Students home away celebrates 40 years

by Susan Stern

Staff writer

UBC's International House has been a home away from home for many students from abroad and a unique meeting place to make lasting friendships with Canadian students, faculty and staff for 40 years. It celebrates its anniversary next month.

The anniversary festivities begin with a ceremony at International House March 1. It will be followed by a reception hosted by UBC President Dr. Martha Piper for international alumni and volunteers who have been associated with International House over the years.

"International House is a symbol of the international community at UBC," says Winnie Cheung, director of International Student Services. "It continues to be a gathering place for international students, Canadian students, faculty and staff who are interested in helping and learning from their international counterparts."

International House, the centerpiece of International Student Services, hosts social events as well as activities such as martial arts classes, ESL lessons and lectures -- not only for international students, but also for anyone who is internationally minded, says Cheung.

"For people who have never traveled outside of North America, International House affords an opportunity to step into many different cultures," Cheung says.

International Student Advising Services have a variety of special programs to meet the needs of international students.

Most international students receive a pre-arrival information package. When they arrive, help is offered for issues including visa problems and cross-cultural adjustments to Canadian life.

"International students can have difficulty adjusting to UBC classroom culture," says Cheung.

International House was organized in the 1950s by former UBC president Norman MacKenzie, faculty and members of local Rotary Clubs.

One of the wartime huts on West Mall served as the first International House.

Funded by Vancouver Rotary Clubs and the provincial government, International House opened on the corner of West Mall and Northwest Marine Drive March 4, 1959. Former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead were among the guests.

International House is one of the largest volunteer organizations on campus with some 400 student, faculty, staff and community volunteers.

"After 40 years, International House will continue to do what it does best -- serve people who feel culturally displaced and to make them feel welcome at UBC and in Canada," Cheung says.

A highlight of the weeklong events marking the anniversary is Festiva 99, a multicultural festival to be held March 5, featuring displays, performances and food from around the world. A number of seminars are also being held.

For details of anniversary events, call 822-5021 or check the Web site