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What is PSYL?

The Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership is the summer short course of Pearson College UWC. For 3 weeks every summer, we create an intentional community of knowledge and practice – bringing together 80 youth from around the world, aged 15-18 years old, and two dozen educators and facilitators. At PSYL, we believe in the power of education to be real and relevant to the challenges facing the world and young people across the globe. It is to this end that we convene this gathering of international youth committed to discovering who they want to be and what incredible change they can create.

Participants are encouraged to broaden their perspectives on key global issues and develop an understanding of how global systems and forces work to create local realities. Participants are also offered opportunities to practice the skills they need – conflict transformation, facilitation, consensus decision making and action planning – to strengthen their role as youth leaders in effective social change movements. The PSYL community promotes moral courage and a critical optimism about the world as it could be. As its members, we build our capacity to convene diverse and inclusive teams, and work across difference in service of a socially and ecologically just future.

In the summer of 2020, join us in an exploration of the following themes:

power • organizing for change • social and ecological justice • identity and relationships • youth leadership • the anthropocene • resilience • solidarity • creative action • critical place-based and land-based learning

Global Alumni

Our global network of alumni are making change happen in diverse and powerful ways. PSYL alumni come from over 60 countries in the world and work in their communities as a positive force for ecological justice and an equitable future.

Years of Experience

Every summer for over two decades we have welcomed 80 incredible youth on the shores of Pedder Bay to learn from one another and from inspiring educators. PSYL is a transformational learning experience that follows a model carefully crafted over years of experience.

Life-changing Summer

Guided by the UWC mission, PSYL offers an exceptional education in the classroom of the world. Participants leave with the knowledge, skills, and network to make a difference that matters in the world and in their communities.

A day at PSYL

Each year, the PSYL program is modified to reflect a changing world and the changing demands of youth leadership. We aim to create a program that is responsive to global challenges and to the passions of our participants, facilitators, and educators.

While PSYL is an intensive experiential program, we aim for a balanced approach to each day. PSYL is intended as a change of pace from overscheduled and overstimulated lives, and we tune into a rhythm that supports the building of meaningful relationships and the healthy processing of powerful experiences. Every day carves out space for personal reflection, social activities, plenty of time to be outdoors, creativity and physical recreation, learning and practicing new skills, engaging with the themes and topics of the seminar, and being together in community.

Although every day is slightly different, above is an example of what one of them might look like.

What are past participants saying about PSYL?

A better world is possible…

“PSYL has truly changed my view on the world. It has given me the opportunity to realize that there is hope in the world and that if I want to better an aspect of my life, that it is possible to do so. Thank you for the best experience of my life.”

I like who I am…

“I still think about the fantastic experiences I had at PSYL and find it absolutely wild how three weeks can change everything.. My school and PSYL are extremely different and after PSYL, knowing how I’ve changed, I was a bit nervous coming back. But I was able to find the good in the people I knew, and branched out to meet new people… PSYL changed me so much and I like who I am now so much more.”

It gave me hope…

“I used to believe that hope for the future was an innocent way of denying the sad reality of life. The truth is, hope is in fact a rugged journey that is best undertaken by multiple travelers together… It’s the fact that all of us threw ourselves into the PSYL experience with an open mind and heart. That made me hopeful about youth… Yes, we do want to make the world a better place. And yes, we can. And no, I didn’t believe that before going to PSYL.”

I became more…

“I have grown immensely as a person as a result of this program. I am braver, more likely to stand up for myself or others, more educated about issues affecting our world, more compassionate, and just … more. More a person, more someone who is in love with this program, more someone who is in love with people and life itself.”

Our Location:

PSYL takes place on the campus of Pearson College UWC, located on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Sc’ianew (Beecher Bay) First Nation. We are on the west coast of Canada at the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, 30 km west of the city of Victoria, the capital city of the province of British Columbia. Set by sheltered Pedder Bay on the forested shores of the Pacific Ocean, the campus provides a stunning environment for students.

The College’s cedar buildings are clustered on 75 acres of temperate rain-forest, positioned for minimal impact amidst endangered Garry Oak and coastal Douglas Fir ecosystems. The landscape is home to deer, eagles, songbirds, sea otters, seals, waterfowl and other wildlife, including the occasional visiting whale. The climate is among the warmest in Canada.

Victoria is a 45-minute drive away from the College, with airport and ferries to Vancouver and Seattle nearby. The college is also just a 15-minute drive from medical clinics and a 25-minute drive from a full service hospital.

FAQ about the campus

The Pearson College campus gives participants a comfortable place to call home during the program, while also offering some of the most beautiful wilderness to be found on Canada’s west coast. Here we’ve answered some of the most asked questions about the location…

What is the accomodation like?
Accommodation at the College is provided in four West Coast Modern houses. You will share a bedroom with three other participants, and belong to one house of 30 participants. Staff members reside in separate bedrooms within the houses. Each house has a common room with a small kitchenette, full bathroom and shower facilities, as well as washers and dryers for laundry.
Is there meal service on campus?
Absolutely! Kitchen staff on campus prepare fresh and healthy meals daily, and are able to accommodate specific dietary needs. A salad bar is available at each meal and we enjoy tasty home-baked snacks throughout the day. The dining hall offers gorgeous views of Pedder Bay and the Pacific Ocean. With a wraparound outdoor seating area, campus residents are often treated to views of otters playing on the docks and eagles landing in the Douglas Fir trees.
What other facilities are available?
In addition to the residences and dining hall, the campus is also home to: an indoor 25-meter heated pool; exercise room with workout equipment; science laboratories, including a floating marine biology lab; an observatory with the largest private telescope in Canada; a library with literature in dozens of languages and the personal collection of Lester B. Pearson; fine arts studios; a 300-seat theater with music equipment and dance performance spaces; an interfaith Spiritual Center; and 13 pianos located across campus.
The surrounding area and outdoor activities
Because it is summer and the sun is (usually) shining, we conduct much of our program outdoors. The College’s forested landscape offers unique outdoor classrooms for experiential learning. The network of hiking trails that criss-cross the campus gives participants lots of opportunities to explore, and the fleet of kayaks and canoes gives us the chance to explore the ocean too! For recreation, we have 15 bicycles, as well as tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts. There’s also a unique soccer field that’s found in the forest.

Watch the campus facilities video

What are parents saying about PSYL?

A strong foundation…

“PSYL changed my daughter’s life. She already had the passion and the interest in her physical and spiritual environment but PSYL helped her develop skills to mature those ideas and move them from interests into actions. She is now a confident leader who shows calm awareness and understanding of all those she meets. She has learned how to problem solve and manage difficult interactions with caring and sensitivity. I am not sure where life will take her, but I know the skills she learned at PSYL have created the strongest foundation a parent could hope for. ”

- Parent of 2016 participant

A unique opportunity for growth…

“A major learning for our two sons was the direct experience that the world is interconnected. PSYL takes young people from all over the world, and they experience that there is not just one right way to do things or to live. At the same time, they learn what have in common, including in areas like care for the future, commitment to peace, resolving conflict and inequality. As a result, teens finish PSYL with more confidence that what they do matters. My sons came home with a new openness and commitment to being engaged in important questions … and it is lasting. ”

- Parents of 2 PSYL alum (2014 & 2017)

The right choice…

“Building self-confidence is a challenge for any 16 year-old, and we knew that we could not pass up this great opportunity to support our daughter with this task. Since PSYL, we have seen our daughter take on one challenge after another… at times, we struggle to keep up with her! PSYL gave her the confidence to take risks, but most importantly, it raised her level of awareness with regards to world issues. Today, she is determined to be a leader and to dedicate her life to tackling social justice issues. Like all parents, we try to make the right choices for our children. We continue to note the impact of her time at PSYL and would, without a doubt, do it again.”

- Parents of 2016 participant

A legacy with lasting effects…

“PSYL was either life-affirming, life-changing, or life-challenging for one of our three daughters. It offered them not only a unique and enriching experience, but most importantly, a safe place to explore issues that truly mattered to them, in the company of other caring youth. All three continue to strive to make a difference in both their local and global communities and to demonstrate life lessons that were reinforced in an atmosphere of fun and friendship, in such a beautiful setting.”

- Parent of 3 PSYL alum (2010, 2013 & 2017)

Have a question? Drop us a line 

Sounds great! How do I apply?

Email us at
Call us at 250 391 2411
650 Pearson College Drive
Victoria, BC, Canada
V9C 4H7

Email us at
Call us at 250 391 2411
650 Pearson College Drive
Victoria, BC, Canada
V9C 4H7