University of the Fraser Valley

An educational adventure takes Allie MacKay back to school and across the world

An educational adventure takes Allie MacKay back to school and across the world

Allie MacKay (centre) worked with multiple human rights agencies during her practicum in Nepal.

The flight to Nepal took 36 hours – from Vancouver to Hong Kong, from Hong Kong to Kathmandu. Once Allie MacKay landed, there were endless opportunities to learn something new. The third year General Studies major was visiting as part of a practicum for her Global Development Studies 311 Course, funded through a government program called a Global Skills Opportunity.

MacKay was inspired to go back to school after she saw a job posting by the UN that interested her.

“My husband’s done work in other countries, and done development work and disaster assistance and things like that. So watching him go away and knowing that it’s possible to have jobs like that… the UN job really piqued my interest because I was like, I can do that. And then you look at the qualifications you’re like, ‘Oh, I need a master’s or experience.’ So, I went back to school.”

As a mature student with disabilities, there were obstacles to face during the transition back to student life. Now, under the supervision of UFV Social Work professor Dr. Rita Dhungel and Global Development professor Dr. Geetanjali Gill, MacKay’s got work experience with multiple non-profits based in Nepal.

At the Human Rights Commission in Janakpur, she got an up close look at the inner workings of government legislation while writing a report on the Madhesh province. At Didibahini, a social justice agency in Kathmandu, she assisted with website updates and social media strategy. She also got to observe advocacy cases on domestic violence, housing insecurity and lack of medical access.

The nine week practicum gave her the chance to learn more about her interests, test her skills, and put her course work into practice.

“As a student, we know how hard it is to get jobs and change careers and all those different things. So having on-the-ground experience allows me to add that to my resume.”

During her time in Nepal, MacKay appreciated some of its differences from home. Visiting a collectivist culture revealed a more group-oriented approach to problem solving. While on the street getting a cab and puzzling over a translation app, she found herself in a crowd of passersby all trying to help.

“As soon as somebody realized you were having trouble there, sometimes you had five, six people around you and the auto driver and everybody. You have no idea what anybody’s saying, but they’re all trying to figure out where you’re needing to go. That was something that I found really different, because we don’t tend to correlate as a group unless we really need to in Canada. It became very endearing to me,” MacKay recalls.

“I would strongly encourage our students to consider going abroad and learn something that they wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn at UFV or in the local context,” says Dr. Dunghel. She recommends students research their destination well in order to prepare and get the most out of their experience.

After graduation, MacKay hopes to continue in the field of global development, doing work that takes on-the-ground realities into account while creating financially sustainable solutions to improve peoples’ quality of life. To read more about her travels, check out her blog post here.