When Indian exchange student Prakriti Arora walked onto the Vancouver Island University campus for the very first time, she was more than impressed.
“It was just like, wow, there is a lot of positive energy on the campus,” she said. “It’s very similar to where I was in India. So, I feel like I am in my hometown.”
Arora is just one of the hundreds of brand-new students who attended Rock VIU: Welcome 2 Campus for students, parents and student ambassadors on Thursday.
The one-day event was an opportunity for students and parents to learn more about the various student groups and opportunities that VIU offers and featured free activities and food.
Rishabh Kaushel, an international exchange student from India, told the News Bulletin that he hasn’t spent too much time on campus, but that he’s so impressed with how “energetic” the campus is and how friendly everyone has been.
“The people here are so helpful and very welcoming.”
Ana Thalen, originally from Sweden and Natasha Casselman, who hails from Alberta, both said they’re pleased with how their experience at Vancouver Island University has been so far.
“The teachers and staff that I’ve met so far, they seem really, really nice and they want to get to know you,” Casselman said. “You’re not a number, you’re a name.”
Graham Pike, dean of international education at VIU, said it’s critical for the university to have strong orientation programs at the beginning of the year to ensure that all students, especially international students, feel welcome and comfortable in their new environment.
“That’s really important to us,” he said. “Attracting students to come here is just the first step. Making them feel comfortable and helping them to succeed here is really our goal. We truly believe that students who don’t feel comfortable in their environment, who feel alienated or isolated are not going to be successfully academically.”
According to Pike, the number of international students coming to the university has increased by 50 per cent since 2011 and that there are around 2,000 students from more than 80 countries enrolled this year.
“To us it doesn’t matter where they come from,” Pike said. “Obviously we would like to have a diversity of countries represented on the campus because that creates a more interesting space, but what is more important to us is the quality of students that we can attract and the experiences that they can bring to us.”
German students Paula Klewitz and Leonard Gerhardt said it was British Columbia’s natural beauty combined with the reputation and reviews from former students that attracted them to Vancouver Island University.
“I am from a town in Germany where we don’t do a lot of extreme sports, skiing or hiking or stuff like that because we live in a rather flat part of the country,” Gerhardt said. “So for me it would be good to learn surfing or go skiing even more.”
Klewitz and Gerhardt will only be at VIU for one semester, as part of an exchange program the university offers to students from various post-secondary institutions across Germany.
“We have a very active European office that is based in Germany,” Pike said. “They’ve generated an interest in VIU and they have raised the profile of our school in that country, so we have many German students coming here as a result of that.”
Meanwhile, Golfer Okorie, a third-year student from Nigeria, said the diversity at VIU has helped her grow her experience in her field, adding that school life in her hometown is very different from school life in Canada.
“Back home you can’t call an instructor by their [first] name, but here you can call them by their first name and you feel very free and comfortable,” Okorie said.
Pike said Okorie’s experience is a part of a key for Vancouver Island University.
“Our goal here is to create a global community in which everybody can benefit,” he said. “The benefits are not only to the international students, the benefits are also to the Canadian students because in their classrooms they can have many of their peers from different parts of the world, who, of course, come with their own experiences, which get exchanged in the classroom.”