Xuan Zhou expected to see quick improvement in her English language skills when she arrived in Nanaimo three months ago to study English as a Second Language at Vancouver Island University.
What she didn’t expect was to learn so much about the cultures, traditions and ideas of many other international students she met in the program.
“The members in my group come from different countries and we exchange our ideas through communicating in English,” says Zhou, whose home is the city of Yantai, China. “During the discussions I gained all kinds of interesting insights from them. I think it’s wonderful — it’s about more than the language.”
Zhou was one of 110 graduates in VIU’s ESL program celebrating their achievements at the Port Theatre Dec. 4. As one of the class valedictorians, she was able to share some impressions of her experience, and do her best to inspire others still working through the program.
The most difficult part of learning English for Zhou was trying to listen and learn in everyday conversation with Canadians.
“Local people speak so fast, and they also use some idioms — sometimes I totally get lost, I don’t know what they are talking about,” says Zhou, 22, who will begin academic studies at VIU in January toward her final two years in a four-year bachelor of business administration program. Her degree will be completed in Canada as part of a transfer program between VIU and Shandong Institute of Business and Technology in China.
Joining Xuan as a class valedictorian was Miha Volin, who arrived in Nanaimo about 10 months ago from St. Petersburg, Russia, to complete his high school education at the High School at VIU.
With a dream to work as an engineer in robotics, possibly even designing spacecraft, Volin worked hard to complete his ESL certificate so that he could enroll in VIU’s first-year engineering program. He starts in January.
Surfing the Internet back in Russia, Volin narrowed his choices to Nanaimo as a location for pursuing studies while gaining the experience of living abroad. He lives with his sister, who is studying psychology at VIU.
“It was quite interesting to me to meet people from around the world,” the 18-year-old said. “Before I came here I had no idea that such people even existed.”
Dana Pynn, chairwoman of the English Language Centre at VIU, says she never fails to gain inspiration from the students who work so hard to learn the language.
“The [centre] currently has more than 350 students from 16 different countries, the majority of whom will be going on to take academic studies here at VIU,” Pynn said.