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Have An International Experience


George Maragos | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 12th, 2018




An international experience is quite valuable and can be had right here if you make the right connections. Fanshawe College has been recognized as one of the top schools in the world for international student satisfaction. Some of the reason we’ve been so successful in satisfying the diverse student body is because of programs like peer-to-peer and conversation circles.

Peer-to-peer provides an opportunity for an international student to socialize with a domestic student volunteer for ten hours. The Peer-to-peer program is run out of the international office, advertised at the service fair, and promoted through the exchange program; if you’re interested in doing an exchange, try this first. Also, social service worker students participate in the program as a part of their curriculum.

Laura Costigan, student success advisor at the International Office explained the value of making diverse friends. “[You can] have an international experience at home; get to know about culture, language, and customs without even having to travel,” said Costigan.

Conversation circles are helpful because, as their name implies, they offer the experience of having a conversation in English. Conversation circles are ran by ESL Technologist Gerry Drabick who had this to say, “The people who like to engage and are sociable are the people that get a benefit out of conversation circles. Everyone who comes to the conversation circles knows why they’re here and is going to help support one another,” Drabick said.

The London Public Library also offers conversation circles and volunteer tutors to help students whose second language is English.

Student life ambassadors at the international office participate in a program called “What’s up?” According to Costigan, students call new arrivals in their own language, checking to see how things are going, providing a personal connection.

This year was also the first year Fanshawe did an orientation day for all fi rst year students and provided language-specific information sessions; allowing international students to learn about Fanshawe in a familiar way.

Urging international students to engage themselves Costigan said this, “We encourage students to take part in the student union, athletics, and get as involved as possible.” Costigan described the ardent desire for international students to make friends here. “I’ve had one student who said, ‘If I make one Canadian friend I will feel that I have been successful,’” said Costigan said.

While some nationalities have their own club, which is a great way to connect with students from your home country, there are also clubs centred on common interests. Joining clubs is another great way to meet more people.

When students come to college, for many it’s their first time away from home living on their own, but for international students that’s amplified by having different foods, a different climate, and a different academic culture. Making local friends can help international students adjust to the city, find things they might not have otherwise found, as well as providing an opportunity to practice English. International students should also be encouraged to make friends from their home country as well, to help support each other and explain things in their own language. Also, with the addition of the new Wellness Centre providing more opportunities to meet and interact with others integration is sure to increase.

Although it can be stressful to meet new people in the beginning, the risks are well worth the reward. “For international students to make friends in Canada it means they’re going to have to stick their necks out, make the first move, ask a question; ask someone’s opinion about the class, a lesson, an assignment, or living situation, and ask people what they are doing. You make friends because you want a richer experience,” said Drabick.

Students, both domestic and international, who make the effort to branch-out, will gain more from the college experience. Services for newcomers in the city can be found at the Cross Cultural Learning Centre lcclc.org and information about services offered to international students can be found at the International Office E2025 and fanshawec.ca/international.