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A Kelowna student, who is just wrapping up her studies at Okanagan College, is heading overseas for a unique fellowship opportunity.
Karen Vandergaag, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Honours student at the Kelowna campus, is one of 12 people in Canada to be awarded an International Youth Fellowship by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC).
“To know that I have launched a future in this field before I’ve even graduated feels incredible,” said Vandergaag.
Next month, Vandergaag will miss her grad ceremony to be in Ottawa for a management seminar with other fellowship recipients departing for international projects.
She will leave for Tanzania in August, where she will spend eight months working with CARE, an international non-governmental organization dealing with disaster relief and poverty.
Vandergaag says she has always been interested in international travel, having spent a year in Brazil on exchange and several weeks in Ethiopia and Malawi for a college course.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Okanagan College’s ability to broaden horizons and provide a wide base of options,” she said. “I was able to pursue an Honours degree, travel abroad, be a member of an Enactus team that competed nationally, and secure co-op employment that connected me with local industry.”
Although Vandergaag has done aid work in other parts of the world, she’s also helped out here at home.
As a student researcher, she helped to develop new curriculum to help Kelowna non-profits keep better records. She also completed an Honours research project focused on food security in the Okanagan, collaborating with BC-based Urban Matters to look at the issue of food sustainability.
“I was looking for a research project that would have application beyond business to a broader social issue with local implications,” said Vandergaag.
Vandergaag doesn’t yet have plans for after her fellowship but said her, “horizons are completely open.”
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