UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 11 | Sep.
5 , 2002
Finding the Facts to Fit In
Program helps international students adjust
By Michelle Cook
When Aditi Kolachala left behind a successful career in India
to pursue graduate studies at UBC, she arrived on campus wondering
whether she would be able to adapt, but a program for international
teaching assistants quickly helped her feel at home in a Canadian
Kolachala, 24, came to Vancouver in January to begin a master's
degree in health informatics at the School of Library, Archival
and Information Studies. It was her first trip to Canada and
she felt lost and helpless.
"My initial reaction was total culture shock,"
Kolachala says. "I came in with such excitement, but
even small things like taking a bus were so tough because
the system - everything - is different."
Kolachala's biggest fear was not being able to present herself
well in class, and not knowing what professors and students
from a different culture would expect of her. Luckily, Kolachala's
older sister, a UBC graduate, told her about a program offered
by the Centre for Intercultural Communication that could help
her deal with the differences in academic life between India
The International Teaching Assistants (TAs) Program is a
professional development program designed to give graduate
students like Kolachala the teaching and intercultural communications
skills they need to succeed as teaching assistants - and students
- on a Canadian campus.
"We thought it would be helpful for students to have
a course that doesn't just focus on language, but on understanding
different education systems and what makes a good teacher
and a good learner in different societies," says the
Centre's director Mackie Chase.
Through a series of interactive workshops and one-on-one
coaching sessions, the 11-week evening course teaches students
effective presentation skills for an international audience.
It also helps them to develop a personal and professional
network of people for support.
Kolachala got tips on everything from poise, eye contact,
and classroom humour to how to ask and answer questions effectively.
She even learned how to adapt the colour of her PowerPoint
presentations to appeal to a Canadian audience.
The course not only gave Kolachala the confidence to teach
- something she hopes to do this term - it has improved her
performance as a student.
Since it was launched 11 years ago, more than 800 graduate
students from 35 countries have completed the program. Chase
says the course has evolved from helping students adjust to
new surroundings and be better TAs, into a professional development
program that prepares international graduate students for
their future professional lives.
This year the Centre has added one-on-one sessions for international
faculty members who are new to Canadian classrooms.
For more information on the International Teaching Assistants
Program, contact Pat Marshall at 604-822-1436. To register,