After completing a research project in her home country of Germany and an internship in Australia, Cognitive Science and Linguistics student Annalena Felber decided to extend the breadth of her international experience. A successful application to the 2017 Mitacs Globalink Research Internship (GRI) program landed Felber a summer-long research assistantship under U of S Education professor Dr. Marguerite Koole, investigating revitalization of Indigenous languages in the digital age.
As a recipient of a Mitacs Globalink Research Internship, Felber is part of a competitive, multi-disciplinary initiative which offers international undergraduate students from a suite of partner countries the opportunity to participate in twelve-week research assistantships at Canadian institutions. Every summer, successful applicants from Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Germany, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Ukraine get the game-changing opportunity to research abroad under the supervision of world-class faculty members from over 45 Canadian host universities.
The experienced Mitacs team also takes care of each intern during their term abroad, providing them with travel arrangements, designated mentors at their host university, and a living stipend on top of their monthly wage. All told, a GRI placement is worth upwards of $12,000. Although, as Felber has come to realize, the internship – and knowledge gained from it – is worth far more than dollars and cents.
From Saxon to Salteaux
As a European student of linguistics with an interest in cognition – how language is processed and acquired – the opportunity to learn about and advance our understanding of Indigenous languages in Canada appealed to Felber, “I was very interested in the cultural framework of languages and what's behind it. My main focus in Germany was cognitive linguistics, so I was always thinking about how language is linked to cognition, to our thinking. That's why I was very interested in doing research about Indigenous languages”.
Specifically, she and Professor Koole have been attempting to discover how modern technologies such as smartphones and browser applications are being used to teach, learn, maintain, and revitalize Indigenous languages in Canada. Beyond this, they hope to analyze the effectiveness of these internet-based tools and the challenges they present, such as the ability of a digital platform to accurately and appropriately represent Indigenous ways of knowing.
An Early Epiphany
During her internship, Felber has performed an extensive literature review on this topic, as well as a search for existing apps, videos, podcasts, websites, and other multi-media resources that relate directly to learning Indigenous languages in Canada. Her twelve weeks of research will have helped to populate an online database for Indigenous language teaching and learning resources, as well as contributing to a co-authored research paper.
While Felber had no previous experience in studying Indigenous languages and culture, she fell in love with the topic almost instantaneously. “I read one paper about Indigenous knowledge and it was mind-blowing . . . It's so hard to describe it, just to experience that there are so many other people with a totally different worldview, and that a world can function with other perspectives . . . it was so impressive [to] me,” she explains.
Unconfined by Country or Career
Despite her experience with Globalink and growing presence in the research sector, Felber says she isn’t necessarily bound for an academic career. “I don't know if I want to be in a research career; I just wanted to try it . . . I wanted to see if it was something I could imagine myself in,” she explains.
Following her interests and passions with an open mind is an approach to learning that Felber adopted early on in her academic career and plans to continue practicing. “I started my studies because I was interested in cognitive sciences and linguistics, and I'm still interested in it but I don't [yet] know where it will take me. It's just because I'm that interested in it that I have to study it!”
When asked what the secret is to securing big opportunities, either local or global, Felber claims it lays in taking the initiative and having the confidence to submit an application. “You just have to think you can make it . . . [then] apply for it and see what happens!”
Discover Your Globalink
Felber’s chronicle shows that researching a new topic in a different culture can be the experience of a lifetime. Luckily, you don’t have to be from a foreign country such as Germany or Saudi Arabia to make a Globalink connection – the Mitacs Globalink Research Awards (GRA) program also provides Canadian senior undergraduate and graduate students with funding to complete a research project at any international university. In fact, at the same time as the U of S welcomed Felber through Mitacs’ GRI program, it also sent two of our own students abroad to research in Japan. Unlike Felber, these two students weren’t matched directly to a project; rather, they were responsible for working together with a U of S professor to find and secure a placement overseas, marking one of the main differences between these two Globalink programs, the GRI and GRA.
Although it takes a bit of groundwork, Saskatchewan Mitacs representative Dr. Zsusza Papp assures students that finding a placement isn’t as unlikely as it may seem. “Almost every professor has some sort of [international] collaboration, or the professor next door might have. So [if] a student wants to go abroad, they can.”
With a bit of ambition and inquiry, U of S students can follow in Felber’s footsteps of international innovation, continually uncovering knowledge not only of a particular topic, but also of the world and themselves in the process.
To find out more about studying abroad with Mitacs’ Globalink Research Awards or other programs, contact the U of S International Students and Study Abroad Centre, or visit mitacs.ca.