International students having a conversation in the city

5 things that surprised me about being an international student

5 things that surprised me about being an international student

Posted 10 August 2018
Royal Roads University campus

The following blog post was written by Nova Zhang, a former Pre-Master’s Program student from China currently pursuing a Master’s degree at Royal Roads University.

Hi, I am Nova. I am from Shanghai, China. I arrived to Victoria, BC during the Christmas time in 2017. My Pre-Master’s Program at Royal Roads University started in January and ended in April. During these months as an international adaptor, there was something in my new life that surprised me, although I had traveled to Victoria before.

The first thing I realized was there were less people than I expected compared to Shanghai, a big and crowded city. I arrived here on Christmas Eve and found the city to be very quiet as everyone was enjoying time at home with family. For me, the difficulty was to find food and go shopping as most of the stores and restaurants were closed. It was difficult at first, but it allowed me to think about the cultural differences, and I do love the Christmas atmosphere here in Canada.

Speaking of adapting to a new culture, most of the activities or campus assistance services that I needed required me to make an appointment first. For example, all of the student services at Royal Roads need to be booked in advance. Back in my country, most of us prefer to get jobs done as quickly as we can, especially if they are personal, like bank or maintenance service. At Royal Roads, everything requires you to plan in advance. Actually, now I find that it benefits me as a student because it is better to build a schedule for each assignment, helping to achieve a good work/life balance.

People in Canada are nice, especially in Victoria. Whenever I am taking a walk on campus or near my house, strangers passing by will say “Hi” and greet me. This would never happen in my home country. Moreover, I find people here are naturally trusting of one another. Victoria has very safe and kind neighborhoods. For instance, a retired Canadian couple lives next to me and they offered me a warm welcome, helping me with garbage classification and other tasks. This was a relief and made my nervousness and insecurity gradually disappear.

I was surprised that wildlife does exist in my neighborhood and on campus. Deer, geese, ducks, and even peacocks, can be seen on campus. I remember that on the first day of orientation at Royal Roads we spent some time learning about all of the wild animals that might appear on campus. We also learned the history of this particular land where Royal Roads campus stands. People here also love sunshine and outdoor activities. Even in the winter time, if it is a sunny day, the beach will be full of families. Other alumni or friends usually recommend camping or hiking if you are planning a gathering. Enjoying and protecting natural beauty is a routine part of people’s lives here.  

Student Nova Zhang

The last part I would like to emphasize, particularly for international students, is critical thinking, best described as a way to help improve your academic learning. I had no idea what this was at first, but now I find it is very useful. Critical thinking helps me discover the other sides of an opinion. For example, when I am reading or listening to other people’s arguments, I have become more objective than I was before. It is essential for my academic learning in the Master’s program. I need to think critically and consider the different aspects on one particular topic. It helps me determine what kind of evidence I could use to support my argument.

At Royal Roads, team work is essential. I was not very comfortable with team work at the beginning. It was difficult to engage with other team members’ because we all came from different backgrounds. However, later I found that everyone learns from each other and most of the time, creative ideas would come out after sharing personal thoughts.

As an international student living in Canada, I would say we need to be respectful, diverse, and creative. Now, I am enjoying my Master’s courses in Tourism Management in Royal Roads University.

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