‘My first week was awful’

Adjusting to a new school, country and language requires community

Leaving your home country, taking classes in another language and experiencing a new culture in Canada was scary for Shaghayegh Shabro, an international student studying business administration at George Brown College (GBC).

“My first week was awful,” she said. “I remember one of my classes where I couldn’t understand or even pronounce all the words that my professor was saying.”

Shabro, who is originally from Tehran, Iran, had enough difficulty in her first week that she almost gave up.

Now in her second semester, Shabro said her experience at the college is completely different. Her English has improved daily and Shabro said she better understands the college and its departments.

She also landed a job at Peerconnect which she’s scheduled to start in September.

Bianca Lima de Barros, also an international business administration student, had a less rocky start to her time at GBC. A doctor in Brazil, she decided to start a new life and a different profession in Canada. Having been in Toronto for around a year and half, de Barros said that making new friends early on helped her adapt quickly.

“Everybody was an international student and we have the same challenges and questions and our problems are quite similar,” she said. “And when you have something that you don’t know you can ask and someone will come with some suggestion and it helps a lot.”

According to Tenzing Kunga, a George Brown international student adviser, the challenges for international students go beyond academic life. He said they also need to overcome culture shock, which is why the international centre at GBC tries to get students involved in their first week at the college through two big events, Smart Start and International Orientation.

“We get students to come in and take a look at what the college looks like, meet with GBC team, other peers and start out for the first time in at George Brown,” Kunga said.

At the International Orientation, students can learn more details about work and study permits, health insurance and what services are provided to international students.

“These two events are something that we highly recommend students get involved in,” said Kunga. “Because a lot of students who have been to these events have got a lot out of it.”

Kushagra Manchanda, the Student Association’s (SA) international student representative, is an example of step by step improvement. Coming from Delhi, India in August 2015, he remembers how shy he was when he started at the college.

The SA funds The Dialog.

Manchanda went to the international orientation session when he arrived in Toronto. In his second year, he volunteered at it through the international student ambassador program. Now, in his role as international student representative, Manchanda will be giving a speech at the orientation.

“The international students should know that even if you can’t speak English fluently, even you may have some accent, Canadians are really nice and they want to help you fit in with them,” said Manchanda.

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‘My first week was awful’