Paolo Bernasconi

Graduate, UBC Certificate in Intercultural Studies and UBC Certificate in International Development

Working for the United Nations and travelling throughout the world may sound like an adventure to most of us, but for Paolo Bernasconi it's just another day at the office. Well, sort of.

Paolo is a volunteer management specialist with the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) program, an organization that promotes volunteerism to support peace and development worldwide. Although he is based at the UNV headquarters in Bonn, Germany, his work often takes him to the developing regions of the world to assess and report on volunteer projects. A large part of Paolo's job involves training, facilitating, mentoring and supporting volunteers during their assignments abroad. Communicating effectively across a variety of cultures is vital for Paolo.

To enhance his intercultural communication skills, Paolo enrolled in the UBC Certificate in Intercultural Studies several years ago. "I found the content was exactly what I was looking for: a very practice-oriented program that combines theory with hands-on experience in intercultural contexts," recalls Paolo. "Another important aspect for me was the focus on learning from fellow students as well as instructors, and that the courses encourage personal reflection that is shared and analyzed within the class. We learned that there is no right or wrong answer to questions that concern cultural perspectives and that the way to gain a deeper understanding is to discuss, question and reflect."

The UBC Certificate in Intercultural Studies (CIS) is offered in a blended delivery model, which means courses in the program usually consist of a two-day classroom workshop followed by a six-week online seminar. This format suited Paolo perfectly, as he travelled from Europe to Vancouver for the face-to-face portion of the courses and completed the remaining online work from home. "I realized that I was participating in online discussions more than I used to participate back in my university studies. Probably because with an online course you can mull over the questions with a cup of tea and react when you are ready," he explains.

Since graduating from the CIS program in 2005, Paolo is putting his education and on-the-ground experience to good use as an online facilitator for its sister program, the UBC Certificate in International Development. Designed for those working or planning to work in the field of international development, the program emphasizes the importance of cultural differences in international development work and examines the many cultural challenges to development including ethics, project planning and management, and multicultural teamwork.

"As an online facilitator, I provide feedback to participants, but it's also a learning experience for me as I often reflect on the exchange of comments and that helps me broaden my own understanding and awareness," explains Paolo.

Being an online facilitator is also a job with the ultimate opportunity for telecommuting. So whether Paolo is in working at the UNV offices in Germany or supporting volunteers in the field in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan, he's still only a click away from his students.