The winter semester will be the beginning of some students’ journey at Memorial University (MUN). I spoke with four new international students about their first impressions of St. John’s, the university and their goals this semester. Students more familiar with MUN weighed on these challenges with their own advice.
New international students said that the biggest difference between St. John’s and their home countries is the weather. Many had not experienced the snow before. Students also found campus life and classes different from their home countries.
“I want to encourage students to do an exchange here in MUN. You won’t regret it,” said Karen Nuñez, a student who arrived in St. John’s in January for a semester-long exchange in Process Engineering. When she first sarrived in St. John’s, she had mixed emotions. She said, “It was a big change in my life.” But she found that people here were very kind and willing to help her.
Christine Chan, from Hong Kong, arrived in St. John’s in January for a semester-long exchange in Business. She found that lots of students came from various places around the world. “People here are more energetic and active,” Chan said.
“In Canada, you need to read the reading before every class, to understand what going on in class,” said Wei Xin Chin, from Malaysia. Chin is in her second-year study in Business and arrived in St. John’s in January. She found that MUN had a heavier workload than she was used to. Classes were also much shorter than the hour and a half that Chin was accustomed to as many classes at MUN are only 50 minutes, which Chin found too short.
Another common challenge students faced was language. Yan Luo, from Chongqing, China, came to St. John’s for a semester-long exchange in Finance. “Most English we learned was about academic terminology,” Luo said. She found that daily conversation difficult because she did not learn conversational English in China. Luo said that she is doing her best to interact with people so she can practice her spoken English.
Nuñez, whose native language is Spanish, also found language to be a challenge. “I need to be more concentrated and focus on understanding all the classes,” she said. Moreover, Nuñez is also working on learning French.
Both Nuñez and Chan said they want to explore Newfoundland and to get to learn more about Newfoundland culture and make friends in the community.
“You need to be open your mind, try different things that you’ve never touched before,” said Yusong Du, a student majoring in Computer Science from Changsha, China. Du has been living in St. John’s for two years and said that many new international students have faced similar challenges.
Du said he met friends in classes and they started talking after class. Now, Du has made friends with students from all over the world.
Daniel Dunn, from St. John’s, went to Colombia for two years to teach English after completing an English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching course and is now studying Linguistics and French at MUN. Dunn gave some advice for new students struggling with language barriers. “Do not get frustrated when someone does not understand you. Try to think about the other way to persuade them of your ideas,” he said, who is familiar with the struggle of communicating in a second language environment.
Dunn also said that students would benefit from connecting with other students to improve their English. “Making friends whose native languages is not your own, it is really important because that helps you communicate better in English and allows you to improve your communication skills.”
MUN has a lot of support on campus for new students, such as the Internationalization Office which has an office club and Discussion Group every week. Moreover, the Student Volunteer Bureau has lots of opportunities for students interested in volunteering. Finally, MUNSU also has many student clubs and societies.