Global Skills Opportunity (GSO)

Crossing Borders: Using the GSO banner 2023Power of Place to Build Connections

The Crossing Borders: Using the Power of Place to Build Connections project at Vancouver Island University will use Place Based Learning as an innovative approach to work and study abroad experiences that explore the many ways in which we understand identity. Through Interdisciplinary Field Schools, Academic Exchanges and Internships, VIU undergraduate students will collaborate with each other and explore who they are and where they are in terms of land, culture and history and how their sense of place influences the ways they operate in the world. Through this project more than 55 VIU students will benefit from $500,000 in funding over the next three years (2021-2025). International work and study experiences offered through the Crossing Borders project will unlock students’ endless potential through the development of life-changing global skills. 

This project is funded by Global Skills Opportunity (GSO), the Government of Canada's outbound mobility pilot program.


GSO Goals

  • Widen access and equity to participation in outbound student mobility programming
  • Diversify the destination countries where students choose to study/work abroad
  • Test innovative approaches to reduce barriers to study/work abroad

Learn more about GSO Goals

Internal Partners

This project is a collaborative effort involving students, faculty and student service areas within our very own VIU community, as well as extensive international partnerships to provide a fully supported experience for students from start to finish. Internal partners are outlined below:

International Partners

VIU has offered international mobility programming in partnership with a wide range of international hosts for more than 20 years. Many of our partnerships have been developed and continue to be sustained through international cooperation projects, professional, academic and mobility networks in places such as Norway, Indonesia, Brazil, Tanzania, Australia, Kenya, Belize, Vietnam, Ghana, and USA.

Field School host partners, Exchange partners and Internship hosts, in addition to their subject matter expertise, facilitate local logistics, safety briefings, emergency support, and offer cultural culture and language supports.

Global Skills Opportunity Student Travel Grant

VIU Undergraduate Students can apply for a GSO Student Travel Grant through the Crossing Borders project (2021-2025). 

Learn how to apply for a GSO Student Travel Grant.

Will GSO funding impact other financial support streams? 

GSO Student Travel Grant funding should not have an impact on a student’s eligibility for Canada Student Loans or Grants. Employment and Social Development Canada is working with Provinces and Territories with the intention of ensuring that similar exemptions are in place for similar provincial or territorial administered financial assistance programs. Student are encouraged to explore any potential financial impact on their situation to be better informed and prepared. 

Income Tax Reporting

It is intended that GSO funding will be exempt from income tax reporting. While this exemption is finalized, it is possible that the inclusion of a GSO Student Travel Grant in students’ total income could have a small impact on their financial assistance in a subsequent year. In these instances, a student can request a reassessment or to have their current (not previous) year’s income assessed to ensure their federal student financial assistance is not impacted. Please also bare in mind: 

  • Tax situations vary for each individual; reach out to tax experts for advice.
  • Student loans and grants vary from province to province, for more information connect with the National Student Loans Service Center (NSLSC) and your Provincial student loan provider to confirm if there is any impact on student loans and/or grants.

Introduction to Place-Based Learning

(This is a working draft which is guiding the implementation of the GSO Project)

Indigenous protocol grounds us and connects us to land, to family, and to our ancestors. It gives others the opportunity to learn a bit more about Indigenous peoples. When we acknowledge the territory that we are on, we are showing respect and gratitude for being on the land. We are mindful that this relationship is reciprocal-to welcome guests to a territory is only appropriate for those who are Indigenous to a particular place.

In place-based learning, local surroundings provide the context for educating. It encompasses the history, environment, economy, and culture of a learner’s surroundings, their interconnections and how place is situated within broader-scale political, social, cultural, or ecological landscapes. This in turn forms a bond between the learner and the locale. Education is no longer solely based inside classrooms and through textbooks; we use place-based learning not only so students can become actively engaged in our own learning, but also so we may gain a sense of responsibility, care, attachment, and betterment to place long-term, and ultimately, a richer sense of our own identities. Whether our surroundings are natural or human made, or if we are abroad or or in our home community, our surrounding environment provides the learning landscape.

Because place-based learning is unique and subjective for each learner, the role of an instructor is to facilitate and guide the learning, rather than deliver it from a single perspective. As instructors we work alongside students to co-create learning experiences as well as facilitate individual reflection and transfer the learning from the field to each students’ home environment.

This aligns with Indigenous ways of knowing where people and nature are interconnected rather than treating the natural environment as separate. This helps to engrain consciousness of place within learners. As British Columbia’s First People’s Principles of Learning state, “Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place) (FNESC, 2008). This helps to engrain consciousness of place within learners

VIU Education Abroad Crossing Borders: Charting Our Path Needs Assessment

Universities Canada Summary Report: Outbound Student Mobility Program Baseline Survey

Summarizing key findings from the outbound student mobility survey conducted last fall with Universities Canada’s 96 member institutions.