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A Journey of International Education Excellence

A Journey of International Education Excellence

Alumnus Victoria Ennis explores global learning landscapes with York University.

Embarking on an educational adventure abroad is a journey of cultural immersion, broadened perspectives, and enduring connections. Victoria Ennis (BEd ’17, MEd ’19), a passionate education professional, shares her transformative time participating in York University's International Exchange program during her time as a student at York University’s Faculty of Education.  These experiences played a key role in shaping not only her career, but also her view on education.

headshot of Victoria Ennis
Victoria Ennis

Ennis' international exploration began unexpectedly in the summer of 2015 during her time as a student in the concurrent Bachelor of Education program at York University. An opportunity arose to study abroad in Freiburg, Germany, setting the stage for her journey into international education. At the Padogigsche Hochschule Freiburg, she unraveled the intricacies of global education systems, sparking her passion for the field. “From my early travels to Germany, I was fascinated by how different education systems work and what trajectories different students were on around the world,” she says. This exposure became the catalyst that steered her towards specializing in international education.

Her journey would continue in 2017 as she ventured to Nicaragua with a colleague, teaching English in a remote village. This one-month teaching placement provided Ennis with professional growth and an intimate understanding of cultural nuances, underscoring the profound impact educators can have beyond traditional classrooms. “The host family we both stayed with were very special to the town, and hosted people from out of town often,” she says. “They provided fresh bread for the community, and lived on a small lot with mango trees and a horse. I became friends with locals in the town and shared meals and experiences with them on a regular basis.”

Ennis' travels then continued to Costa Rica in 2018, as part of her Master's program, which immersed her in environmental sustainability studies. During this phase, unfolding in the eco-rich landscapes of Costa Rica, she had a unique opportunity to live with a Costa Rican host family. Engaging deeply with Indigenous communities, Ennis delved into crucial topics such as land sovereignty, education, and politics. “I was with my professor that travelled with us to the country, and my colleagues who took the same course as me titled “Globalization and Indigenous Peoples,” she says.

International exchanges are not just about places; they are about people. Ennis recounts her collaborations, emphasizing the bonds forged during her studies in Germany, teaching in Nicaragua, and exploring Costa Rica. "The friends that I made in all of the places I have travelled while participating in international exchange opportunities at York University, have become lifelong friends. This is the greatest accomplishment of all because relationships drive our lives in the most positive ways."

Victoria Ennis (pictured in centre) with a class of high-school aged male adn female students in Vietnam
Victoria Ennis (pictured in centre) with a class of students in Vietnam

In 2018, Ennis’ international travels took her to new heights as she spent three transformative years in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This marked her longest time abroad where she contributed her teaching expertise to both the Bilingual and English campuses of the Canadian International School system. “This work was amazing as I got to develop my teaching practice, witness diverse education practices, and connect with the wider Vietnamese community,” she says. Venturing into an entirely new cultural landscape, Ennis found herself not only developing her teaching practices but also witnessing firsthand the diversity of education methodologies. The warmth of this novel and culturally rich country left an indelible mark on her professional journey. "It was a place I had not researched or travelled to previously to before moving there,” she says. “I was so welcomed by this culture, my students, the parents, and local people I interacted with. I treasure it as one of my greatest experiences.”

Having worked as a research analyst in the Massachusetts State House and currently contributing to the Black Excellence 365 program, Ennis further reflects on her varied career path. "I feel blessed to live a flexible lifestyle at the moment, where I do work that fuels my soul and find different avenues and contracts that use my skills and passions best."

Inspired by her studies and experiences abroad during her time at York, Ennis applied to the International Education Policy Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, graduating in May 2022. Her trajectory from exploring global education systems to engaging in high-level policy work at Harvard underscores the lasting influence of her international experiences and the solid foundation laid by York University.

Ennis’ journey from Germany to Harvard University exemplifies the profound impact of global education experiences.

She emphasizes the value of the opportunities that York International and the Faculty of Education provides to education students. "The value is adding yourself to the list of educators who consider themselves well-rounded in their practice," she notes. There are a wealth of diverse opportunities to explore that allow educators to enrich their perspectives and develop a comprehensive understanding of global education.”

Ennis encourages other students to recognize the breadth of opportunities within the education field. "Education is changing quickly, and at the same time is largely unchanged from hundreds of years ago. There is a lot of work to be done, and it takes great minds with a passion for the cause to get the work done."

Article by Dennis Bayazitov special contributing writer.