Keiko Nariya is working for all of you
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
Douglas Students’ Union member-at-large Keiko Nariya is proof that international students are passionate about post-secondary education in Canada. In her interview with the Other Press, Nariya talks about bridging the gap and exploiting opportunities for integration between domestic and international students at Douglas College.
Could you explain for us your role as member-at-large at the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU)? What duties does this include?
We have three members-at-large positions and basically we are like “jack of all trades.” Unlike executive or liaison representatives, we do not have specific roles given, except to make sure that our student representative team is doing well and to be supportive. For that reason, we can be flexible on either supporting other representatives with specific roles or launching our own campaigns and events based on the students’ needs. But since I am an international student and I think one of my roles is to represent the voices of international students at Douglas College, I’m currently focussing on working on the Task Force on the Needs of International Students, [which is a provincial initiative spearheaded by the British Columbia branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, which aims] to hear opinions and concerns from as many international students as possible.
When did you start being interested in being involved at the DSU?
For the first two years at Douglas, I was regularly volunteering for the International Office and for the Douglas College International Association. and then a friend of mine, who knew that I was volunteering, asked me if I was interested in helping the DSU to host their event called International Student Open House and Dinner in February 2012. After finishing the event I was asked by the DSU if I was interested in being a student representative for 2013-14 slate. I immediately answered with a “Yes!”
If you could change one thing at Douglas College, what would it be?
I would want to provide more opportunities [for] domestic and international students [to come together] in the Douglas College community. Being at Douglas College for almost three years, I still feel like there are some barriers that prevent both groups from approaching each other. For example, I’m sure that there are domestic students who are interested in learning different languages or cultures, or even travelling to other countries; and there are international students from all over the world who want to make friends with local students. But I think because of some barriers like cultural or language differences or even stereotypes, a lot of them hesitate to step outside of their comfort zone. It will take some time and I do not expect a huge change happening anytime soon, but I hope that we can advocate the benefits of interacting with different cultural groups by hosting more [inclusive] events in the future.
What advice do you have to Douglas students?
Two words: “Get involved!” If you want to express yourself and make a change for yourself and others, or if you want to make more friends outside of your classroom, getting involved in the Douglas community is a great option. I’ve volunteered for Douglife, Office for New Students, International Office, and DSU and they all provide great opportunities for students to have exciting and valuable experiences.
If you have an intention of getting involved but not sure what to do exactly, I recommend that you allow yourself to become a bit spontaneous, like signing up or dropping by a random event in the Douglas community that you think might be interesting. From my experience, that really works to figure out what you want to do while at Douglas College.