Interaction, collaboration and exploration have been the hallmark of students and researchers from the very beginning of the university more than one thousand years ago. These activities have only grown more important as the world has shrunk and become more connected than ever before. Growth and prosperity cannot be found by only looking from within. We need new ideas, new partners and added diversity of both to propel us forward.

Connecting to our global society is an integral part of the University of Waterloo, whether it’s our students moving to a new country for a student exchange or co-op job, our researchers collaborating with colleagues around the world or institutional research and commercialization agreements. It is weaved into our DNA and in addition to embracing that legacy, we continue to pursue a global perspective more than ever.

Internationalization in the time of COVID-19

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on aspects of internationalization. The effects of travel restrictions, institutional focus and financial ramifications cannot be ignored.

That being said, partnerships and collaborations over borders have not stopped. Remote working and learning for students continue around the world. Virtual research conferences are still taking place. And, multi-lateral research projects are still launching at Waterloo. COVID-19 has created speed bumps, but that won’t stop our momentum from moving forward.

The student experience abroad

Developing global talent means educating and supporting students who also develop global perspectives, experience and curiosity. Employers and students alike tell us that having experience on the international stage gives them an advantage that no amount of classroom experience can replicate.

More than 15 per cent of Waterloo students take part in an international academic exchange or co-op job to grow and develop. This is no small number of students and it is only possible through one thing: partnerships.

The power of international partnerships

Internationalization cannot succeed without partnerships. Universities and knowledge development cannot thrive as an island. Academic, government, non-profit and industry partnerships all have a role to play in expanding global connections.

As home to the world’s largest co-operative education program in the world, partnering with employers around the world is a priority for Waterloo. Our students are eager for international co-op jobs whether they are working in a lab in France or coding in the Bay area. The exceptional nature of our students and the education they earn from our instructors make these partnerships possible, regardless of where the organizations are based.

Partnering with fellow academic institutions is not as simple as picking a name out of a hat and working out a contract. It takes compatibility and the drive to create mutually beneficial collaboration. Whether it’s a student exchange agreement, research partnership or two researchers sharing their thoughts with one another, finding a common connection is vital for a prosperous outcome for all involved.

Global partnerships are not the simplest agreements to craft and should not be rushed into. Not because their benefits don’t warrant the effort, but because we want them to last the test of time and the test of disruptive forces whether it’s a global pandemic, economic downturn or simply the transition from one key researcher to another.

Opening our campus to the world

Internationalization is not just about moving beyond our borders. Waterloo has a tremendous amount to offer the global community and we’ve welcomed tens of thousands of students from around the world to our campus to take part in a truly unique student experience. We’ve welcomed world-renown scholars to our campus, both as faculty members and as partnering researchers. And, we’ve gained greatly from all of their perspectives and cultural insights.

Just as you cannot replicate the experience of studying abroad or working overseas, we cannot replicate having such talented individuals from around the world coming to our campus and sharing with us what makes them unique. This is an essential part of our institutional development and also the development of our students, faculty and staff. We grow with meeting new people from new places with new ideas.

Waterloo will continue to commit to creating a supportive environment for international students that also celebrates their contributions to our diverse community. Only then can we continue to thrive in an ever-growing global community.

Internationalization is part of Waterloo and will always be essential for the growth of our institution, both on campus and outside of Canada. That is a commitment that will never stop.