Here! Magazine Summer 2014

Page 19

inhibited to raise questions. Once relaxed, “if interested, they don’t mind pursuing it further,to ask questions and explore more,” says Dr. Choy. The two-way traffic concept that Dr. Choy mentions is key to cultural competency in education. International students that arrive in Canada are inarguably subject to change, but the academic institutions that accept them often neglect the fact that they too are liable to change. In 1971, multiculturalism became an official state policy in Canada as the number of those immigrating into the nation grew. Canada’s policy of multiculturalism was influenced by the metaphor of a mosaic, where people with various backgrounds would come together in harmony without losing their roots. However, while a mosaic appears picturesque, there’s no denying the gaps between the tiles. The tiles, or the communities of the mosaic, are isolated and they remain isolated unless the grout between them can function as a space of exchange and sharing.

People’s House), and Residence Life and Education,” with a “focus on teambuilding and strategizing methods to intentionally bring the greater student body together from across these different domains.” The four professional units also meet to discuss postorientation connections.

The essential cog in these international introduction machines is a student-based think tank: the UVGC has a student advisory council and the Student RecruitmentEvents Office has an Orientation Leadership Committee (OLC) that is “comprised of current students from varying faculties and years, both international and While there is domestic.” As Kate says, these student-based committees present “a great way to learn promise of twoway traffic existing about gaps in programming and support, and between students to get creative and innovative ways to address these gaps, revitalize existing programs, and instructors, and co-develop student-driven, relevant the exchange and programming.”

connection between international and domestic students is still weak.

Although the idea of assimilation is usually met with shocked gasps, it is necessary for adjacent communities to seal the gaps. Most assume that assimilation is accompanied by conformity and possibly metamorphosis, but ideally (in the case of UVic) it would have both international and domestic students come together to form one student body. The key to it working is the two-way traffic concept, so that our cultural roots are not lost, but shared. When you go abroad as an international student, no one expects you to stay the same. Likewise, those that surround you – that contribute to your change as an individual – will inevitably learn something new from you. The current aim of UVic is to introduce international students to the campus and the Canadian community through Orientation and programs such as the Global Mentorship Program that is hosted by the University of Victoria Global Community (UVGC). Founded by Anne Cirillo, Program Coordinator at the UVic International Office, the UVGC encourages interaction between domestic or seasoned international students and new international students. The International Office also works in conjunction with the Student Recruitment-Events Office to plan International Student Welcome activities, which, according to Kate Hollefreund, Events Coordinator for Student Recruitment at UVic, “run prior to the centralized Orientation programs in order to allow international students to gain their footing and settle in.” Initiatives being taken to further bring international and domestic students together include an upcoming retreat, one of Kate’s favourite new methods. The retreat will involve “a group of leadership students from Orientation, the Global Community, Campus Cousins (part of the Office of Indigenous Affairs, and First

Voilà! Some gaps are detected, pinched, and sealed. However, while there is promise of a two-way traffic existing between students and instructors, the exchange and connection between international and domestic students is still weak. Perhaps if more aspects of foreign cultures were discussed openly or even simply acknowledged in the educational setting, domestic students would be more inclined to learn about what lies beyond the Canadian border. The stigma surrounding assimilation concerns those that fear becoming one and the same as others. However, in conjunction with a two-way traffic, where the learning process operates both ways, assimilation in society could be a collaborative and productive process. Multiple multifaceted cultures can be brought together, understood and celebrated on one island. Singapore, for example, is one tiny dot of an island that is inhabited by many different cultures. On some level, everyone is treated equally because they are all seen as Singaporeans in addition to belonging to their individual races. The result is like rojak, a delicacy consisting of fruits and vegetables, symbolizing the eclecticism of Singapore’s multiethnic, multicultural society. Our differences are what enable us to adapt and improve. We fear disrespecting other cultures; we fear asking questions to explore comparison, but we should be as curious about our differences lest we bury ourselves in a different kind of ignorance. Cultural competency in education matters not only because it can be a model for cultural understanding on a global scale, but also because without it, we may as well be washed up on a remote island, with no hope of connection or moving forward. Writer and Uvic student Katrina Wong tells us more about growing up in Singapore and about “rojak” and its powerful metaphor as a model of thriving multiculturalism.


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