My Volunteer Experience at SFU International Services for Students

My Volunteer Experience at SFU International Services for Students

By: Karen C
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It was back in 2011 when I entered my second year that I volunteered for the SFU International Services for Students (ISS) for the first time. The ISS office indeed provides students with support and services regarding to all kinds of international opportunities, which includes advising programs, information about exchange, and language and culture programs.

I joined the mentorship program in the summer of 2011, and I really enjoyed the volunteer experience from start to end.  The international mentorship program is a student-led program that aims at connecting new international students with current SFU students and helping them adapt to the new environment. All the new volunteers will have a mandatory two-day training session before they start. The training is not dull like many people would expect; on the contrary, it was quite fascinating. We had a lot of games and role-playing activities in the session, through which we gained a better understanding of dealing problems like cultural shock and relocation. At the beginning of the semester, the mentorship coordinator will match each mentor with several mentees who share common interests and hobbies. I got 4 mentees in the first semester and 2 in the next. During the semester, I took my mentees to the FUSION, which was a welcome event that each mentor and mentee was required to attend. This was the part I enjoyed the most. Not only because of the exciting mingling games at the beginning, but we had fantastic food and prizes at the event as well. Basically we just chatted with our mentees and got to know people from different cultural backgrounds. Most of my mentees have become my friends and we keep in touch from time to time, even after the program ended. It is, in fact, very beneficial for both sides. On the one hand, the mentees get familiar with the school life. On the other hand, mentors get a chance to learn a different culture.

The second program I have volunteered for is Canadian Language & Cultural Studies (CLCS). I actually heard about this program from the program’s coordinator at the training session of mentorship program. CLCS usually has activities in summer, when there is a group of Japanese students from Retsumeikan University coming to visit Vancouver. Volunteers are responsible for leading tours for them and introducing Canadian culture. During the summer in 2011, I took these Japanese students around Vancouver. We went to the Francophone museum in Coquitlam, Chinese classic garden in Chinatown and also Whistler. They were quite impressed with the cultural sites and wanted to learn more about life in Canada. For most of students, it was the first time to be abroad. Therefore, they were pretty shy to open up to us and speak English. So I had to initiate the conversation and encouraged them to talk. It was very enjoyable to make some Japanese friends and discuss some differences between Japanese and Canadian cultures with them. Our favorite topic was the food culture. All the Japanese students had a good time during their stay in Vancouver and they made good friends as well. One of the girls even promised to be my guide when I pay a visit to Japan.
Although these two are just short-term positions, I have indeed learned a lot from the volunteer experience and also enhanced my interpersonal and communication skills through interacting with people from different countries. I cherish the memories and think it is always cool to have friends from a different country, as I believe people grow after they see more and learn more.

Posted on November 26, 2012