Poutine: A Canadian Dish!

One of the activities outside of class at the School of English is to make poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish originating in the province of Quebec, and is made with French fries and cheese curds, topped with a light-brown gravy. Students enjoyed making (and eating) it last week. Thanks to Social Media Club members Honami and Airi for submitting these photos!


My story of studying in Canada as an international student (continued)

This is the continuation of Xiangtao Meng’s story of studying at Queen’s University as an international student. Read Part 1 and 2 to find out about his experience of learning English language for university preparation and his first year at Queen’s.

Part 3: The acceleration

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. By Samuel Ullman

I believe that Queen’s is more than a scholar factory with limestone buildings, books, classes, exams and scholars. It embodies a strong community, active student leadership and engaged administration. It is the place where new ideas sparkle and new skills develop. After a transition from east to west and an adaptation to local culture, I eventually got over homesickness and enjoy my life full of contentment from being with my housemates, taking interesting but challenging courses and involving in extracurricular activities.

Right before my second year started, I contacted that engineering student who helped me in my first year and thanked him again. Surprisingly, he said: “You do not have to thank me, but that is what the Queen´s community is all about.” In such a tight and supportive community, there are infinite opportunities of knowing new people and making friends, but bearing in mind making good friends does take time. Not until the second semester in my first year did I make friends with my current housemates, who enrapture me when we live together. Coming from four ethnic groups but with similar personal traits and interests, three other housemates and I care about each other, have fun in watching movies and cooking together and enjoy discussing world history, literature and religion, and most importantly we learn from each other. When I come back home, their smiling faces release my stress and their words of warmth and encouragement hearten me. We are not only sincere housemates who enjoy each other’s company, but also housemates who point out shortcomings of others and perfect ourselves together.

Other than contentment from my housemates, my academics bring me fulfillment. Generally speaking, class sizes of upper year courses are smaller than those of first year courses. I enrolled in an environmental economics course (Econ 391: topics in environmental economics) with only twenty students. With such a small class size and an interactive teaching approach consisting of group studies, presentations, essays and self-research, this course offers me an incredible learning experience. It was in a first year philosophy course that I wrote my longest English essay, and it is in this course that I made my first presentation. Moreover, my perspective on environmental economics has changed by studying how humans value nature, learning environmental ethics and conducting a simulation on trading emission permits. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses without any doubt. Take advantage of these strengths and overcome these weaknesses while learning, and that it is.

In addition to academics, I also get involved in some extracurricular activities. In my first year, I joined Queen’s Campus Lions Club, which is a two-year-old club focusing on fundraising and senior health. This year, I was elected as a Club President. Even though I have spent a lot of time and effort in this position, although sometimes with extra stress and pressure, I would say being a Club President is another incredible experience I have in my second year because of the leadership skills and problem-solving skills I have learnt. Due to a big turnover, caused by former member’s graduation, internship and exchange, Lions Club underwent a member shortage at the beginning of this school year. With the help from members and my supervisor, I started promotions in the Frosh Week and Queen’s Club Night. It was the first time for me to realize how hard it is to organize and market events. After another month’s promotion through social media, nearly ten new members joined this club finally, which was a good result for a small club. With the aim of serving Queen’s and Kingston’s communities, Lions Club is organizing a photo contest, Capture Queen’s U, which allows student to express their unique experience at Queen’s. For me, being a President and an event organizer not only provides me with opportunities of learning new skills and meeting new people, but it also allows me to affiliate tightly to Queen’s community by serving other students and helping those in need.

Apart from organizing a club, I am also volunteering as a Co-Chair for a publication, CultureSHOCK!, under Social Issues Commission. CultureSHOCK! is an anti-racist publication which strives to provide a forum in the Queen’s and Kingston community for artistic expression for those who have been historically and currently marginalized. After working hard on editing and designing for a month, I am excited about CultureSHOCK’s launch at the end of March. As a Co-Chair, not only am I enchanted on promoting equity among different ethnic groups at Queen’s, but I also enjoy working with others on designing this publication and organizing events. In fact, I returned to School of English for one of its photo campaigns so as to call for submission of photos, which brought me here to write this blog.

Visit CultureSHOCK! Facebook Page

As you may not know, Queen’s has the Canadian’s oldest undergraduate student government and the second largest number of clubs in the world, only to Harvard. Thousands of dedicated and passionate students are serving for Queen’s community, and tons of opportunities exist. For me, it is getting involved in extracurricular activities that accelerates my integration into this community and enhances my experience.

Samuel Ullman wrote in his famous poem Youth: “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul”.  Surrounded by enthusiastic peers, ardent professors and other faithful employees, I feel as if a stream of passion was flowing in my heart: working hard, playing hard and never giving up trying.


Thanks to the School of English who provided me with this opportunity to share my story, and thanks to everyone who helped me in the past two years, especially my housemates.

Something about me:

I am into painting, playing tin whistle, reading the classics, and I am also attracted by the beauty of jet engines. You can reach me at: xiangtaom@gmail.com

My story of studying in Canada as an international student (continued)

This is the continuation of Xiangtao Meng’s story of studying at Queen’s University as an international student. Read Part 1 to find out about his experience of learning English language for university preparation.

Part 2: The foundation

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. By Henry Thoreau 

After a transition during the summer, I started my journey at Queen’s. It was a journey into the woods, with picturesque scenery but also with marshes and brambles, appealing and challenging. Frosh week gave me my most favourite memories, from my first time attending a house party to playing with mud in the frosh Olympics; joining a club, socializing with other members, playing laser tag and eating frozen yogurt together on a cold night were also some high points. I was thrilled to find Queen’s to be so diverse in culture, which allowed me to sink into the Canadian culture as well as familiarize myself with other cultures by coming across with other exchange and international students.

In fact, it is these events and activities planned by those back room boys that were the best memories from my first year. I really appreciate the efforts which those back room boys contributed. Moreover, I appreciate the support from an engineering student and my philosophy TA.

Once after coming back from an event at residence orientation, I went for a walk along the lake and sat on a bench, reflecting on the experiences from that day with my new floor-mates and dreaming of my future Queen’s life. At the same time, I felt a little bit homesick because of not talking to my family for couple weeks. While I was sitting there, an upper year Canadian engineering student was taking a walk as well. He passed by me but then turned back and asked whether or not he could sit with me. He sat there and asked why I was sitting alone, he chatted with me and listened to my stories and background, and he encouraged me to talk to my family frequently and suggested ways on how to start a conversation with strangers. From his words not only did I know what my future university life looks like, but I was also encouraged and motivated. Eventually, I overcame homesickness by socializing with people from my classes and meeting many who are supportive and friendly.

Besides the support from this engineering student, my philosophy TA also helped me a lot with writing essays and comprehending texts. I took philosophy in my first year and by the end of first semester the philosophical world appealed to me. However, the amount of reading and writing quadrupled during the second semester which overwhelmed me. Remembering those days when great treaties dominated my mind and when I struggled in understanding concepts and writing term essays, I appreciated the support from the TA. My TA really understood my difficulties, explained concepts patiently, as well as gave me advice on reading and writing. With his help I succeeded in this course and my interest in philosophy was further developed.

With support from others the journey at Queen’s became smoother and I finally succeeded in my first year.

Part 3: The Acceleration of this story is coming soon. Follow our blog to get notices of new posts!

My story of studying in Canada as an international student

My name is Xiangtao Meng, a current second year Economics major student at Queen’s University. Time flies, but memories about the summer I spent in Kingston during the QBridge program, my first year and the first half of my second year at Queen’s are so vivid, and it seems as if they just happened yesterday.

What is QBridge? QBridge is a university preparation program for students who have received  a conditional offer of acceptance to an undergraduate program at Queen’sUniversity.

Part 1: The transition

If you can dream it, you can do it.  By Walt Disney

Before I came to Canada, I had been living in a city called Qinhuangdao, China, since I was born. Different from those who pursue a higher education abroad and study in international schools, I had my education from Grade 1 to Grade 13 in public schools and had never thought about going abroad until the second to last year in my high school. I was facing two choices: attend a great university in China and do excellent there or go abroad and try something new. Even though I was excellent in my high school, I was bored with the rote study and the rigid daily routine without any flexibility, and I really wanted to make my every endeavor on doing what I am interested in and what is new to me. Finally, I chose to study in Canada and at Queen’s University. In order to strengthen my weaknesses before the full time study, I enrolled in the QBridge program during the summer and spent the best summer ever in my life.

Although I spend most of my time on improving English during my first summer in Canada, I was ecstatic about grasping new English skills, and the process of learning English was not dry or monotonous at all. During the class in the day, I was in a really small study group with only seven students and an excellent instructor. Different from my perspective of how a language course is taught, the course was designed in a scheme based more on discussion, guided by the instructor and driven by students’ interests. At the beginning of this course, we were required to choose what we are interested in, and then read and write about it before class and discuss it in class. Before class, I learned new vocabularies, reading skills and writing skills by reading and writing; during the class, I enhanced what I learned by myself and found out new weaknesses. In this way, not only did I become an expert in the field of what I am interested in, but I also improved my English on vocabularies, reading, writing and speaking skills. On the other hand, due to the fact that I only had six hour classes in the day, three hours in the morning and in the afternoon respectively, I had plenty of time for myself after the class at 4:30PM. Personally, I spent most of the time after class on doing homework and exploring Kingston. It was during a walk that I met some compassionate and talkative seniors who I could talk to when I felt bored or homesick. Besides my QBridge classmates, I really treated them as my friends, sharing my stories with them and also listening to their life paths and stories. Gradually, my English improved from classes, self-learning and most importantly from emerging myself into Canada and using English daily.

At the end of the summer, I was glad to see a big improvement of my English, but I was also much more delighted to see was that I gained more confidence on talking to others and accomplishing my undergraduate in a foreign country.

The early bird catches the worm.

Besides the improvement of English, the other thing I really benefited from was the familiarity with the new city and the university campus. When the Residence Move In Day came, and every one was familiarizing with the new campus, I have already known which restaurant is the best in Kingston, where I should go for grocery shopping and most importantly, have bought my first year books and gotten all my first year courses arranged perfectly. When everyone else got lost in the new city and even the new campus, I became a guide for other students and acquainted many people in this way. Without the transition during that summer, I would had been overwhelmed and even had spent a longer time on adapting to the new city, new culture as well as the English-speaking environment.

For me, I armed myself physically by learning Canadian culture, improving English, acquainting with the new city and obtaining confidence. On the other hand, I also armed myself mentally by learning how to think critically. I still remember there was one class in QBridge, when students and the instructor discussed what the traditional Chinese wedding was. When referring to it, I would describe it without any hesitation: bride and groom are wearing the traditional Chinese wedding clothes, the bride is covered with a piece of red cloth and has to cross a basin full of firing charcoal etc. However, I now know I was wrong as I think more critically. Saying traditional Chinese wedding is implicit. There are more than fifty peoples and several dynasties in China, and without clarification of them, traditional Chinese wedding does not refer to any specific wedding at all. In my first year, I start to realize the importance of critical thinking, no matter on reading, writing or even watching news. It helps me to realize the bias of the author or the scene behind the screen and the discrepancy between the fact and what is said.

It was only in these two months in the summer that I transited from an Eastern country to a Western country, and that I improved my English, adapted to the new city, learned about the new culture and got everything prepared for September.

Part 2: The Foundation and Part 3: The Acceleration of this story are coming soon. Follow our blog to get notices of new posts!

How to Overcome Culture Shock

By Richards Dickinsins

RichardFor some people it is difficult to live abroad because it’s hard for them to adapt to the differences between their hometown and the new environment. A clear fact of this problem is when we start to feel sad and unhappy with everything in the new country. At first we have to learn so many new things such as the language and culture. Living abroad is a challenge for many people because it is not easy to live far away from your family and friends, especially when it is your first time. Usually when you are in this situation you don’t realize it. You find everything hard and always want to give up.

A common result of this situation is “depression,” which is when you feel often tired, stressed, not hungry, without energy to do activities and always want to be alone.

Good advice to challenge this is being social and interacting with people; sharing your feelings and keeping your mind busy doing exercise and getting along with friends.

At QSoE, Student Advisor services are also available if you need someone to talk to. You can email soerecep@queensu.ca to schedule an appointment.