By: Justin Humphries
When foreign students step off the plane to any country for the first time they may experience emotions ranging from fear to excitement. That’s when Michelle Cameron of the International Office steps in.
Cameron works as an international student advisor for Algonquin and regularly helps students who have come to Ottawa from all over the world. Usually students come to her with personal problems like being lonely in an unfamiliar country, or academic issues such as not understanding what is being said in class.
“On orientation, when the students first arrive, we try to let them know we’re always here for them if they need it,” said Cameron. “Every student deals with something different, so we try as best as we can to help them.”
The international office has a variety of activities that try to give students a way to experience Canadian life. The trips that are offered throughout the year may range from seeing a hockey game to going skiing at Camp Fortune every February.
“Canada is a new and unfamiliar place for a lot of students,” said Cameron. “Students come to Canada because they’re interested in Canada and how Canadians live, so we want to help them feel right at home while also giving them something new to experience.”
To enter a Canadian college or university, international students must pass certain exams to show their proficiency in English. Students who wish to improve their English and enter a program may take an ESL course that is offered at Algonquin.
Working with students from all over the world is a great experience for Cameron. She’s able to not only help other students, but also help herself understand the differences between Canada and other cultures.
“I have been able to hear opinions and thoughts that I never considered before,” said Cameron. “It just goes to show that there is no correct way to do something and from there we can try to come to a mutual understanding and how to best approach it.”
Still, even with this office in place, the difficulty of getting some students from different cultures to come forward is trickier than it may seem. That’s why Cameron and everyone involved tries as best as they can to reach out to the people who need it.
“The best way to help our students is to reach out to them,” said Cameron. “We want to let everyone know that there’s no shame in coming forward if they have a problem with anything and that we’re here for support whenever they need it.”