Alternative March Break: Experiential Learning Connects Students with Community


Two groups of students from St. Thomas University chose to spend part of their March break gaining new skills and connecting with their communities.


Early in the week, six students participated in the Super Saturday Social at the Saint John Newcomers Centre to develop their cultural competencies and increase their understanding of newcomer experiences.


Toward the end of the week, a second group of students visited Trillium Music Studio where they toured the studio and heard from owner Paul Milner about the music industry, production, and talent management.


Hannah MacQuarrie, a second-year Gerontology student from Moncton, NB, took part in the Saint John Newcomers Centre event. She said it was an “eye-opening” experience.


“It felt great to have so many cultures together and to have open discussions and share stories with them,” she said. “When people from all backgrounds and walks of life come together and share their experiences we begin to understand each other and our drive to support and accept one another increases.”


At the event, MacQuarrie helped prepare lunch, volunteered in the craft room, and spent time socializing with different groups. Afterward, the volunteers took part in a reflection activity to discuss the impact of the event.


“This experience complemented my in-class learning by providing me with an opportunity to use my second language and communication skills,” she said. “It also allowed me to see strong inter-generational relationships and how these can vary from one culture to another.”


As an aspiring social worker, MacQuarrie saw this as an opportunity to connect with the community and begin building skills that will benefit her throughout her degree and in her future career.


“I’m hoping to pursue a career in social work and I will need to communicate with and relate to people from all experiences and walks of life,” she said. “This was an opportunity to build those skills with a population that needs to feel welcome and cared for by the community they recently became a part of.”


These events were coordinated in partnership with Future Ready NB and the St. Thomas University Office of Experiential and Community Based Learning.