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Global health partnership in Colombia enables outbound international study

McMaster exchange students on campus at Rosario.

MSc Global Health students are spending the winter term on exchange at partner university Universidad del Rosario in Colombia.

By Ruth Adair, January 28, 2020

Five McMaster University students travelled to Colombia earlier this month to begin a three-month exchange at the Universidad del Rosario as part of the Master of Science in Global Health program's winter term, which prioritizes student mobility as a key aspect of internationalization.

The exchange follows last year’s launch of a multi-lingual, transnational pilot project with partner institution Rosario, using machine learning technology to make higher education more accessible to the best and brightest around the world by overcoming language and communication barriers. This project and the exchange experience align with the university’s ongoing commitment to global citizenship and prioritization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This is the first year we’ve had students go to Colombia so it’s an exciting step,” explains Andrea Baumann, Associate V-P Global Health and director of the MSc Global Health program. “With the federal government’s increasing interest and investment in outbound student mobility, we are making every effort to create opportunities for our students – and for global health, that means enabling them to learn from and experience culture and health systems in the developing world.”

Baumann draws attention to Canada’s new International Education Strategy (IES), which outlines the need for Canadian students to develop intercultural competencies and strong international networks –requirements that have been core to the MSc Global Health program since its inception.

Currently, the McMaster exchange students are preparing for their in-field courses, after completing a two-week intensive Spanish immersion course. Over the next few months, they will focus on issues including migration and moving populations and health and human security and will complete fieldwork in a hospital or local slum just outside Bogota, working alongside other exchange students from partner university Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

“The goal is to learn more about Colombian health systems while developing a community health program to improve the health of the people within each community,” explains McMaster global health student Kaleigh Beauvais. “Our program organizer has expressed that it is greatly beneficial to have an outsider view of health systems within Bogotá as it allows for alternative solutions to be presented,” she says.

Recognizing the progress Colombia has its implementation of the SDGs, Baumann stresses the importance of partnerships in targeting the development goals. “Our partnership with Rosario has enabled students to gain firsthand experience learning about how the SDGs have been adopted to the Colombian context,” explains Baumann. “We need to learn from each other, and we’re working hard to create global impact as an outcome of experiential learning and student mobility.”

The Global Health program is currently working to expand partnerships in South America through an experiential learning opportunity at the Federal University of Rio.