McCall MacBain International Fellowships
Learn a new language. Step out of your comfort zone. Build lasting ties.
2023 applications will open in Fall 2022.
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.
The McCall MacBain Foundation offers this program in partnership with McGill University and McMaster University.
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
Download an informational deck here.
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.
Fellows take language courses, live with a host family, and volunteer with a local organization
Fellows take a full-time course load on a university exchange, including some courses taken in their new language
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 orientation
- Re-integration gathering at the close of the fellowship year
- In-country contact
*subject to nomination by the respective university.
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
Where are our Fellows?
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 announcement that Universities Canada and CICan are partnering to run a major outbound student mobility project is promising.
Hear from our Fellows
By David Bobyn, 2018 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...
By Caitlin Grady, 2018 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...
By Bronwyn Vaisey, 2018 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...
Am I eligible to apply?
To be eligible for this program for the 2022-23 fellowship year, you must:
- be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident;
- be between the ages of 19 and 24 (inclusive) on January 1, 2022;
- 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;
- for students in degree programs of four or more years: have completed at least 3 academic terms of your first degree by August 2022, and have not met the requirements to graduate prior to departure in August 2022 (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);
- for students in degree programs of fewer than four years (e.g. cegep students in 90-credit programs): have completed at least 2 full-time academic terms of your first degree by August 2022 and have not met the requirements to graduate prior to departure in August 2022;
- 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.
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
Applications will open in fall 2022 for departure in 2023. Sign up below to receive email updates when applications open.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com 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.
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 most 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?
Am I responsible for applying for an exchange or study abroad through my university?
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.
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 establishment 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.
I’m having trouble with my online application. Help!
All enquiries should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 the deadline, otherwise your application will be considered incomplete. This information will be updated when applications open in fall 2022.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for the email. Please make sure that you provide at least a phone number OR an email.
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 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 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, 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 either McGill or McMaster University.
Offers for the 2022-23 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. 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.