More than 1,500 international incoming first-year students have now left their homes in countries all over the world to travel to UBC. They are the first students to arrive on campuses to begin their orientation.
If André Tate, a fourth-year economics student from Jamaica, had one piece of advice for the international students arriving at UBC this week, he would tell them to just dive in.
Getting involved in campus life made him feel “empowered to do many things”.
Of the new international undergraduate and Aboriginal students starting at UBC this fall, 1,100 are arriving early to participate in Jump Start, a first-year transition program that begins Aug. 15 on UBC’s Vancouver campus, and Aug. 25 on the Kelowna campus The goal of Jump Start is to empower students like Tate to be engaged learners and to feel ownership over their university experience.
“We want them to build the community with us, and make the university their own,” says Caroline Rueckert, program director for Jump Start. “It’s about understanding what you have to offer.”
Easing the transition for future leaders
Many international students who end up at UBC are leaders in their high schools and communities back home.
“They often have high expectations for themselves at the post-secondary level but coming from different cultures and circumstances means that they need some additional support,” says Rueckert.
Jump Start helps to ease the transition to UBC and Canada. On the Vancouver campus it includes a two-week immersion program filled with social activities and workshops on subjects as wide ranging as succeeding in school to setting up a bank account in Canada. During those weeks, students learn about what is expected of them at a Canadian university–which can be very different to what they’re used to at home–and attend mock lectures, take notes and learn study techniques.
They also have the opportunity to connect with their Faculty and build important relationships that will serve them throughout their UBC careers. Throughout first year, students are grouped together by faculty into Learning Communities and meet regularly with two peer mentors and a faculty mentor. This helps build a community and provides additional support to help students navigate their studies.
Khanh Nguyen is one of the Student Coordinators for Jump Start this year. One of her roles is to answer emails and calls from students who have questions about the program or coming to UBC. She says she answers a lot of logistical questions: When can I move in? What do I need to bring with me? Often new students are surprised that they get a personal note back from Nguyen or one of her colleagues.
“To provide UBC students with a true opportunity to engage as global citizens, they must have the chance to meet students from every corner of the world.” -Angela Redish
“They seem really excited about coming to UBC, it’s heartwarming,” says the third-year Sauder School of Business student and International Leader of Tomorrow Award winner from Vietnam.
Nguyen grew up speaking Vietnamese but attended high school in Singapore, living away from home. She thought Singapore would have prepared her for the transition to Canada. To her surprise, she experienced culture shock and had to get used to the type of English spoken in Canada.
“Jump Start gave me a community of people who were experiencing the same emotions – it helped,” she says.
A difficult transition
Tate also found the transition to UBC and Canadian culture difficult. He spent a good chunk of first year hanging out in his residence room alone, a radical change from his academic life in Jamaica. Before beginning second year, he decided to volunteer to be a Jump Start student leader, helping the incoming class of students with their transition to university.
“It gave me a chance to break out,” he says, explaining that after Jump Start he plunged in to other extracurricular activities.
He joined Sauder’s Finance Club and became the executive in charge of sponsorship for the Pacific Venture Capital Conference and Competition. He spent a summer volunteering with a venture capitalist and has been elected to the board of the Association of Professional Economists of British Columbia as the student representative.
A trailblazer for his peers
Tate also wanted to do something to enhance the student experience for his peers. He hopes to bring influential economists, like a representative from the Bank of Canada, to UBC so economics students can hear about their work.
“Meeting people who are doing what you want to do is inspiring,” he says.
Ultimately Tate intends to return to Jamaica where he hopes to use what he’s learned and experienced to strengthen the country’s economy. He is one of only five students from Jamaica studying at UBC and it was only because of an International Leader of Tomorrow scholarship that he had the opportunity to pursue studies here.
“I know so many friends from high school who could do so much but the money is not there for them to get the same experience as me, to come to a school like UBC,” he says.
The global edge
Students from over 150 countries study at UBC. The university boasts such global representation in part because it offers support for students like Tate, who are from regions where there is less opportunity to study abroad like Palestine, Vietnam, and Swaziland.
“We are living in an interconnected world and today’s students will need to work with people from a multitude of backgrounds and experiences,” says Angela Redish, vice provost and associate vice president, Enrolment and Academic Facilities for UBC’s Vancouver campus. “To provide UBC students with a true opportunity to engage as global citizens, they must have the chance to meet students from every corner of the world.”
In the late 1990s, when the UBC Board of Governors approved a plan to increase international undergraduate enrolments, a provision was made to set aside a portion of international tuitions for need-based scholarships for international students.
These funds together with a growing number of private and corporate donations allow UBC to offer Canada’s most robust scholarship program for international students and one of the most competitive in North America, without resorting to public funds, explains Damara Klaassen, Senior Director of the International Student Initiative.
This year, UBC will welcome a more diverse number of incoming International Scholars than ever before with 34 students from 25 different countries through the International Leader of Tomorrow Award, the Donald A. Wehrung International Student Award, and the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program.
“That students from such a diverse number of regions and backgrounds come to UBC, is a great strength of the university,” says Redish.
Room for all
As part of its educational goals, the University is committed to increasing international student enrolment at both its Okanagan and Vancouver campuses.
International students do not displace domestic students. UBC continues to fill all of the spaces funded by the provincial government for Canadian students.
International students pay the full cost of their education to add more spaces, and the increased enrolment allows the University to improve its offerings for all students.