Pioneer’s academic placement process assigns Pioneer scholars to cohorts with a specialized research concentration. These cohorts are very small––no more than six students and a faculty mentor––yet they are truly international, welcoming students from all over the globe. In these cohorts, Pioneer scholars have the chance to interact with peers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, connecting over a shared love of learning. These international cohorts enhance the Pioneer experience, both personally and academically.
For many students, university is the first opportunity to have meaningful interactions with peers from different parts of the world. Hannah Travali-Peacock (political science, 2019), was grateful for her international experience in the Pioneer research program before starting university last fall. “I’ve met a bunch of international friends at [university]…but I think I would have been a lot more intimidated to talk to those people if I hadn’t been the only American in my [Pioneer] cohort,” she explains. “It was a completely new experience for me, learning with students from China and Tunisia and Turkey. That was something that I learned how to do––I learned to recognize that not everyone sees things through an American lens, and thus you have to consider other international perspectives. That was something super helpful for me.”
Frederick (international relations, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from Kenya, appreciated the learning opportunity provided by an international cohort. “It was very interesting because a lot of what we learned in class didn’t just come from our professor, but also from the experiences that different people shared. Our professor had us choose case studies and present them to the class. I felt that that was a really good learning moment for me because I mostly did case studies based on the African context, because what I know best. But we had a student from China, and she did case studies on the Balkans. We had another student from India and she did case studies on Sri Lanka and India. That kind of distributed understanding from all over the world is something that is really, really unique to have in a classroom. I think that that helps build everyone’s understanding, because at the end of the day, you’re taking the same concept, but you’re looking at how that concept has been applied all over the globe,” he explains.
While the benefit of an international cohort is obvious in a subject area like international relations, it is just as valuable in STEM. Mila (physics/engineering, 2020), a Pioneer scholar from North Macedonia, explains, “Everybody comes with their own different beliefs and every country has different capacities of conducting scientific research, so it is important because we not only share knowledge, but we share experiences as well. There are kids from other countries who have laboratories that are better equipped and they have experience of visiting them and have hands-on experience in things that I still don’t have in Macedonia. Just the sharing of experiences is very valuable in the scientific community, and it can even give you ideas for future research.”
Nidhi (engineering, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from India, learned how to work with international peers while learning about their cultures through the lens of engineering. “I learned how to work with people from different countries. I did my peer review with students from China and Turkey, and we learned about things that were important to our society. For example, one of my classmates had designed an app that would help farmers monitor their crops, and I had designed something related to screen usage. Another student had developed something that monitors the health of the elderly. So through all their solutions, I learned more about the societies they lived in and what kind of places they come from,” she explains.
Pioneer Academics is a vibrant community of scholars with alumni from 71 countries and regions across the globe. Nowhere is this more apparent than in cohorts, where connections are made and relationships forged. In sharing their unique perspectives, Pioneer scholars enrich the educational experience of their peers. Cohort sessions help Pioneer scholars become well-rounded global citizens capable of transcending national boundaries. These skills are invaluable in academia and in life.