McCall MacBain International Fellowships

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

Applications will open October 2, 2023.


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 International Fellowships were created for just that – to help you design a year abroad rich with diverse learning experiences.

Have questions? Want to learn more? Register for one of our virtual information sessions.

Applications open October 2, 2023 and close on January 12, 2024 at 4pm Eastern Time.

The McCall MacBain Foundation offers this program to current students at McGill University, McMaster University and to current students who are recipients of the MacBain Niagara Falls Scholarship or McCall Huron County Scholarship.

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 home university, subject to their nomination
  • Travel and establishment allowance
  • Language course allowance
  • International medical insurance allowance
  • Pre-departure orientation
  • Re-integration gathering at the close of the fellowship year
  • In-country contact

Before they depart and when they return, McCall MacBain International Fellows will participate in in-person retreats to help them prepare for making the most of the opportunity and to help support their transition back to Canada

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. The recent partnering of Universities Canada and CICan to run a major outbound student mobility project is promising.

Hear from our Fellows

The “Leap”: Why Drop Everything for a Year Abroad

By David Bobyn, McCall MacBain International Fellow (Germany)  There are those that likely see the opportunity of participating in the McCall MacBain International Fellowship to be a no brainer. There are those that may see it as quite an intriguing experience but...

read more

The Tica Recipe

By Caitlin Grady, McCall MacBain International Fellow (Costa Rica) After more than a month living in Costa Rica, I have learned a few lessons about this very special country that I will call home for the next year. Here are a few of my key ingredients to surviving in...

read more

Learning to Overcome Unpredictable Obstacles

By Bronwyn Vaisey, McCall MacBain International Fellow (China)  Before arriving in China, I planned my year in a similar fashion that I always have when I have travelled or set out for a new place. I kept my plans brief and open-ended, knowing that it is often hard to...

read more

Deadline is November 21! Apply today! @macssc @mcgillabroad #studyabroad #learnabroad #yearabroad #studentlife #mmif #goglobal #goabroad @univcanada #internationaleducation #internationalexperience #exchangeyear #internationalexchange ...

Thank you to @macssc for hosting today's information session about the McCall MacBain International Fellowships! It was great to see so many students in attendance despite your busy schedules. The next online info session is Friday, Nov 1 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern! Follow the link in our bio to participate. Apply today. ...

PROFIL DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE TCHÈQUE : Des châteaux en grand nombre qui se dressent dans un paysage ondulé de collines et des millénaires d’une histoire fascinante : voici la République tchèque, premier pays à l’honneur de la période de présentation des candidatures en vue des Bourses internationales (échéance : le 21 novembre). Nous serions ravis que vous envisagiez d’y séjourner pendant un an. Vous pourriez faire votre trimestre linguistique parmi l’architecture splendide de České Budějovice, qui est toute proche d’un Centre pour le patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO et où les écoles de langue ne manquent pas. Pour vos cours de programme, pourquoi ne pas fréquenter l’Université Charles, premier établissement d’enseignement postsecondaire fondé en Europe centrale et situé au cœur du centre historique de Prague? L’Université accueille l’Institut tchèque d’égyptologie et plusieurs musées qui lui valent une réputation mondiale. Cliquez sur le lien fourni dans notre biographie pour en apprendre davantage sur les Bourses internationales McCall MacBain et faire votre demande dès maintenant. —
COUNTRY PROFILE: CZECH REPUBLIC: Filled with castles, hilly landscapes and millennia of fascinating history, the Czech Republic is our first country spotlight during the International Fellowships application period (deadline: Nov 21). This is a place we would love to see you consider for your year abroad. You could spend your  language term in České Budějovice, which boasts beautiful architecture, proximity to a UNESCO World Heritage Centre and an abundance of language school options. During your academic term, you could attend Charles University, the first post-secondary institution founded in Central Europe, located in the historic city centre of Prague. The university is recognized internationally for housing the Czech Institute of Egyptology and several museums. Follow the link in our bio to learn more and apply for the McCall MacBain International Fellowships today.
Photo credit: DaLiu.

@mcgillabroad @macssc

Experience stunning views on the other side of the world with the McCall MacBain International Fellowships. Challenge yourself to learn more in a year than you ever thought you could. Link in bio to apply. Pic courtesy of @lil_lemon_thief, who spent her year abroad in Thailand. ...

@an_oatmeal has now been living in Estonia for a month as a McCall MacBain International Fellow. You too could spend a year in a new country, learning a new language, making global connections and broadening your horizons. Link in bio to apply! ...

Lovely post from @cmdsza - "The past four weeks have been brimming with new experiences, food, people, lessons that have filled me with gratitude and happiness. I've been able to explore the area and see the beauty that exists in the mountains, the forest, and in the hearts of those who live here. One month in and I'm still beyond excited to see what the next 10 hold for me. ✨

Slowly, my Spanish is improving (and I'm really stressing the slowly), I'm volunteering a few times a week at an after-school program with children (more info coming soon on how you can help) and I can feel myself growing stronger, more independent and resilient.
I miss home and all the comforts that come with it (hot showers imy 😢) but I am so so glad to be in Peru living out this journey! It doesn't hurt that good chocolate is super cheap here, not to mention the adorable alpacas😍
Sending big hugs to all my friends and family!! Make sure you check the mail, they should arrive in about a week💓

Hasta luego, amigos!"

Apply today to spend a year a new country, learning a new language and living and working in new communities. Open to @mcmasteru and @mcgillu undergraduates and @loranscholar. Deadline: November 21, 2019. Link in bio. ...

@callistaryan, thank you.

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Am I eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the Fellowship, you must:

  • be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
  • be between the ages of 19 and 24 (inclusive) on January 1, 2024;
  • be enrolled at McGill or McMaster University, or be a recipient of the MacBain Niagara Falls Scholarship or McCall Huron County Scholarship
  • be enrolled full-time in a first-entry undergraduate university program;
  • Have a minimum CGPA of 3.0;
  • for degree programs of four or more years: have completed at least 3 academic terms;
  • for degree programs of fewer than four years (e.g. cegep students in 90-credit programs): have completed at least 2 academic terms;
  • have not met the requirements to graduate prior to departure in summer 2024;
  • 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 three years.

Note that students are strongly encouraged to consult with an academic advisor in their faculty to help determine the ideal year for them to undertake a study abroad program.

Which universities can I attend?

  • Fellowship recipients must attend a recognized university abroad for the academic term in which they can take most 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

  • October 2, 2023: Applications open for departure in Summer 2024
  • January 12, 2024: Application period closes for departure in Summer 2024 at 4pm, Eastern Time
  • February 5-10, 2024: Students selected for interviews are notified
  • February 20 – March 15, 2024: Student interviews take place
  • Late March 2024: Selected students are notified
  • May-August, 2024: Selected students depart


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 who do not already have a base proficiency in the new language will be required to take a language course in order to begin the language learning process prior to departure.

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.

How intensive is the language study?

During the first language term, Fellows are required to take a minimum of 15 hours of in-person language classes per week for 15-20 weeks. During the following two terms, students are expected to immerse themselves in the language by taking half of their classes in the language (study term) and finding a work placement in which the language can be practiced (work term).

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. Though it’s not required, previous fellows have found that it is a good idea to spend at least two of the terms in one place to build deeper connections.

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 half of the courses taken at a university abroad must be taken in the new language (and that some or all of them can be language courses).

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 or study abroad on a letter of permission if their university 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.

Will I be required to find my own homestay?

Yes. Fellows are required to search for and secure their own homestay. Usually they can be found through language schools or reputable websites.

How long does each term have to be?

Each of the three terms must be between 15-20 weeks.

Is it possible to do just part of the Fellowship year?

No. Each Fellow must participate fully in the program and spend a year abroad in another country. The total time abroad, from initial departure to return to Canada, cannot be less than 48 weeks.

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) as well as a travel stipend of CAD $3,000. Fellows will also have access to an allowance for language courses (up to CAD $4,500), and an allowance for purchasing travel medical insurance (up to CAD $1,500). Fellows will be required to submit budgets and expenses in order to access funds for the allowances.

How does the tuition waiver work?

Fellows who study abroad at a university with which their home university 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 their home university 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.

Do Fellows receive funding during the work term?

Fellows do not receive the living stipend during the work term. Fellows only receive a living stipend during the language and academic term. However, if Fellows are in a country where they cannot obtain a work visa that allows them to undertake paid work, they can apply for additional funding of up to CAD $3,000 to pursue an unpaid internship. 

Application process

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

All enquiries should be sent to and we will respond as soon as possible.

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.

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

As soon as you submit your application, your reference will be sent a private link to complete a reference form online. They must complete & submit the form by January 18, 2023, 4pm Eastern Time. This deadline will be indicated to them in the email sent to them.

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 G, 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.

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

Yes. You can choose to 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 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 February 15, 2024, and those invited for an in-person interview will be asked to submit additional documentation on their plan for their year abroad.

Applicants invited for interviews will participate in a full day of interviews at their university between February 20 – March 15, 2024.

Offers for the 2024-25 Fellowships will be made shortly after the 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. 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

Applications will open October 2, 2023 for departure in summer 2024.