On Monday 28 March U21, together with its partners at Common Purpose and the University of Connecticut, led a panel session at the APAIE 2022 conference. Originally planned to take place in Vancouver, the conference moved online due to the continuing uncertainty and instability of international travel.
In line with the overarching conference theme of 'Brave New Realities' U21 presented the innovative approach they are taking to offer online international opportunities to students with programmes that are both sustainably themed and delivered.
One theme the session explored was the growing need and demand from students for sustainability education. "Though I find the vast majority of my students to be socially -minded and eager to make a difference, a huge percentage of them learned the details of the UN SDGs for the first time upon participating in the U21 Global Citizens program", says Arminda Kamphausen Associate Director of Global Business Programs in the University of Connecticut School of Business, "It literally was “Eye-opening” and “Worldview changing” for them".
However it is not just knowledge that students gain from these opportunities. It is clear when listening to student feedback that they value extremely highly the opportunity to connect and collaborate internationally outside of traditional educational exchange programmes:
"I believe that the unique benefit of cross-border virtual programs, such as the U21 Global Citizens program is that I get to interact with those from other cultural and academic backgrounds, and through exchanging thoughts and ideas with students and researchers on the other side of the world, I am not only able to expand my horizons but also reflect on myself and challenge my own presuppositions. I was strongly inspired by the fact that so many students and researchers who are of the same age as me are also interested in learning about and trying to understand the challenges our societies are facing" - Peter Chai, Student of Waseda University
Indeed the design of the U21 Global student programmes, building on Common Purpose’s open source leadership model, motivates and equips students to action on sustainability issues. "Ultimately it’s about equipping students with the skills they need to take practical action now on the SDG they are most passionate about and inspire them to go out into the world and make a difference" states Andy Coxall, Chief Executive of Common Purpose Student Experiences. "Because we know that for students today, sustainability and the issues that underpin the SDGs, are of absolute critical importance and that they see universities as core to that".