By Blake Fisher
The NAIT International Peer Mentor Program seeks to help international students adjust to campus life.
The program works to reduce the stress these students encounter through building a student-to-student community and support network. It is not limited to international students and Program Manager, Freya Fu, encourages new immigrants to Canada to sign up to be paired with a mentor.
Once a student has joined the program they are paired with a volunteer mentor who will provide casual advice and introduce them to an international peer group. These peer groups meet four to five times a semester. The program is not intended to replace the student services centre, but to supplement and serve as a bridge to assist with communication.
It can be intimidating to ask questions while immersed in a new and foreign environment; the program is in place not only to assist international students navigating campus life, but also in navigating Canadian culture.
The isolation from classmates and instructors and the unfamiliar culture of Canada can make adjusting to student life difficult.
“Being someone trying to navigate a different culture is even more challenging due to COVID-19,” said Fu. “This has been the most expressed concern to me so far.”
COVID-19 means that international students are deprived of the time where they can chat with peers and seek clarification on class content and campus life.
“The most rewarding part of this program for me is seeing someone who I’ve met at the beginning of the school year who is very unsure, a little bit shy, and intimidated become bonded with the community,” added Fu, who has run the program for five years.
“Whether you are new to Canada or a domestic student even though we are going through this pandemic with online courses, try your best to make the most of your campus life,” recommends Fu. “You’ll develop important soft skills that will be transferable into your future career.”
Kritesh Thakur, known as “Kev” by his friends, has been a mentor since June 2019. He knows firsthand the challenges involved with being new to Edmonton.
“Whenever you go to a new culture there is a struggle you go through in adjusting to the new culture,” said Thakur.
He was drawn to the program originally by its uniqueness. In his time at three different schools he had never encountered something like it.
“When I saw them supporting and reaching out to international students that was something that struck me as really good”.
The international Peer Mentors Program is free to all students, you can learn more and sign up here.