Ottawa Ain't Exotic

By: Michael Friesen

Today you may have picked up the Crown wondering questions such as What Redeemer student in a foreign land can I read about today? or What strange adventures is a fellow student having overseas? Well wonder no more mysterious Crown reader, and buckle your seat-belts while I take you on a wild ride to show you the exotic world of… Ottawa! Okay, yeah, not so foreign or exotic, but as a person who grew up overseas I can explain to you why a semester in Ottawa can be one of the most exciting and influential experiences of not only your university career, but potentially the rest of your life.

            For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Michael Friesen, and I’m a fourth year International Development major. This semester I am attending the Laurentian Leadership Centre located in downtown Ottawa. If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you read one of the posters about it once, thought to yourself “Oh, that’s cool,” and then walked away and forgot all about it. The LLC is an internship program run through Trinity Western University that allows students a unique opportunity to live in the capital, take on an internship that teaches real world working skills, and take three classes during the semester to ensure that everyone has enough credits to count for a full semester (the internship counts as two full classes). This semester there are 15 students attending, 13 from Trinity Western, and two of us from Redeemer (myself and Ben Macadam, that ginger beaut). While that may sound a bit crowded, the three- storey J.R. Booth mansion that the LLC calls home (and Canada calls a national historic site) is more than accommodating for us all.

            So that’s all sunshine and roses, but what does this internship actually look like? Well, since I’m an InDev student, I’ve been interning at the Ottawa office of World Vision Canada. It’s an office of about 15 people (as opposed to the Mississauga office of about 350) who mainly focus on government relations. I’ve spent the majority of the semester working on the topic of child labour alongside my supervisor with help from others in the office.

            For any PoliSci geeks out there, what I have been doing will be really interesting. For those who don’t care for politics, try to pick up a few big words from this short explanation of what we’re doing so you can casually say them in front of your friends to sound smart. Under the federal government’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, there is a Subcommittee on International Human Rights that is conducting an official committee study on child labour and modern slavery. World Vision is working to lobby with MPs on the subcommittee to push through a recommendation that would lead to legislation very similar to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015.                     Specifically within that act, World Vision is seeking to help enact legislation that would force large organizations operating in Canada with supply chains overseas to produce annual public reports of their impact on child labour, an impact which they may or may not currently be aware of. Through meetings with MPs and its expertise on the subject, World Vision has been asked to witness in front of this committee. In simpler terms, we want to make big companies do a report on their supply chains to fess up if they’re using child labour.

            In working in this area I’ve done so much this semester that I never thought I would have. I worked with a graphic designer to create a short briefing document; I had a hand in working on a written submission for a parliamentary committee; I’ve sat in on meetings with MPs; I helped brief the CEO before his testimony. This is all real world stuff, and what I have the chance to do is an opportunity that almost no other student will have.

            What does my average day look like? Well, typically my alarm goes off at 7:45, I roll out of bed at 8:29, and then start class at 8:30. Class will go to 11:30 with a break in the middle — not unlike most Redeemer night classes. I’ll try and grab breakfast or coffee during the break, sometimes from a nearby coffee shop (there are so many great ones in Ottawa — I wouldn’t know, but it’s what the coffee snobs tell me). I grab lunch and get ready for my internship, planning to get there by 1 o’clock. Fortunately, my office is on the way to Parliament so I can walk with a few others who work on the Hill (World Vision’s building is about 2 streets down, we’re kind of on the Slope). At work I’ll either check in or meet with my supervisor and then work on whatever I have to do, usually something from a list of 6-7 projects I have on the go. I leave work at 5 o’clock, make it home around 5:10, and eat dinner with my “food group,” a group of four of us that cook for each other and eat together. Evenings are free to hang out in the house, do homework, go for a bike ride, go to a reception — generally do any of the things that can only really be done when you live downtown. Ottawa sometimes gets a bad rap, but there are so many amazing things to do — sometimes you just need to look a bit harder.

            If you read this whole thing and have one takeaway I hope it is this: the LLC isn’t a co-op program where you become a free labourer in a frozen city. The house you live in is literally a mansion, and the work you do not only teaches you so much more than a classroom ever will but it will also GET YOU A JOB!!! The things I’m learning in my internship are highly sought after life skills and references on a resume, and that’s something that should never be taken for granted. Who knows, the connections you make here may not land you a job right away, but maybe 20-30 years down the road they will.

            Lastly, this isn’t just a political program. Sure, you’re in Ottawa and plugged into Canadian politics — but not everyone has to work in parliament. I’m working with an NGO, and we also have people working in a lawyer’s office, a think tank, and a (whatever Maria does, I don’t remember).

            If you feel like this program might be right for you — APPLY! DO IT NOW!!! If you aren’t sure how you feel about it, reach out and talk to someone about it. Ask Dr. Joustra about it, he loves the program! Hey, if you want, feel free to email me about it (mfriesen@redeemer.ca). I’d be more than happy to chat. Seriously, this is both the most valuable and all around fun semester of university you could ask for, and I can’t recommend it enough. Sure it’s not foreign and exotic, but hey, a semester here will make you glad you didn’t go anywhere else.