This story was originally published by Faculty of Public Affairs on May 29, 2019.
By Karen Kelly
In high school, Kayley Lenders planned to study health sciences and perhaps go into nursing.
Then she saw an advertisement for a new degree at Carleton—the Bachelor of Global and International Studies (BGInS).
“I took a global issues class in grade 12 that really sparked my interest and I thought this sounded really cool,” explains Kayley, who chose the Global Law and Social Justice Specialization. “So I took a chance and totally switched up my career path. I’ve never looked back.”
That wasn’t the only time Kayley chose an unfamiliar path. As a BGInS student, she was required to complete an international experience. Options include studying abroad, working or interning abroad, or working on a group project on campus with an international organization.
She considered attending a university in Australia, but realized her growing interest in social justice and international development was pointing her in a different direction. She ended up choosing an internship with the Uganda Law Society in Kampala, Uganda.
“I loved learning about the developing world in the classroom, but truly experiencing it was life-changing,” says Kayley, who spent three months there in 2017. “I learned about the culture, the environment, the language, and the people in ways I never could in class. I definitely grew as a person.”
Part of Kayley’s time was spent assisting local lawyers in legal advising and human rights education workshops for inmates inside the Luzira Prison in Kampala. Under the guidance of local lawyers, she helped them figure out issues related to their bail, trial, and defence.
She also took classes at Makerere University and worked on a campaign to change Uganda’s inheritance laws.
“Women in Uganda are not allowed to own land. So when someone dies, the land is passed on to other male family members,” she explains. “That is a huge barrier for women’s equality there. It really put into perspective where I come from and what people are fighting for across the world.”
Commitment to Social Justice
Kayley says her experience in Uganda also strengthened her belief in activism. She participates in protests for environmental justice, education, health care, and gender equality. She is also the co-founder and president of Insight at Carleton University, a new club focused on international development and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Our goal is to foster a community of like-minded students to represent social justice change,” she says. The group organizes sustainability events, no-waste workshops, and attends protests together.
The Next Step
Not only did Kayley’s Ugandan internship change her life personally, it also opened the door to professional opportunities.
After her trip to Uganda, she was hired by the company that organized her trip, Insight Global Education, to lead other groups. She recently led a high school trip to Yukon focused on Indigenous land rights and climate change, and is planning another in Costa Rica.
She also was hired for the 2018 summer term to work on the international team of the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada. She was invited back for a one-year term with Health Canada at the end of May.
“I wouldn’t have this job without the experience I had in Uganda,” says Kayley. “Every answer I gave in the interview related back to that.”
Advice for New Students
The Windsor, Ontario native did not always follow the easiest path, and she recommends the same for other students.
“Find things you are interested in and try to get the most out of your International Experience Requirement,” she advises. “It will be your calling card for future doors to open. If you make yours a bit different, you will stand out.”
BGInS First Graduating Class
This year, the first Bachelor of Global and International Studies graduating class will cross the stage at convocation. Approximately 78 students will receive the BGInS degree.
The group completed their International Experience (through international exchanges, internships, courses taught abroad and experiential learning initiatives) in over 25 countries across the world, with activity in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Australia.
Their experiences included work at the International Criminal Court, learning about the land rights of Maya communities in rural Belize, and interning at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City—just to name a few.
Program Director Neil Gerlach says the students are a testimony to the success of the program and Carleton’s commitment to international experiential learning.
“These students have pioneered a brand-new program, endured its growing pains, and partnered with us in the development of something new and unique at Carleton,” he says. “All the while, they have repeatedly impressed us with their intelligence, drive, and willingness to face the challenges of learning and working in international settings. All of the graduates have tremendous promise and we can’t wait to see what comes next for them.”