Ryerson Student Finds A Leadership Role Volunteering Abroad


Windows have screens in order to keep the bugs away. However, one bug is immune to this screen system: the travel bug.

Ryerson student Mandie Johnston got hit with this bug in grade 10 when her teacher shared stories and photos from a trip overseas.

The experience not only inspired Mandie to take a class on global issues, but left her dreaming of seeing the world for herself.

In her second year of school, she had the chance. After travelling to El Salvador with an organization called Global, Mandie returned with her view of the world forever altered.

New horizons

“I think living here we get comfortable so easily and don’t stop to question whether or not it’s really the best way we can live. We don’t think about the real cost of the things we enjoy – not in monetary terms, but in the effect it has on people around the world and on the environment,” she wrote.

Mandie’s experience left her eager to continue her learning process. She applied for a leadership position with Global and a few months later found herself immersed in plans for a trip to the Philippines.

This time around, she would be shadowing a group leader in order to prepare for a trip where she would hold the reins on her own.

Captain in leader-ship

Obtaining a leadership position in this endeavour was much like applying for a job.

“You need an application, resume and references,” Mandie said.

“You’re responsible for up to 11 people other than yourself so it’s important that you’re ready for it.”

Being in a leadership role involved taking on a whole new range of tasks. However, the added responsibility was something Mandie thrived off of – especially because she was shadowing a group leader who was incredibly experienced themselves.

“They really pushed me to think about everything that was happening and translate every mistake into a learning experience,” she said.

Tough, but fun

Travelling overseas with a big group has inevitable – and major – challenges.

There is definitely a cost to doing something like this – Mandie’s bills ranged from $3,200 – $3,800 – but Global encourages fundraising of the full amount, whether its through team or individual fundraisers. The rewards easily outweighed the hard times and costs.

“This year the whole team stayed together in one house, which is unusual for a trip like this as we are usually spread out in pairs. To see how everyone connected with the host family differently and how much they touched each other’s hearts was incredible,” Mandie wrote.

Travelling has also helped Mandie get some perspective on her original plans.

“I was going to get into social work, take all the international courses I could, do an international placement and then work for the U.N. I question everything now. I’ve definitely kept my emphasis on working internationally, but I’m also minoring in Politics now because I don’t think I can fully understand the world without looking at how it’s run.”


Mandie offered the following advice for students looking to get involved in similar opportunities: “Start now and question everything. If you have an interest in an issue, learn as much about it as you can. You can never know too much about something you’re really passionate about, and everything is connected in the end.”

She also discussed the importance of thinking critically about the world around you – especially as part of our generation.

“I honestly believe that we’re the generation that’s going to make or break the future, so we should get started on changing things as soon as possible.”