Club gathers students from different backgrounds and brings them together
By Glauce Fleury, Contributor
Despite being far from family and friends, international students must deal with the challenge of adjusting to their studies in a second language and the different cultures that compose their new way of life. To make the adjustment easier, they can attend the meetings of the Douglas College International Association (DCIA).
“We offer a comfortable environment for people to speak about their culture, and to mentor their native language,” explains the president of the club, Eric Ho. DCIA vice-president Jordan McChesney adds, “My overall hope is to close the gap between international and domestic students.”
As a language-learner himself (McChesney studies Japanese) and an English tutor, he understands the challenges. “I think it’s a shame we put up barriers that keep us from closing those gaps,” he says. Their work is noble. Ho is responsible for the meetings in New Westminster campus and McChesney at David Lam in Coquitlam. Together, both campuses gather about 35 students from many countries, such as Nigeria, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, China, India, and Korea. That means that in addition to English, many languages are spoken in this multicultural club.
Generally, the meetings focus on language exchange. “We learn about other countries and practice different languages,” says Ho, referring to DCIA as a microcosm of Canada. McChesney adds, “Every student is guaranteed to learn something new every meeting, but also have a chance to make friends from all over the world.”
Bolaji Fasasi, from Nigeria, agrees. “I am new here and I wanted someone to hang out.” The same reasons motivated Polina Sorokvashina, who came over from Russia, “The club is helpful to meet people from different backgrounds.”
Jijin Xiao, from China, had other goals when she joined the DCIA. “I wanted to improve my English and learn new languages.” The same happened to Zainab Al-Baqshi, from Saudi Arabia. “I’m an ESL student, so it’s good to practice English and improve my communication skills.” Aditya Madhavan joined the club to contribute. “I have a background in training people in speaking, so I guess I can help non-native English speakers to have a more clear communication.”
Both Ho and McChesney were born in Canada, while almost the majority of the members are non-Canadians. Is that a rule? Surely not. The club is open to everybody, regardless of age, religion, culture, or language. “We are looking for people who have the ability to socialize well, and understand the importance of interacting with other cultures,” says Ho.
This is what motivated the Canadian-born Kate Kuhn. She joined the club to better understand other cultures. “It’s important to keep an open mind and not stay in our own little box,” she says. As a native English speaker, she acts like a mentor. “It’s great to help international students feel comfortable in this transition. In the end, we all learn.”
Students who attend DCIA meetings can improve their confidence, knowledge, and make friends for life. “I keep coming to the meetings because I can talk a lot and meet friendly people,” says Shiori Osawa, from Japan. Sometimes, students teach. Sometimes, they learn. What about giving your own contribution?
DCIA meetings are held every Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in room 1814 at the New Westminster campus and in room B2050 at David Lam. The club can also be contacted via Facebook.