Jie Li, or as her peers at university call her, ‘Sophia,’ graduated King’s University College as a Bachelor of Management and Organizational Studies (BMOS) student with a degree in Finance and Global Commerce. Sophia came to Canada as a part of the 2+2 International Exchange Program. She completed two years of university in China, her homeland, followed by two years at a school abroad. Sophia immersed herself full-fledged into Canadian and Western culture to really grasp the international experience.
Here’s her advice to first-year students reflecting on what she has learned thus far:
- The biggest challenge when I first came to Canada is the language. It’s hard for international students to adjust to the speaking speed of the professor in the classroom.
- International students don’t necessarily have to stay with their friends from the same country. At the beginning it is more comfortable to speak in your mother language because it’s familiar, but, in that way, you will never have a chance to really understand Canada, which is a pity because you’ve come such a long way to be there.
- I had several culture shocks. I was afraid of seeing drunk people in bars. To be honest, I still do not feel comfortable going to bars.
- Clubs are a great way to integrate. Dancing club at King’s is wonderful because most of the members are Canadian students. So I had lots of interaction. That’s how I improved my language; that’s how I have some local friends. This was the beginning for me to start to embrace the local culture.
- I was in the BMOS club, which is very academic, but I find that when I join a club I want something fun and relaxing instead of more academic tutoring hours.
Use the services
- Use the services provided. I used the writing centre, which is basically a writing tutoring center for all students. I bring all my papers there and they correct my grammar mistakes and will show me how to reorganize my sentences if my writing is unclear.
- There’s a bridging program at King’s that targets international students. I remember my first week in Canada; I spent all my time with this program. The program took me and other international students around Canada and sometimes to nice restaurants in London
Make your own experience
- Being a residence assistant has been a wonderful experience. The residence I am in has half Canadian students and half international students, so I get to know students from everywhere and I really appreciate the experience.
- Now I have a broader view of what’s going on around the world. I’ve met people from all over the world, and I think that’s what’s so charming about Canada – you meet people from all over the world.
The best things
- Western has a great quality of teaching and the professors are really supportive. They’re so welcoming when you approach them.
- I really appreciate that I wake up with a smile on my face even without reason. You just feel like every day at Western is great.
- J.D. Hen is an Economic professor at King’s. He’s very supportive of international students and understands Asian culture in general because he’s from Korea. So he understands the Asian mindset. He gives me lots of opportunity. At first, I felt people didn’t really appreciate a hard-working spirit in school, but he changed my mind.
In Canada or in Asia, hard work will always be appreciated. It’s like your personality in life will decide on your performance in school. He holds that opinion and that really influenced me as well. I feel like it’s not only about school it’s more about how you picture your life – you want to be proactive.
- King’s is a very peaceful and welcoming place.
- King’s has small class sizes; usually the largest class size will be around 70. You defiantly have more interaction with the professor, so you have a closer relationship. It’s really helpful because when I was applying for a master’s degree I needed reference letters. I found it was easy as King’s because I basically knew all the professors within the business faculty.
How Western has changed me
- From the two years I’ve spent in Canada, I have become more independent. In China, my friends and parents are always there for me. But when you come to a different country the people you feel familiar with are gone.
- Sometimes when I start to feel upset without a reason I tell myself to focus on what I am doing and ignore those things that may be upsetting me.
- Western has really opened up my horizons. I started to do so much outside of studying. Before I went abroad I gave priority to studying. I wasn’t open to many activities. But after two years at Western, I started to wonder what I really liked. So I started to do things that really appeal to me.
- Western has made me more open-minded and I like the feeling.
- Western has really helped me find out what my passions are.
- I want to open my own coffee shop, but I’m still going to continue my education in Canada to get my masters in management with a focus in international business.
- I want to teach as a professor in a university as well.