Students from Northern Ireland to visit college during extended stay

Published 03.13.2023

Faculty & Staff
Student Info

Ten students from North West Regional College, on a cultural exchange program from campuses in Northern Ireland, will visit Pennsylvania College of Technology during a March 14-28 stay in the area.

North West Regional CollegeThe students, who will arrive in Philadelphia in the company of two faculty chaperones on Tuesday night, are all Level 3 (18 to 22 years old) and are evenly split between Health Science and Social Care majors.

“Penn College has long recognized the importance of shared learning and Global Experiences, powerfully beneficial ways for employees and students alike to fine-tune a range of skills from problem-solving to empathy,” President Michael J. Reed said. “We’re very excited about this partnership and look forward to seeing where it leads.”

The seeds of collaboration were nurtured when Bronagh Fikri, North West Regional College’s European and international projects officer, visited in 2018 after being introduced to Penn College through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Shannon M. Munro, vice president for workforce development, and Beth M. Bittenbender, executive director of operations/special projects, spent time learning about Northern Ireland apprenticeship programs and sharing how those programs are operated here. And during a campus walk-around, Munro explained, Fikri remarked about the similarity of the two schools.

“We discussed future partnership opportunities, including exchanges with faculty, staff and students. Over a five-year period, we worked together to make the exchange a reality,” she said. In that time frame, however, Brexit, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine impacted the college’s ability to make it happen. Until February, when the administration was asked if the trip could be arranged within the month.

“Plans were immediately put in motion to create a cultural experience for the North West Regional College students,” Munro said. “While the initial interest for Workforce Development was to learn about apprenticeship, it became abundantly clear that an exchange would be of benefit to both of our schools, the staff, students and faculty.”

The group will tour a variety of labs on main campus – as well as the Schneebeli Earth Science Center and Lumley Aviation Center – and will sit in on a number of classes relevant to the students’ respective areas of interest. Discussions about the college’s apprenticeship and study-abroad programs are also scheduled, as is attendance at Wildcat baseball and lacrosse events, and some team-building time on the Fish Real Estate Leadership Challenge Course.

Additionally, the group’s well-rounded schedule will include optional opportunities to explore the region’s natural surroundings and visit sites of historic and cultural interest within driving distance of Williamsport. North West Regional College students will close out their visit with presentations comparing and contrasting the educational and vocational structure in the United States and United Kingdom before returning to Philadelphia International Airport for the flight home.

“The experience of traveling abroad creates a more well-rounded human being,” Munro said. “It’s an opportunity to create meaningful relationships, hone skills you never knew you had, get a type of education that is not replicable in a classroom – a new kind of hands-on experience! – and it gives a person a different perspective.” Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to engage Penn College’s guests in the days ahead to realize that objective.

“These outcomes are what we can all hope to help these students achieve while they are here and for our own campus to experience during these interactions,” she said.