Queen's University

Cultural exchange group builds community among grad students

[Cultural engagement group]Cultural engagement group facilitators and members Holly McIndoe, Cathy Lemmon, Yina Wang, Debra Kriger, Thomas Wolff, Alvine Kamaha, Becky Pero and Johnny Tay.

After graduate student Yina Wang participated in the cultural skills workshop for new international students last year, she found there wasn’t a forum to continue the intercultural learning and understanding that began in those sessions. Her vision of an ongoing cultural engagement group for graduate students is now a reality on campus.

“I found that international graduate students wanted more interaction with domestic students. They had a desire to get involved in the local culture and better understand the day-to-day life of domestic students,” says Ms Wang, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education who has been in Canada for several years and volunteered as a cultural interpreter at last year’s workshop.

The Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) and the Society for Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) supported the students as they created the group. All domestic and international students as well as their spouses and families can join the group. The participants meet every Monday night for a cultural exchange in an informal social setting and they take part in other activities throughout the week.

“This type of program really does help build community. Some of these students may not have had the confidence or connections to participate in these activities without a group like this,” says Cathy Lemmon, International Programs Advisor, QUIC.

Debra Kriger (Master of Public Health) and Joanne Linnay (Master of Environmental Studies) co-facilitate the group along with Ms Yang. They gauge what the group members are interested in doing and organize the activities.

At the first meeting the group members watched Let’s All Hate Toronto, a comedic documentary that explores why people dislike Canada’s largest city. While they watched the film, the participants compiled a dictionary of Canadian expressions and regional slang.

“Even though I come from Singapore where English is spoken a lot, there are subtleties to the language. Being part of this group is helpful for improving my language skills,” says Johnny Tay, an organizational behaviour master’s student.

Several different activities are planned including a shopping trip to buy winter clothes and coats, skating in Market Square, checking out local restaurants, movie nights, a trip to Fort Henry for the holiday festival and much more.

Domestic and international students interested in participating can connect through the group’s Facebook page.

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Last updated at 8:21 am EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
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