As appeared in the June 20 edition of The Western Star
June 13th marked my two-year anniversary as the English as a Second Language (ESL) Coordinator at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University. By the end of this summer, our Intensive English Programs at Grenfell Campus will have welcomed 200 students, and I am very proud to have been part of exposing so many people from around the world to the high-quality education offered at Memorial University and the beautiful surroundings of Western Newfoundland.
Although differences in language can sometimes divide people, it is often a common language that brings us together. I watch relationships bud and blossom every day as our students develop the language skills they need to connect with their peers and their surroundings as students at Grenfell Campus and members of the Corner Brook community. Sometimes, the relationships that form are ones that would be discouraged in their home countries.
A student from Japan once explained to me how eye-opening it was to speak with one of her classmates from South Korea. The histories of conflict between their countries have led to conflicting accounts of those histories. She was amazed to hear her classmate's understanding of their nations' feuds and she was able to recognize that they had been taught different stories in their schools at home. At Grenfell, those students found neutral ground and a common language to share their understandings with one another peacefully.
While our students are extremely active on campus, many students will admit that the most meaningful and memorable experiences they have here happen outside of the classroom. I have seen students volunteer with local charitable organizations, visit schools and children's clubs to share information about their cultures, perform at fundraising events, and participate in worship communities. These young people are eager to experience multiple aspects of Canadian culture, and we often hear stories about them accompanying Canadian roommates and classmates to their hometowns all across the province to experience "real-life" in Newfoundland and Labrador. I often wonder what it feels like for those Canadian students to see their hometowns through the eyes of a newcomer.
I feel so fortunate to be part of these international experiences for students and to have the opportunity to share the welcoming place of Western Newfoundland with people from all over the world. Our international students bring new perspectives and new energy to our city and our region. They are learning about themselves and about others, and helping us to do the same.