McCall MacBain International Fellowships

Learn a new language. Step out of your comfort zone. Build lasting ties.

Applications will open on September 26, 2019, for the 2020-21 academic year. Deadline: November 21, 2019. 


Do you want to fully immerse yourself in another language and culture for an entire year? To step out of your comfort zone to deepen your understanding, build lasting ties, and broaden your experience in another region of the world?

The McCall MacBain Year Abroad program was created for just that – to help you design a year abroad rich with diverse learning experiences.

For this 2020-21 academic year, the McCall MacBain Foundation is offering this program in partnership with McGill University and McMaster University. We have also partnered with one of our key grantees in Canada, the Loran Scholars Foundation, to offer this program to their scholars.

About the Fellowship

A study abroad experience for a globalized world

Resilience. Independence. Critical thinking. Curiosity. Problem-solving. Adaptability. Flexibility. Cross-cultural communication. Initiative. Openness. Entrepreneurship. Creativity. Self-Awareness. These are some of the key skills our society and economy needs. One way to hone these skills is to live, study and work in a new language and cultural context.

Young Canadians are deeply interested in the world beyond our borders. A recent Environics survey found that 84% of Canadians aged 18-24 were very or somewhat interested in living in another country for at least three months to learn about its language and culture, and 73% of that same age group want to study abroad (and there is good evidence that those proportions are even higher among undergraduate university students). Yet, at an estimated 11%, Canada has one of the lowest rates of study abroad of many Western countries. And, when Canadian students do go abroad, they tend to go to culturally familiar destinations and study in one of Canada’s official languages.

As political and economic power shifts beyond Canada’s traditional western allies, the imperative of working cross-culturally and communicating in multiple languages is increasingly important.

This is why the McCall MacBain International Fellowships have been designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn a new language, actively and respectfully participate in the societies they are joining, build lasting ties with local communities, and further their understanding of and their ability to work in a completely different cultural context.

The Fellowship Experience


The McCall MacBain International Fellowships aim to enable globally-minded young Canadians to develop strong intercultural competencies and ties to different regions of the world, and to cultivate creativity, resilience, independence, critical thinking and the ability to “stretch” outside of their comfort zones.

Fellows spend a year abroad divided into three terms: language, academic and work/internship. Start dreaming big even at the application stage, where you will begin designing a year abroad within the parameters of these three terms.

Language Term

Fellows take language courses, live with a host family, and volunteer with a local organization

Academic Term

Fellows take a full-time course load on a university exchange, including some courses taken in their new language

Work Term

Fellows secure a full-time, paid work placement or full-time internship.

Support for Fellows


  • Monthly living stipend during the language and academic terms
  • Tuition waiver through McGill University or McMaster University*
  • Travel and establishment allowance
  • Language course allowance
  • International medical insurance allowance
  • Pre-departure retreat and re-integration retreats

*subject to nomination by the respective university.

Fellows also attend a pre-departure orientation retreat in August 2020 and a re-integration retreat in August 2021.

Our Fellowships in Action


There is a strong degree of consensus in Canada that Canadian students need access to high-quality international experiences, and that these must extend beyond traditional Western destinations. Of course, our program alone will not move the yardstick on the proportion of Canadian students choosing to undertake a study abroad. By designing a program that provides students with the opportunity to undertake a full year abroad, we aim to learn more about the impact of such longer-term, immersive experiences. Our hope is that by sharing our learnings, we can contribute to the body of evidence that will encourage others – including institutions, governments, and other philanthropists – to work together to bring initiatives like these to scale for the benefit of us all.




Am I eligible to apply?

To be eligible for this program, you must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • be between the ages of 19 and 24 (inclusive) on January 1, 2019;
  • be enrolled full-time in a first-entry undergraduate university program at McGill University or McMaster University towards your first degree, with a minimum CGPA of 3.0;
  • have completed at least 3 academic terms of your first degree by August 2019 and have at least one term to complete after the Fellowship year (August 2020);
  • be in good standing academically and non-academically with your university prior to departure; and
  • have not left Canada to participate in a travel, work, volunteer, or study abroad experience independently (i.e. without parents) in a new language or culture for eight months or more during the last five years.

Which universities can I attend?

  • Fellowship recipients must attend a recognized university abroad for the academic term in which they can take at least some of their courses in the new language they are learning.

Which countries can I go to?

  • Fellowship recipients must go to a country in which they have not previously lived for more than three months, do not hold citizenship, and are learning or want to learn at least one of its major languages.
  • Fellowship recipients are expected to go to a country that will allow them to stretch outside of their comfort zone (for example, recipients cannot choose a country where their parents have lived for an extended period of time, or where they already have an extended family network).
  • Fellowship recipients cannot go to a country with the status “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel”, or to a region of a country with a regional advisory of “avoid all non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” on the Government of Canada’s travel advisory service.

What is the Foundation looking for in Fellows?

Selection criteria for the Fellowships include:

  • Evidence of sustained and thoughtful engagement in school and community activities rooted in a deep interest in improving things for others, strong empathy, and interest in working with people from diverse points of views and backgrounds;
  • Evidence of leadership potential and an entrepreneurial drive that has resulted in taking on meaningful challenges;
  • Evidence of wanting to go outside one’s comfort zone, to stretch the limit of one’s potential, to fail, persist, and learn, and to show and develop self-awareness, adaptability, and resilience;
  • Evidence of genuine interest in learning a language and being immersed in a country, language, and culture different from one’s own. Strong character, including commitment to integrity and honesty.

Note that applicants are not required to have any international experience or second language skills in order to be considered for this award.

Selection Process Timeline for McGill & McMaster students

  • October 3, 2018 – Application opens
  • November 20, 2018 – Application deadline; applicants will receive automatic confirmation once their applications are complete.
  • December 19, 2018 – Applicants notified whether they have been invited to interviews
  • January 2, 2019 – Applicants submit a more detailed plan of their year abroad
  • January 11, 2019 – McGill interviews on-campus
  • January 13, 2019 – McMaster interviews on-campus
  • August 2019 – Pre-departure retreat
  • August 2019-August 2020 – McCall MacBain International Fellowship year
  • August 2020 – Re-integration retreat


Choosing a country and a language

I’m not sure yet where I want to go, but I still want to apply. Do you recommend certain countries?

It is definitely ok to be unsure about where you want to go, or to be open to different possibilities at the application stage. The McCall MacBain International Fellowships does not have a pre-determined list of recommended countries. If you want to discuss some options you are considering, please contact us at Note that there are certain countries where you cannot use the fellowship. See Eligibility & Selection section above.

I’ve never left Canada. Is this program really for me?

Students with limited or no experience abroad are welcome and encouraged to apply for the McCall MacBain International Fellowships. There are no requirements of prior travel or second language experience to apply for the Fellowships. If this is your first or one of your first international experiences, you may have additional questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us at at any time with any questions you may have. We’d love to hear from you!

Is there a minimum language proficiency to participate in this program?

There is no minimum language proficiency that you need to have in another language in order to choose it for your Fellowship. Students accepted as Fellows will be expected to take a language course in either the winter (Jan-Apr 2019) or summer (May-Aug 2019) terms in order to begin the language learning process prior to departure. It is a good idea to enrol in one now, and feel free to contact us at with any questions you may have.

I already have a solid foundation in a second language but I would like to gain fluency. Is this acceptable?

The McCall MacBain International Fellowships are designed to encourage “stretch” among Fellows over the course of a year abroad. While applicants with a base in a second language can choose to use the Fellowship year to develop full fluency, they will be asked demonstrate how the proposed language and country will involve substantial stretch and learning beyond their previous travel and language experiences.

The Fellowship year

Can I live in different parts of the same country over the course of my year abroad?

Yes. While Fellows can choose to stay in the same city or community for the full year abroad, Fellows also have the option of changing locations within the same country from one term to the next. For example, your language immersion goals in the first term may be better met in a smaller community than the one where you may want to do your academic or work terms. Generally, Fellows will be expected to identify no more than one community or city per term.

Can I live in different countries but learn the same language over the course of my year abroad?

No. Fellows have to spend the entire year in one country.

I want to use this chance to study something unrelated to my current program. Is this allowed?

Yes. Fellows are not required to take specialist upper-year courses to meet program requirements during their year abroad, though some may of course choose to do so. Fellows have the flexibility to choose courses to explore their interests and continue to develop their language skills. Remember that at least some (if not all) of the courses taken at a university abroad must be taken in the new language.

Will this program delay my time to graduation?

While most Fellows will likely delay graduation, you are encouraged to work with your faculty advisor to discuss options in advance. You and your faculty advisor can determine whether any courses taken abroad will count towards your program and/or degree requirements, and can also discuss possibilities such as taking summer or additional courses in order to graduate on time. Applicants are encouraged to meet with their faculty advisors (once selected, Fellows are required to do so), to ensure they have a plan in place with an anticipated graduation date.

Am I responsible for applying for an exchange or study abroad through my university?

Yes. Fellows interested in participating in a university exchange for their academic term are responsible for meeting all internal deadlines imposed by their universities for participating in a university exchange. Click here for deadlines for McMaster and McGill.

My university has no exchange agreements in the country I want to go to. Can I still go there?

Yes. Fellows may undertake an independent study abroad if McMaster or McGill does not have an existing exchange agreement that is open to them. However, they must choose a recognized university (one that is recognized by the government in the relevant country as part of its higher education system). Applicants are encouraged to work with a faculty advisor to discuss options in advance. Your faculty advisor can advise you on whether the proposed institution abroad is recognized and whether any courses taken abroad will count towards your program and/or degree requirements. Note that once selected, all Fellows are required to meet with a faculty advisor.

Will I be required to stay in a home stay for the entire year?

No. The homestay will be required for the language term. Fellows who would like to change their living arrangement after the language term will be required to demonstrate that their living arrangement continues to support their language acquisition.

The country I’m considering has a different academic year than Canada. Can I change the order of my terms?

Yes. The first term must be a language immersion term. Depending on the academic year of the country chosen, fellows can do the work term second, and the academic term third.

Fellowship funding

What is the value of the stipend and other allowances?

Fellows will receive a living stipend of CAD $1,500 per month for the language and academic terms (up to CAD $12,000). Fellows will also have access to allowances for language courses (up to CAD $4,500), travel and living expenses (up to CAD $3,000) and travel medical insurance (up to CAD $1,000). Fellows will be required to submit budgets and expenses in order to access funds for the allowances.

How does the tuition waiver work for Fellows nominated by McGill or McMaster?

Fellows who study abroad at a university with which McGill or McMaster has an existing exchange agreement that allows the payment to their university in Canada will receive a tuition waiver (or equivalent) for the value of their tuition fees for one semester. Fellows who study abroad at a university with which McGill or McMaster does not have an existing exchange agreement that allows the payment to their university in Canada will receive a grant provided directly to the student to cover the cost of tuition for one semester at a 100% full-time course load. This amount will be the lesser of (1) the actual tuition fees payable for one semester abroad at a 100% full-time course load or (2) the tuition fees for one semester at a 100% full-time course load in the student’s current faculty and program. In the case of (2), the Fellow is responsible to cover the additional tuition expense.

Application process

I’m having trouble with my online application. Help!

All enquiries should be sent to and we will respond by the end of the next business day.

Whom can I choose as a reference?

The person you choose should be someone who knows you well and can speak to some of your qualities that are relevant to spending a year abroad, such as integrity, openness, flexibility, and independence. Note that your reference cannot be one of your friends, fellow students, or family members.

In Section F, community and extra-curricular activities, I don’t have contact information of someone who can verify my activities. What should I do?

In the case of activities where there was no teacher/faculty/staff involved, you can list the contact info for a fellow student who led or was involved in the activity with you. If you are missing contact info, enter 000-000-0000 for the phone or for the email. Please make sure that you provide at least a phone number OR an email.

What is the process for my reference to submit their information?

Once you have identified your reference, be sure to submit their contact details as soon as possible so that your reference has adequate time to submit a reference on your behalf. Your reference will be sent a private link to complete their reference online. You do not need to complete your application in order to submit contact information for your reference.

What is the deadline for my reference to complete the online form?

It is your responsibility to ensure that your reference completes the online form by November 20, 2018 at 4 p.m. EST, otherwise your application will be considered incomplete.

Can my reference submit an existing letter instead of using the online form?

No. In order for your application to be considered complete, your reference must complete the online form. If your reference has trouble accessing the system, please invite them to contact us directly at

In Section J, Statement of Intent, if I have more than one choice, should I provide a rationale for all of my choices?

Yes. You can of course dedicate more of the word count to your top choice or give each of your choices of languages and countries an equal weight in your response.

What happens after I submit my application?

Your application will be thoroughly reviewed first by your university who will nominate candidates to the McCall MacBain Foundation. From those nominated, students selected for an in-person interview will be notified by December 19, 2018. Applicants invited for an in-person interview will be asked to submit additional documentation on their plan for their year abroad over the winter break (this information will be due January 2, 2019).

Applicants invited for interviews will participate in a full day of interviews on the following dates:

  • Friday, January 11 at McGill University
  • Sunday, January 13 at McMaster University

Offers for the 2019-20 Fellowships will be made the week following interviews. In order to formally accept the Fellowship offer, students will be asked to sign an agreement outlining the requirements and expectations.

A few finalists who distinguish themselves in the selection process but do not receive a Fellowship may be offered a grant of $6,000 towards their studies abroad of at least one full academic term in an eligible destination during the 2019-20 year. Those accepting this grant will be required to take at least one local language course while abroad and to submit a report on their experience.

Before you apply, be sure to read the eligibility and selection criteria and review the Frequently Asked Questions.

If you still have questions, please contact us at

You will be able to apply for the 2020-21 academic year as of September 26, 2019.

Enter your email to be notified when applications are live