Student stories

Indigenous and political science student travels to Australia for work term

Shireen Foroghi

Walanga Muru - Macquarie University

What is your name and your area of study? What year are you in?

My name is Shireen Foroghi, and I am beginning my third-year in Political Science.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you choose UVic/your program? Why did you choose to participate in co-op?

I am a Cree-Metis woman originally from St. Laurent, Red River Valley in Manitoba. I grew up in Kwikwetlem territory on the lower mainland where I discovered I wanted to attend UVic to participate in the Co-Op Abroad program. I had recently travelled to Cambodia and decided that I wanted to understand government and policies in order to address development and poverty reduction across the globe. I was extremely excited to participate in the Indigenous exchange program as I had the opportunity to put my studies into practice and develop my learning competencies.

Please tell us about your work term in Australia as part of the Indigenous International Work-Integrated Learning Program. Why did it appeal to you? Where were you working? What are your responsibilities or projects? What was your favourite part of your job?

Being Indigenous myself, I was eager to learn and compare how Indigenous communities around the world are impacted by politics and their governing policies. When I was in Sydney, Australia I was a Visiting Scholar with Macquarie University where I was working with the Indigenous Engagement team, Walanga Muru. I learnt a lot from the multiple, strong female role models at Walanga Muru, which created a very empowering space. My duties consisted of small research projects, administrative tasks, organizing cultural sharing workshops, event coordination, and experiential days exploring Australia. I was really lucky to have travelled to Melbourne on a business trip, where I observed the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium which discussed the needs of Indigenous students in higher education. My favourite part of working at Walanga Muru was getting the opportunity to talk with other Indigenous students during our cultural sharing workshops, where we engaged in deep conversations around colonialism and Indigenous culture.

How did your co-op work search experience differ as a result of COVID-19? Were you able to continue working remotely?

Due to COVID-19 it was mandatory for all students to return home in March, which took away a month left of exciting experiences. It was very unfortunate to have left so abruptly without proper goodbyes, however, everyone was very understanding. For the unfinished work that needed completion, Walanga Muru was very flexible in allowing me to finish whatever tasks at home in Canada.

Is there anything you’d like to share from your perspective as an Indigenous student?

As an Indigenous student, I was very honored to be chosen to partake in the Indigenous International Work-Integrated Learning Program which allowed me to explore more of my personal being, as well as explore the culture, traditions, and teachings of global Indigenous communities. I learned that there are a lot of similarities in Indigenous perspectives and colonial experiences.

How did what you learned in your co-op work term support your academic studies?

When working at Walanga Muru, I was able to work on my professional demeanor which is necessary within Political Science, as well as explore a variety of land and water policies. My knowledge on the workings of a post-secondary institution expanded as I was considered a staff member with Macquarie University. Macquarie University is in the process of Indigenizing all curriculums and faculties, to include Indigenous perspectives; I would love to see and work on Indigenizing UVic's curriculum. I contributed to this project through supplying resources for a specific faculty, to be utilized by students and professors.

What impact would you like to make now or in the future?

In the future I would love to continuously work with people in developing services and programs in creating sustainable communities. I am to do this through understanding current barriers, and policies prohibiting the production of long lasting self-sufficient communities.

What are your plans for your future career? How has co-op helped you with your career exploration and goals?

Co-op has allowed me to explore how, and in what way I intend to move forward in my career. For example, since working with Walanga Muru I have decided that I would like to work closely specifically with Indigenous communities around the world. I am very thankful to have participated in the Indigenous International Work-Integrated Learning exchange where I made life-long connections, expanded my knowledge on Indigenous cultures, and made positive changes to my future career!



More about Social sciences co-op