International Education Week 2014 highlights
From Bollywood dancing to Barnga to baklava, International Education Week 2014 served up a little something for everyone. The week kicked off in high style with a campus flag parade, which was followed up by a smattering of events big and small, including a Bollywood dance class, a salsa dance session, an international student panel and a Canadian homestay families’ potluck.
One of the highlights of the week, and certainly one of the most eye-opening events overall, was the international student panel. A diverse panel of seven RRU students from China, Ecuador, Germany, India, Iran, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia shared in-depth accounts of their experiences as international students here in Canada, in relation to their experiences as students in their home countries. Their reflections were both profound and revealing, especially when considered against the ubiquitous RRU “experiential learning model.” While many of these students hailed from high ranking universities with notoriously gruelling standards, they had never before been required to write an essay or argue a point. Gasps rippled throughout the room when one very well spoken student conceded that while she had perfected her English in her home country, she never once had the chance to practice the language until she started attending RRU. Moreover, many of them were never encouraged to challenge professors. Some were not even permitted to speak to their professors altogether, yet upon arrival at RRU, were suddenly presented with the liberating (albeit daunting) concept of there being “no right or wrong answer,” so long as you can “argue your point.” Their observations divulged a sense of struggle in negotiating this very new, very different educational experience and its related challenges with their experiences and successes as students in their home countries. Discussions extended well beyond the end of the panel, which served as an apt reflection of the quality of the information that was shared in that brief hour.
Another highlight of the week that had the Quarterdeck literally overflowing with people and energy was the International Student Showcase and Talent Show. Twenty-two countries were represented in the Quarterdeck, which came alive with a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and – most importantly – people. Students took their roles as cultural ambassadors very seriously. The England table even had a little toaster working overtime, offering up fresh marmite on toast on demand. Many students were dressed in traditional attire and their tables adorned to match with photographs, figurines, keepsakes and cultural treasures from their home countries. Of course, no International Student Showcase would be complete without food, of which there was definitely no shortage. A smorgasbord of delights and delicacies were prepared by students who were experienced cooks, while others who had never cooked before in their lives took old family recipes and ambitiously created them for the first time ever – and for a public event, no less. The ending result: one trip around the Quarterdeck and you had yourself a 22-course meal.
Food aside, the great thing about International Education Week is that it brings our RRU community even closer together. New friendships are forged, connections are made, and we stumble across people with whom we have been emailing for months and get to finally meet them in person. Ultimately, we are reminded of what a special thing we have going here. If International Education Week is supposed to be all about celebrating learning, then we have much to celebrate because we learned a lot.
For example, we learned that RRU staff really love Bollywood dancing. Repeating moves with names by the likes of “throw the dishes” and “squish the mosquitos” over and over seems to make for pretty good stress relief. We learned that our unique mix of students brings many learning philosophies from far and wide together onto one campus, and that while our students are here to learn from us, there is so much for us to learn from them, too. We were reminded to consider the rules and codes by which we deliver education here in Canada from an outsider’s perspective, and consider the challenges that international students might face in navigating these potentially confusing waters. Finally, we were reminded that our RRU community is a multitalented bunch, from dancers, to musicians, to comedians, to budding photographers… we have potential that extends way beyond the classroom walls. We are pretty great.
In reflecting on the week with fellow staff members, many commented on how the week’s festivities served as a poignant reminder of why we are here and why we do the work that we do. Those moments of actually talking to someone you pass every day, finding a new friend, trying a new food for the first time, or just getting away from your office desk bubble and realizing that our international student community truly reflects the multiculturalism that is so synonymous with “Canada” – those moments collectively make up what International Education Week is all about. Students expressed how much they appreciated the sense of family that the week provided them, and, believe it or not, they really loved the noise. For many of our students who come from loud and lively cities, the quiet serenity of Victoria can often be lonely and overwhelming. The fact that the Quarterdeck could not quite contain the number of people and the amount of spirit generated by the International Student Showcase was a very good thing on all counts.
We would like to extend a special thanks to our generous sponsors who helped make IEW 2014 possible:
Guard Me International Insurance
The Market Stores
Westshore Parks and Recreation
The Butchart Gardens
Westshore Town Centre
May Gold Village
Finally, we would like to extend a big thank you to all RRU students, faculty, staff and alumni for your support, participation, enthusiasm and commitment. You are the reason International Education Week came to life. If you have any suggestions for next year, or if you would like to get involved, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next year at International Education Week 2015!
*You can catch these guys playing Friday nights at Chorizo & Co. on Fort Street - they're awesome!