I had a rough time when I came to UBC two years ago as an international graduate student from China. Language was my biggest barrier. I couldn’t understand the professors during class or share my opinions. On top of that, I was lonely. I didn’t have the courage to speak with my classmates because I couldn’t keep up with how quickly they spoke.
I felt so isolated that I decided to make some changes. I volunteered for Let’s Talk Science, hoping to improve my English. In this year-long volunteer program, I was paired with a UBC Ph.D. student who, by the end of the year, became my best friend in Vancouver. She invited me to hike with her at Lighthouse Park and that became my first hike ever. This experience made me fall in love with hiking and two months later I found myself committed to a two-day hike through the Grand Canyon.
I also learned how to swim at the UBC aquatic center and often swam with my new friend. Our friendship helped me grow from an indoor person to an active outdoor person.
Through my volunteer experience I gained a great friendship and new hobbies. This first volunteer experience led me to more volunteer opportunities and finally a job. My English also improved a lot. I learned more about Canadian culture and developed a sense of belonging in my new community. Most importantly, I enjoyed volunteering because I could help other people.
When I look back at my past two years as an international graduate student I can see how much I have grown.
For many international students it can be challenging to be in a new environment and culture, but there are always ways to become more familiar with your surroundings. Once you start getting involved, adjusting to life at UBC often becomes easier and easier.
If you do find yourself struggling with the transition to UBC, you are not alone. Here are useful resources that can help with your transition:
This program offers free resources to improve your performance in class by advancing your academic English skills.
This is a free service here to support all writers at UBC. You can book one-on-one appointments through their website.
A free AMS service that offers resources and tools to guide you in pursuing a volunteer position that will be right for you.
A palette of non-credit workshops, seminars and other activities designed to complement your graduate program’s academic curriculum and mentorship experience.
Post Written by Yaying Zhong