Study Abroad

PAW Experience

Each student takes leadership in one or two areas and is mentored by fellow team members in other areas. There is no predetermined curriculum, and not everyone works in all the projects.

Upon return, PAW students are expected to assist in enhancing the PAW program for the subsequent year. This reciprocity helps ensure that the program grows and improves the quality of the experience for both U of A students and the populations and organizations with whom they work.

Although the work/play is usually experienced as deeply rewarding, Play Around the World is a challenging placement. The PAW placements are hard work, but despite the challenges many find it a life-changing experience and a labour of love. Students live and work 24/7 in a new and different culture, and there are a number of potentially destabilizing experiences, such as:

  • It may take time to adjust to the local conditions, e.g. climate (hot and humid) and the time change (13 hours) in Asia, bugs and near 24-hour daylight in Ft. Providence, high altitude in Peru
  • Some people may experience health problems or challenges adjusting to very different cultures (culture shock)
  • It may take time to adjust to bugs and to limited darkness at night in Fort Providence
  • Some people may experience health problems
  • Others may have a hard time adjusting to very different cultures

We recommend that students read about the health and cultural issues before applying

Many of these challenges can be worked through in ways that deepen awareness and understanding both within the local community of the PAW team, as well in the more global community. All PAW location cities have good medical facilities, access to foods and services familiar to North Americans (including internet).

The Evolution and Background of Play Around the World

PAW Locations

  • Northern Canada

    Fort Providence, NWT

    Stretching along a high bank overlooking the broad Mackenzie, this historic Dene community. It boasts a placid campground on the riverfront, top-notch fishing (pike, pickerel, grayling), and distinctive crafts – porcupine quillwork is a local specialty.

    A brief history of Fort Providence

  • South America

    Cusco, Peru

    Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, was once capital of the Inca empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Set at an altitude of 3,400m, it's the gateway to further Inca sites in the Urubamba (Sacred) Valley and the Inca Trail, a multiday trek that ends at the mountain citadel of Machu Picchu.

    To learn more about Cusco, Peru visit here

  • Southeast Asia

    Rayong, Thailand

    Boasting indispensable sea-life resources, Rayong is one of the country’s major agricultural and industrial provinces. On the other hand, the province has maintained its traditions and customs in the daily lifestyles of the locals. Most renowned for its quiet and unspoiled beaches, including Mu Koh Samet National Park, Rayong is a popular beach getaway destination for Bangkok residents and a renowned producer of seafood related goods.

    To learn more about Rayong, Thailand visit here

    Pattaya, Thailand

    Pattaya is a town on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast known for a wild nightlife scene that attracts international visitors, weekenders from Bangkok and expats. A quiet fishing village as recently as the 1960s, it’s now lined with resort hotels, high-rise condos and a large seaside mall. Jet-skiing and parasailing are popular activities at Pattaya's busy beaches.

    To learn more about Pattaya, Thailand visit here

    Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand that dates back to the 1200s. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.

    To learn more about Chiang Mai, Thailand visit here

    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

    Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s busy capital, sits at the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap rivers. It was a hub for both the Khmer Empire and French colonialists. On its walkable riverfront, lined with parks, restaurants and bars, is the ornate Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum, displaying artifacts from around the country. At the city’s heart is massive, art deco Central Market.

    To learn more about Phnom Penh, Cambodia visit here