Project maps international culture at Vancouver Island University

NANAIMO – Students enter data on university’s global reach.

Canadian and international students at Vancouver Island University teamed to make a computerized map of the world.

Students from the university’s geography department and English as a second language students worked together on the collaborative mapping project and made presentations on campus last week as part of the university’s International Education Week events.

“It’s both a technical project – it requires the students to place elements on a map using GIS (geographic information systems) to create the show – and it’s also a presentation project, so it gives everyone, the international students and the geography students, a chance to present in front of a very large group of people,” said Pamela Shaw, a geography professor at the university.

Shaw said the project started with students doing research on a variety of topics, such as where international students come from, travelled to, their favourite foods, why they chose to attend Vancouver Island University, as well as fables and legends from their home countries – all information that comprised “data layers” for the map, she said.

“We defined the layers we wanted to have in the map. The students had to conduct the research, collect the information, put the information in a tabular format, which was then converted into the geo co-ordinates to place it on the map,” Shaw said, adding that the students also wrote the script for the presentation and put the show together.

Sabine Koster, an international student from Germany, researched the layer pertaining to places students have travelled and said the project was very educational as working with Canadian students enabled her to get a better command of the English language.

“For me because I’m an [English as a second language] student it was very helpful to get out a little bit of the accent because we have all the international people, so we are all talking just to international [people] and now we can talk to Canadians,” Koster said.

“We have the Canadian conversations, so we can learn to understand the Canadians because they are talking very fast,” she said, adding it also afforded her an opportunity to make Canadian friends.

Shaw wants the project to continue. “We’re hoping this is the start of a much bigger project, so this is the first collection of layers and then we’ll keep working on this for years in an ongoing collaboration between geography and international education,” she said.