It's never too early — or too late — to participate in an experiential learning opportunity! You may have heard of undergraduate research or work-integrated learning like internships or practicums but there are so many more ways to experience hands-on learning — in the classroom, community or workplace!
Experiential learning (EL) is learning by doing. It includes a wide range of hands-on learning opportunities including exchanges and group study, internships and practicum, projects with a community or industry partner, case competitions and hackathons, research projects, land-based learning, field study programs, and much more. Some EL activities are part of your courses or degree program, while others are completed outside your academic studies. Whether they are for credit or not, EL helps you discover your passions, gain experience and grow your professional network.
UCalgary offers a wide variety of EL activities to fit your interests and your schedule. Some EL activities are part of your academic program; others are co-curricular and occur outside of the classroom. They also vary in terms of time commitment; some are full-time over one or more semester; others require less of a commitment. For example, volunteering as a peer helper provides you with experience working with a team on campus and requires about five hours per week for one semester (or more). A competition or hackathon might involve one intensive weekend, and an undergraduate co-op or internship program involves working full-time for two, three or four semesters across your degree program.
UCalgary offers a searchable Experience Catalogue to help students find activities that are relevant to them. You can also talk to advisors in your faculty, mentors and your peers. Advisors in Leadership & Student Engagement, the Student Success Centre, the Women’s Resource Centre, the Sustainability Resource Centre, Career Services, and others are great places to talk to staff about exciting opportunities for EL.
Whether you are first-year student or a graduating student, an undergraduate or a graduate student, there are opportunities for you to build your skills and experience while exploring new interests through experiential learning. It’s never too early or too late to get involved.
Experiential Learning is an excellent way to learn about Canadian culture while meeting others and expanding your network. Some of your courses at UCalgary may already involve experiential learning. You can also volunteer as a Peer Helper or work on campus and get involved with student politics or student clubs.
Undergraduate international students are eligible to participate in the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience over the spring/summer semester. Arts, Science, Business and Engineering offer cooperative education and internship programs for undergraduate students. International students are eligible for a Co-op Work Permit upon admission to their faculty’s co-op or internship program. See your faculty advising office for more information on how to be admitted to co-op or internship.
Full time international graduate students are eligible for Mitacs internships and can work gain work experience on-campus or off-campus on campus through a Transformative Talent Internship.
Academic and career
Some EL activities are graded, some are ungraded, and others are co-curricular (occurring outside of your academic program and courses). Internship, co-op and practicum courses are typically ungraded (credit/no credit awarded) and therefore are noted on your transcript. While these ungraded experiences won’t directly boost your GPA, they benefit you in different ways like helping you develop employability skills, explore different interests and career paths, and grow your professional network. EL activities vary in duration and intensity. Your instructor can help you anticipate how much work will be required outside of class time, helping you to plan other activities (like volunteer work, family responsibilities and/or paid work).
EL opportunities come in many forms and are not always graded and, therefore, will not always affect your GPA. If you are taking a course or program where EL activities are assessed for grades, you can expect to be assessed by your instructor or program facilitator and should work with them to understand the requirements and expectations of the activity, as you would any other graded assignment. EL provides you, as a learner, a chance to use, connect and build on course material. When you apply what you are learning, you can make more sense of your growing knowledge in practical ways.
There are a wide variety of ways to get involved in EL. Some opportunities are more time-intensive than others, like adding an internship or co-op program to your degree. Some EL activities are embedded in courses already, or are intensive but short-term (like case competitions or hackathons). The Faculty of Arts recently launched an Experiential Learning in the Workplace course (UNIV 304) that allows you to bring a work or volunteer experience to the course – meaning you apply the course concepts to an activity you’re already involved with.
We encourage you to discuss this with your program advisor, as well as with mentors. While completing an intensive co-operative education or internship designation may add a year to your program of studies (if you’re in an undergraduate program), it also means you graduate with a year of paid work experience, giving you a leg up in your job search. Co-op and internship are not the only forms of EL at UCalgary, and there are lots of ways to gain experience and develop your skills within your program. Undergraduate students might consider volunteering as a peer helper, working on campus and participating in the Career Articulation Program (CAP), or completing a summer research project with the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE). Graduate students might complete a full- or part-time Transformative Talent internship (in as little as 210 hours), or challenge themselves to articulate their research findings through the Three-Minute Thesis (TMT) competition.
To support your application to an EL program, career development specialists at Career Services can help you with resume review, collecting good references, interview preparation/practice, and much more. You can book an appointment with them through the Connect with Career Services tab on Elevate (elevate.ucalgary.ca). They can also help you with a wide array of career development needs, like career exploration, planning, personal and professional assessments, and other workshops to help you build your skills. You can also check out their campus-wide job board for student opportunities and their calendar to find useful networking events.
Elevate is a one-stop shop for advising support, jobs and career development opportunities, and experiential learning. Elevate is where you apply for jobs, book advising appointments, sign up for student success workshops and search for opportunities to get involved on campus. It’s also where you can search for EL opportunities that fit your interests using our Experience Catalogue.
CareerLink has been updated and rebranded under new name, Elevate. Elevate’s scope has broadened to encompass career, advising, EL and student-experience opportunities.
You can reset your password using the “Forgot Password” link on Elevate.