Two students from the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) got more than classroom learning on their recent exchange program to the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.

Living in another country outside of their comfort zones earned them life lessons and skills as valuable as any lecture or textbook.

Reid Thornton and Martin Vatsev are both students in JIBC’s Law Enforcement Studies Diploma program. They recently completed the four-month semester in Portsmouth and were supported by the One World International Scholarship funded by the BC Scholarship Society.

Man stands with arms outstretched at Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.
JIBC student Reid Thornton took the opportunity to travel further, including a visit to Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, after completing his semester as an exchange student at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.

While at the University of Portsmouth, they completed related courses in criminology. Reid noted that it was a more traditional, academic style of teaching than he’s used to with more lectures and larger class sizes compared to the greater use of hands-on learning and smaller classes at JIBC.

“Going to school in such a different environment gave me exposure to new ideas, enhanced adaptability and the opportunity to build new connections,” said Reid, who aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “The courses I took broadened my knowledge of law enforcement and allowed me to understand things from a different perspective.”

While he didn’t need to learn another language, living in another country, and travelling further before heading home, still required some adjustments as he stepped out of his comfort zone and adapted to a different style of living. Learning to adapt to new environments and situations and building positive relationships with new people from around the world are all valuable skills that will transfer to a career in law enforcement, Reid said.

In addition to travelling across the U.K. and Ireland and to Amsterdam, Reid also experienced England’s soccer culture, from attending a match in Southampton, to being in Portsmouth during the FIFA 2022 World Cup. “When England had a game, the energy in the city was phenomenal.”

Man stands next to JIBC sign at entrance to New Westminster campus.
Reid Thornton returned to JIBC to complete his Law Enforcement Studies Diploma after his semester away on an exchange program at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.

Martin, who also plans to pursue a career in policing, says he gained not only life skills on the exchange but lessons in perspective.

“No perspective is the same as the next and being able to spend enough time to understand how and why people see things differently will help me be more critical in thinking and understanding when assessing situations in the future,” Martin said.

“Policing requires individuals to understand and be able to assist people from every walk of life. One cannot do such a thing if they do not expose themselves to different ways of life, different opinions, cultures, etc.”

Reid said he’d recommend the exchange program “in a heartbeat” and wishes everyone could have the chance to participate.

“You have the ability to travel, experience a new culture and you’ll develop relationships with many wonderful people along the journey. The memories you develop will last a lifetime,” Reid said of the program. “I am extremely grateful that JIBC provided me with this life-changing experience. My exchange experience allowed me to learn more about myself and helped strengthen my character.”

Martin also offers a strong endorsement for the program.

“Any opportunity to go abroad for studying is unmatched for growing as a person. You can’t grow as an individual if you stay comfortable all your life.”

For more information on the study abroad opportunities for law enforcement studies students, visit Study Abroad Opportunities.