On Thursday, January 19, UNB Associated Alumni hosted a coffee house for international students and alumni.
Held in the Whitebone Lounge, students gathered to enjoy a cup of coffee and share some stories. Snacking on cakes and fruit, the students enjoyed an evening of crisp acoustic guitar from Saint John’s own Frank James, and stunning classic rock covers from UNBSJ MBA student Shannon Gao.
The international students, ranging from first year students to seniors, represented an impressive array of countries, cultures, and disciplines. However, a common theme amongst them was the great enjoyment of their host city.
“It’s smaller than what I’m used to,” says Elaine Chen as laughter erupts from her classmates, Coco Li and Angela Liang, who readily agree with her. The three women arrived from China last September to take part in a pre-MBA program, and while their cities back home boasted much larger populations, they all agree that a slower pace of life was welcome.
“People are kinder here,” Liang says. “Everyone looks out for each other. There’s lots of consideration for others.”
Chen, Li, and Liang all agree on this point and felt that expanded to UNB Saint John’s campus as well. They even wish to send thanks to their English instructor, Ms. Lynne.
“She is a perfect teacher!” Li and Chen say, as Liang, kiddingly, notes that she would not be upset if she was assigned less homework.
When the ladies were asked whether they missed their families, Liang and Chen said they were having such a good time, they didn’t feel much sorrow. But Li, in good humour, chastised her friends.
“Why don’t you miss your family?” she shouts with a big smile on her face.
“I miss my mother’s cooking!” Li says, combing over recipes with an eager voice. “She made this dish […] A Chinese fish cooked in a complex sauce! It was so delicious! I want to taste it again.”
Li wasn’t the only international student craving the loving touch of a mother’s home cooked meal. Olga Zagrebina, a soon-to-be Accounting graduate, clasped her chest when she mulled over the memories of her mom’s Russian delicacies.
“I visit my family in Yekaterinburg every year, and immediately my mother says ‘what do you want me to make?'” Zagrebina smiles. “Sometimes I don’t want to go just because it is hard to say goodbye.”
Maria Olalde, a Columbian pre-Law student, anticipates her family’s arrival to Canada for her graduation as a Political Science major. Like other international students, Maria contemplated her family’s potential future in Canada.
“They’ll tour around and see how they like it here,” she says, noting that the extreme weather difference might be a shock for them coming from the warmest area of Columbia.
Her sights set towards her future, Olalde adds, “My next plan is to apply for a work permit then become a permanent resident. Then the tuition fees at law school will be cheaper!”
Looking on with pride at the mingling, UNB Saint John international student alumnus Jahandad Khan coasted through the room, looking over the pockets of conversation. Originally from Pakistan, Khan now calls Saint John his home.
“UNB is a great school,” he says, adding that he considered the MBA program to have well prepared him for many successes in the work force, including his lucrative new post at IBM.
“Never be alone. Always reach out to others. Talk to people, hear their perspectives,” Khan offers as advice to new students to Canada. “Go out there and get involved in your community. Integrate […] But always remember to try and bring a part of who you are to the mix.”
The coffee house was a huge success with a great turnout and fascinating conversations and insight. To stay in the know about future international student events, follow UNB Saint John International Student Services on Facebook.
NOTE: An earlier version of this article indicated the event was hosted by Student Services when in fact it was hosted by UNB Associated Alumni.