Students can apply for the Cultural Connections until February 1
By Glauce Fleury, Contributor
English as a Second Language students have no reason to feel lonely at Douglas College. International or domestic English-for-Academic-Purpose students starting their first semester can apply for the Cultural Connections Program, for which the deadline is February 1. This program pairs newcomers with returning Canadian or international students who can then act as mentors. During the semester, they spend time together and help the new students make a smooth transition into their new school life.
“For the first semester students, it’s a great opportunity to meet somebody who will help them with their concerns and will be dedicated to them, and also to improve their English,” explains Mehrnaz Kobari, who coordinates the program, designed by the International Office. Ideally, one new student is paired with one mentor. The program, however, is adjusted to the number of applicants, and mentors can have more than one mentee. “The returning students have a lot of benefits, and can practice sociability, volunteering, and leadership.” At the end of the semester, they can request a reference letter and improve their resumes.
The participation of returning students is vital to the success of the Cultural Connection. “We need mentors who are open to new cultures, ideas, and people coming from different backgrounds; they have to be flexible and compassionate, and act as leaders to get students involved because most of them can be shy,” says Kobari. In the end, everybody improves the sociability and feels like part of a team.
Last fall, nearly 100 students joined the program. One of those who joined, Taranjot Kaur, came from India to study biology. “Being a student from different ethnicity and culture means a whole bunch of new experiences,” admits Kaur. The idea of being guided fascinated her. “I was looking for a friendly mentor who could understand my shortcomings as an international student with the least idea about the Canadian community, and the program exceeded my expectations.” For Komkrit Lertvisitchai, who is in the University Transfer Program, making new friends was the main goal—he came from Thailand and was interested in sharing his culture and knowing others.
Studying anthropology, Verónica López, one of the mentors last fall, improved her interactions with people from other cultures and improved her interpersonal skills. She says the program offered her all the opportunities she wanted, but she couldn’t take advantage properly. “I didn’t foresee myself being so overwhelmed by school,” she says. The Venezuelan believes returning students also have one important role: share what they learned with the new ones.
Sharing the experience was one of the reasons that motivated Alex Li to apply as a mentor. “I tried to help new students to adjust to the college and to the life in Canada,” he says. The Chinese student, who studies accounting, remembers he discussed many interesting topics and exchanged a lot of ideas during the weekly meetings with his mentees. “Joining the program is an effective shortcut to know more about the college and the Canadian culture.”
If you’re interested in applying to be a mentee or a mentor, students can visit the Douglife website, and fill in the application. Later, the applicants must also attend the Meet & Connect Social event where all the students are introduced. To get more information, talk to Mehrnaz Kobari by phone (604) 527-5845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image of Alex Li, Mehrnaz Kobari, and TJ from Glauce Fleury.