Studying abroad can be a defining time of the college years, and this semester some Honors College students at IUPUI will still be able to experience studying abroad without ever leaving their homes.
The Rwanda Virtual Exchange Program is a joint course where IUPUI and University of Rwanda students will be able to develop relationships and tackle real-world problems together.
Dr. Ian McIntosh, who serves as the director of international partnerships within the Office of International Affairs, is working with Michel Ndahimana, a professor from the University of Rwanda, to teach the course.
The course, which currently has 24 IUPUI students and 20 students from Rwanda, has two parts to the curriculum. The first part of the curriculum is a cultural exchange.
The cultural exchange component of the course translates to students getting to know each other and sharing about their cultures and countries to a degree that results in a feeling of actually visiting Rwanda or the United States.
To facilitate the cultural exchange, the course has its own page on the social learning platform CourseNetworking, also known as CN Post. CN Post allows students to engage with peers across the world to increase learning engagement and collaboration. The use of this platform allows for seamless guided discussions between IUPUI students and University of Rwanda students.
On CN Post, students in the course have been sharing different parts of their country and culture such as cuisine, favorite places, and pictures of infrastructure throughout their respective countries.
Students also share pictures and posts that relate to the second component of the class curriculum, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which serve as an international project on how to better the world, are discussed far more in other countries than they are in the United States, said McIntosh.
The Office of International Affairs conducted a study of staff and faculty to gauge the familiarity of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“We got about 100 responses,” said McIntosh, and “the significant majority were not very familiar, or were not familiar at all, with this UN agenda for transforming the world.” Using the gained perspective students will obtain through the cultural exchange portion of the course, McIntosh said that he hopes students will walk away with the ability to think globally, the love of travel, and the ability to recognize the need to care for this world together.
“We have to think globally if we're going to deal with these global issues, you can't put a border, or a wall around COVID, it doesn't work,” said McIntosh, “we can't do it ourselves.”