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This article was originally posted by the University of Calgary on May 6, 2016 and is reposted with permission.

By Gillian Galambos

Excitement and nerves fill the room as the latest University of Calgary Queen Elizabeth scholars prepare to embark on an experience of a lifetime this summer.

Kevin Capuno, Sydney Krill, Sahar Khajeali and Zeeyaan Somani are the most recent recipients of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES). All undergraduate students from the faculties of arts and nursing, they are looking forward to having the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture and to make a real difference in the communities they’ll be working in.

The objective of the QES program is to activate a dynamic community of young global leaders across the Commonwealth countries to create lasting impact — both locally and globally — through cross-cultural exchanges. Established in 2014, the University of Calgary sent the first group of Queen Elizabeth scholars abroad last year. The program continues to grow with the introduction of a new partnership with Aga Khan University in Uganda. These programs complement the internship opportunities available through the Study Abroad office thanks to our long-standing partnerships in the region.

Work in Africa will focus on maternal health, disabilities

Capuno and Krill are students in the Faculty of Arts, both taking combined degrees with a focus on development. They are headed to Ghana along with four other University of Calgary students funded by University of Calgary International to work with the Community Based Rehabilitation Program (CBR). They will be travelling to different rural field offices to work on improving the lives of those with disabilities. Khajeali and Somani are both in the Faculty of Nursing and are the first students to do an exchange with Aga Khan University. They’ll be working in a hospital focusing on maternal health in a developing country.

“I just want to be a sponge,” says Somani, when asked what she hopes to achieve during her internship. “I want to be immersed in the culture and learn everything I can, while developing relationships with the locals so I can relate to them on a more personal level.”

An opportunity to globalize degrees

The QES program closely aligns with the University of Calgary’s International Strategy and will have significant impact in Canada and around the world in creating a new global network of scholars. The QES program is managed through a unique partnership of Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) and Canadian universities. It’s made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector.

“This program is a great opportunity for our students to gain international development experience and share knowledge between countries and institutions,” says Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international). “It really enables our students to become global citizens.”

The students will be overseas for 90 days completing their internships along with a self-directed course for academic credit. When they return home, they’ll be working to educate the campus community on their experiences and how other students can get involved.

Putting classroom theory into practice

“I want to empower people to make change,” says Krill. “I’m hoping that through this experience, I’ll learn practical skills in the field that I can bring back and use to teach others how to make the world a better place.”

Learn more about the QES program and apply for various study abroad opportunities.