I came to Brock, never having seen the place, never having been to Canada. It wasn’t daunting considering I love to travel, meet new people and had done a semester study abroad in Melbourne. I obviously overestimated myself. I didn’t feel nervous or anxious until I arrived in St. Catharines, and before I knew it we were whisking through stores for school supplies the evening before ‘Labour Day’ (what was that?), running down the un-painted concrete Thistle hallways (what was that?) and getting quite an unflattering picture taken for my student card (what was that?!). The moment my brother left to catch his flight, the world surely felt very different, which was followed by a weeklong flipside jet lag. I basically missed all the O-week events. But to sum up my first few months at Brock were not an uncomfortable or rough experience, it was different – it was new.
Today, I look back and think that I am now a part of that “different experience” for someone else. Like most students, I don’t need a map to find MC F block. I know how to navigate through the busiest thistle hallways. I recognize the ladies at the Tim Hortons. Brock is my new home. But it’s not just these everyday things that you must get accustomed to, to call a place your home- you should also love your home.
I spent most of my first year absorbing “Canadian culture”, yes there is indeed a Canadian culture and I am not talking about poutine or Tim Hortons. It goes deeper than that: I have met some of the kindest, warm-hearted people here at Brock, who haven’t just welcomed me into their lives but also shown interest in where I come from.
My out-of classroom experience at Brock began inside the classroom. I was encouraged by my professor to join the co-op program in my second year and I started looking for positions. I ended up at Student Life. I was relieved because for a whole year, I wasn’t able to participate in extra-curricular activities, like I had done in high school. This was a perfect opportunity to become a part of the Brock and Niagara community, and to also give back to the community. Interestingly enough, I got a position at the Off-Campus Living office. I am guess it’s quite an unusual situation for an international student to be working a position that may appear to require a lot of local knowledge. But it wasn’t difficult. Not only was I able to help people and be a resourceful person but I gained some skills that I would not have otherwise done. I am a soft-spoken person, at least around people I don’t know but I made some tremendous improvements in my communication skills through frequent interactions with students, landlords and local residents. I was able to use my ‘classroom’ problem-solving skills and was able to apply this practically in various situations as part of customer service. I also helped with our community engagement stations and numerous Student Life events.
In my fourth year, I became the coordinator for Off-Campus Living and worked with various community partners to help institute a stronger sense of community and responsibility amongst students and local residents, with initiatives such as the Welcome Wagon. I also worked with other Student Life Coordinators as well as other student leaders and helped with the LEAP program and Smart Start, both- excellent for prospective students. I learned the importance of teamwork and enjoyed the ropes of event planning. But most importantly, I have built the strongest friendships with my co-workers and would call myself very lucky to have had some of the best mentors at work. This experience has really shaped me in the right way, and refined my skills that I will take with me. I would really encourage and strongly recommend for any student, not just ‘leaders’ but those who are serious about getting involved and want to commit themselves to a richer university experience, to join Student Life. It will open many unknown doors for you.
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