Student Profile: Yun Zhang and the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Program

September 06, 2018

Yun Zhang is an international master's student in Sociology and Anthropology and participated in the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Program during summer 2018. We asked her to tell us about her experience with the program, and provide recommendations for incoming international graduate students with a TA/TM contract.

Why did you choose to participate in the ITA program?
My offer of acceptance came with a TA-ship, which freaked me out.  I wanted to best prepare myself to teach.

What did you like most about the program?
The part I love the most about the program is that it is tailored for international students whose mother tongue is not English. The instructor prepared us for handling difficult situations including, "what if students can't understand you because of your accent?" It is extremely practical, and I feel that I’m much better prepared to be a TA.

What were your expectations prior to participating in this program?
I didn’t know what being a TA entailed. I wanted to learn more about what to expect and also gain some teaching skills.

What benefits to your graduate studies and/or your skills as a TA (and/or beyond) do you envision as a result of your participation in the program?
I talked to the grad program manager of my department about the ITA program and how I would love to try to teach, and when my TM position was cancelled she switched me to an available TA position. She told me that she felt that I am, “more passionate about teaching.” I believe the passion she saw was my participation in the ITA program to prepare myself to teach.

Would you recommend other graduate students participate in the ITA program?
Yes, it is a very informative and practical program, and it is also fun! Not only did I learn a lot from it, I also made friends with people from all different cultural backgrounds!

What advice would you give to students who are considering participating in the ITA program?
I would sincerely recommend this program to all incoming international TAs. It calms your nerves, and it prepares you for new challenges!

About the International Teaching Assistants program 

"A graduate seminar specially designed for teaching assistants and graduate students who speak English as an additional language. The seminar helps students' academic communication and teaching skills."

Seminars are free to all new and current SFU grad students in all disciplines; with new program intakes available at the beginning of each term. Registration is required.

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