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University of Birmingham students immerse themselves in the vibrant political and economic landscape of the Caribbean

Placements in Saint Lucia offer valuable first-hand experiences and insights to support degree studies as well as enhancing soft skills and personal development.
University of Birmingham students meeting local communities in Saint Lucia

Meetings with former prime ministers and creating their own chocolates were among the experiences enjoyed by University of Birmingham students during placements in the Caribbean, supported by Turing Scheme funding.

Forty-five students on politics and business-related courses travelled to the island of Saint Lucia, where they undertook a bespoke itinerary of activities, workshops, visits and classes designed to support their studies as well as offer a taste of Caribbean culture.

Facilitated by educational placement specialists Caribbean Elective, the programmes were also designed to develop the soft skills and independence of the participants that will help them in their future careers.

Politics and Social Policy students were mentored by former Minister of Tourism for Saint Lucia, Senator Dominic Fedee, who put them through their paces over the four-week stay.

As well as a tour of the Saint Lucian parliament, led by the Speaker of the House, they visited the embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and took part in meetings and workshops with ministers and MPs as well as United Nations and CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) staff.

Extremely eye-opening experience

A highlight was meeting several former Saint Lucian Prime Minsters including Dr Kenny Anthony, himself an alumnus of the University of Birmingham.

After three weeks immersed in Saint Lucian politics, the students were challenged to work in groups to create new policy proposals in areas they felt needed focus which were then shared with both of the island’s major political parties.

International Relations and Development student Maisie said: “For a student who has never been outside of Europe this was extremely eye-opening and allowed me to develop my understanding of a different culture.

“The four weeks away consisted of guest lecturers who were extremely influential within Saint Lucia’s political system, a visit to parliament and writing a green paper proposal which we presented in front of a board of civil servants.”

“I learned about the unique political challenges faced by small island nations and gained a profound appreciation for their resilience,” added Policy, Politics and Economics student George. “The vibrant culture, stunning natural landscapes, and diverse perspectives I encountered were invaluable. Immersing myself in the local political scene allowed me to witness the application of theoretical concepts in real-world scenarios.”

International Relations student Ruari said: “I have gained a new insight into and appreciation for global politics. This opportunity allowed me to see how different demographics and societies engage with politics across the world.”

Politics and International Relations student Ella said: “I learnt so much about myself as well as improve on many skills that will be useful for my future career such as leadership, teamwork and communication skills.”

Further students from a wide range of courses undertook Caribbean Elective’s Business and Enterprise Programme, which aims to showcase the colourful world of Caribbean business and allows participants to have a meaningful impact in local communities.

Over the four weeks, students engaged with both small and large businesses to understand key Caribbean industries, especially tourism.

Visits included banana plantations, farms and a major rum distillery and there was a real treat when participants visited the Saint Lucia-based cocoa plantation owned by Hotel Chocolat – before having a go at creating their own sweets.

Supporting students’ social mobility

During their final week students were tasked with assessing a local start-up business and recommending new business strategies and products, an experience which will boost their CVs as they progress from university into employment.

“The chance to immerse myself in a completely different culture while contributing to meaningful projects was both enriching and eye-opening,” said Modern Languages student Sophia. “From crafting a business proposal for a local company to engaging in discussions on sustainable development and economic integration, every moment was a learning opportunity.”

Maggie Wootton, Head of International Mobility (Outgoing) at the University of Birmingham, said: “International experiences supported by the Turing Scheme are an important part of the University of Birmingham’s student experience, supporting social mobility and transforming young people’s lives and communities they engage with. Our students came back from Saint Lucia equipped with new competencies, leaving a positive legacy beyond their individual placements.”

Harry Spear, co-founder of Caribbean Elective, added: “Many of the students who benefited from these life-changing experiences are from disadvantaged backgrounds and without the support of the Turing Scheme these trips would not have been possible.

“We look forward to collaborating with the University of Birmingham again to give more of these powerful opportunities to students.”


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