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Langara’s international education department helps students cope with culture shock

Two international students talk to Flora Lee, Langara's International Student Marketing Assistant (Alice D'Eon
Two international students talk to Flora Lee, Langara’s International Student Marketing Assistant (Alice D’Eon photo)

Reported by Alice D’Eon

Langara released a five-year “Academic Plan” on Sept. 25, which lists the recruitment of international students as one of its five main priorities.

According to the document, Langara wants to “increase international student enrollment to meet or exceed provincial and federal targets.” However, living in a new country for the first time can be challenging, and Langara’s international education department aims to do all it can to facilitate a smooth transition for its growing population of international students.

The department encourages students to take advantage of the support available on campus while trying to adjust to a new culture.

“They’re not only having to adjust to a new education system, which might be very different from what they are used to,” said Teresa Brooks, manager of International Student Services. “It’s also the living environment. Where do I buy my milk and bread, where do I go if I’m sick?”

Programs that can help those who are new to Vancouver

For students who feel shy about speaking English in public, there are workshops like i-Chat, where an international student coordinator runs a discussion on a topic relevant to some of the hurdles the international students face. The i-Explore program gives newcomers a chance to get to know their new city, while i-Café offers the opportunity to mix and mingle in a relaxed setting with other international students.

“This office has an open door policy,” Brooks said. “We always tell our students that we hope this will be their first point of contact when they come to Langara.”

A student’s experience

Yvonne Kwok (Alice D’Eon photo)

Yvonne Kwok, originally from Hong Kong, is a recent grad of Langara’s university-transfer program who now attends UBC. Kwok credits the International Education Volunteer Program for getting her to where she is today.

“The volunteer program really built up my confidence because you have to get along with people who speak different languages and you really have to present yourself and be clear,” Kwok said.

Despite all the effort the department makes to ease its students into their new home, there are still things Canadians do which we consider normal, but freak them out.

“In my first semester, I saw someone eating a banana in class. I was like, really? It was a shock,” Kwok said.

Kwok’s best piece of advice for international students is to be open.

“One of the core values of studying abroad is to try new things. Try something that is not common in your culture. Be brave,” she said.

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