world. You just might learn more about yourself, which is valuable information that you cannot find in a book.

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