Conestoga news

October 4, 2013 2:14 PM

Expanding horizons through international experience

Conestoga has taken another step forward to help students and future entrepreneurs gain a competitive advantage in the working world. Students from all programs are encouraged to apply to Ontario’s Global Edge program, run through the college’s Centre for Entrepreneurship - with placements available as early as next spring.

Ontario’s Global Edge program provides Conestoga students with a first-hand opportunity to appreciate the challenges and rewards of working in small entrepreneurial businesses abroad. Employment terms last a minimum of eight weeks to a maximum of 16 weeks. Wages are determined by the employer upon hire, with the approval of the program coordinator, Elisabeth Kolenko.

It was just last year that the program was approved for the college, and a few students have already taken part. Ecuador has been a popular location choice, where two students have just returned, and another has just left for 12 weeks to the country. Others are working as far away as the Czech Republic, and will be returning just before Christmas.

With the rapid success and popularity of Ontario’s Global Edge program at Conestoga, it is no wonder program coordinator Elisabeth Kolenko is keen on expanding the number of participants and enhancing opportunities for future entrepreneurs through internal connections.

“The whole concept of Global Edge is to do entrepreneurship and business internationally - anywhere outside of Canada, because they do it differently than we do. Their constraints are different, their processes are different, the rules and regulations are different - even how they would start a business is different,” Kolenko said.

Students who understand more than just the Canadian business structure bring a competitive advantage to their future business endeavours - such as innovative thinking, unconventional skill sets and adaptability to changing work environments.

The goal for the program is that every entrepreneur-to-be will experience the inspirational, knowledge-based, hands-on opportunities that Ecuador provided this summer for a few Conestoga students.

“The company was really good - it was a logistics company - and they let them try everything there was, and then they could choose what they wanted to be,” Kolenko said.

Students who exhibit entrepreneurial aspirations and are enthusiastic about travel and experiencing other cultures are eligible for the program, which includes a $4,000 government grant for financial support. The grant can cover anything from medical expenses to insurance, travel fare or food money for the trip.

After seeing the advertisement for the Global Edge on myCareers, third-year International Business Management student Breanna Hartwick applied right away because it was the only international internship available. Little did she know she would be spending her summer working closely with the actual founder of the small, Ecuador-based start-up, Marglobal S.A.

“My passion for travel and learning about other cultures really set me apart … I was the only one in my program to apply so I was surprised (by that),” Hartwick said, adding that her preconceived notions and expectations were not even close to the life-changing journey she has had with Global Edge.

Hartwick spent her summer in Guayaquil, Ecuador. After understanding each role within the business, she decided to become a marketing assistant to absorb the ins and outs of Marglobal S.A. - a small shipping company that has less than 100 employees.

She was also fortunate enough to have a piece of home with her, as she shared living accommodations with three other Ontario college students involved in the Global Edge program - including a fellow Condor. Between the four students, they shared two apartments in the same vicinity, which made the adjustment process of a new city, new job, and difficulty communicating with locals much less intimidating.

“It teaches you to be very flexible … it’s strange how foreign you feel when no one speaks English,” Hartwick said. The 20-year-old took introductory Spanish classes at Conestoga before her placement, which helped ease her into the language barriers in the non-English speaking country. After participating in Ontario’s Global Edge program, Hartwick has obtained a greater appreciation for business strategies in both Ecuador and Canada. She has changed her career objectives because of her experiences in South America, and plans on starting up a business that is “small but mighty,” much like what she witnessed firsthand in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Students ages 19 to 29, who have at least one more semester left in their program, are encouraged to apply to Ontario’s Global Edge program for placements that begin as early as Spring 2014. Applicants should demonstrate an interest in entrepreneurship, be in good academic standing and have a valid passport in the time leading up to the placement.

For more information, visit the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Conestoga’s Doon campus.

Story by Laurie Snell, second-year student in Conestoga’s Print-Journalism program.