Marion Edith Dubin Scholarship in English Winner: Akiho Yatsuda!

Akiho Yatsuda is the Summer 2016 winner of the Marion Edith Dubin Scholarship in English! Akiho, from Chikushi Jogakuen University in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka, Japan, is currently in the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program at the Queen’s School of English. She arrived last Fall, and will be finishing the program in August of this year. We had a chance to sit down with her recently to talk about her experience here:

What were her first impressions of Canada? She recounts her first glimpses of Toronto from the airplane, and compared her view of Toronto to the large cities in Japan. “I’d heard Toronto was a big city, but I didn’t think it was!”

What does she like about Kingston? “I really like Kingston because there is a lot of nature. There are lots of trees, a lake and lots of green space.”

“Kingstonians are also very kind,” she says. She recounts many instances of being lost and fellow Kingstonians helping her with directions.

What experience has she enjoyed the most since she has been here? Her best experiences so far have been ice skating behind City Hall in the winter, and also watching the Kingston Frontenacs hockey team play at the K-Rock Centre. “It was my first time seeing a hockey game. The players were all hitting each other, but it was very exciting!”

She enjoyed her recent winter term when she became friends with classmates who were from all over the world — Brazil, Quebec, Saudi Arabia, China and Libia. “Each person had different opinions, and they all were very motivated to study English.”

Akiho received the highest mark in her class. How did she do it? “The secret is to sit as close to the teacher as possible. If I sit near the teacher I get more opportunities to speak.”

What does she like about the Queen’s School of English? “The teachers in the School of English are really great. They teach very academic English and they have lots of experience. They also give you lots of one-on-one attention.”

What advice does she have to give to students? “Do your best every day. Don’t be lazy. Try to keep doing something every day/month. Always think about your motivation for coming here. I think about my parents and the opportunity they gave me to study here.”

What career goals does she have? Akiho has one more year to complete at university, but would like to work in Japan in communications and perhaps with international students. “I would like to help people using English.”

For more information on Awards, Scholarships and Bursaries or Financial Assistance at the School of English click here.

Making Friends at QSoE

By: Alexander Brunner

alex blog 3My name is Alexander Brunner. I was born and raised in Switzerland. After finishing the Swiss public school, I did an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. While I was working, I realised that I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to get more education because my goal has always been to study psychology. After finishing my apprenticeship, I came to Canada to start learning English at Queen’s School of English.

I chose Queen’s to learn English because of several reasons. The main reason was because of the efforts that Queen’s makes to encourage social connections. Meeting new people, attending social events or just talking to strangers was always something I liked to do. Queen’s School of English gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. They organize social events nearly every day in which, for example, you play card games or you go to play pool or bowling and everything you do, you do with other students from QSoE.

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Additionally, they organize trips like going to Montreal, Toronto or Ottawa, which are also very fun to attend with your friends from QSoE. In general, you don’t have to worry about not making friends or being left behind in social activities. In fact, it is very difficult to not make friends at QSoE, simply because every student going to QSoE is in the same situation as you. Being in a new country where everything seems totally different than in your home country, having problems to communicate because of a language that you first need to learn and leaving all your friends behind brings every student at QSoE in the same situation. The good thing is that it brings students more together, as they need to help each other “survive” the first few weeks in this “strange” country and Queen’s School of English helps you to make the first contacts with students.

alex blog 6Let’s talk about how it is to learn English at Queen’s School of English. Back in Switzerland I was also learning English, so I thought it would not be a big difference learning English here or there. I was wrong. First, I thought the school that I attended in Switzerland for learning English was not bad. Now I realize how boring it was back there. At QSoE you will be surprised how easy it is to learn English. You do so many different activities to learn English, for example, you have discussions, you will learn vocabulary by talking about different topics that you are interested in, you will have debates, you will do different activities in teamwork or in bigger groups and a lot more. Every day will be a new experience. You will be surprised by how easy it is to learn English at QSoE. The teachers at QSoE always try to make your visit to Canada the best experience for you.

Queen’s School of English gave me what I needed and more. I made unbelievable progress with my English and had an amazing time with people from all over the world. I will never forget my experience at QSoE and I’m thankful for the opportunity that I got from QSoE.

Walking Through a Rainbow Bridge

By: Jill Xu

I am a current Queen’s MBA student from China. I am also a mother of a 20-month-old girl. It is the first time for me to live in another country and I plan to work in Canada after graduation. This is my Canadian dream—I hope my daughter could grow up in Canada and I want to be a mother of whom my daughter could be proud. It’s easier said than done. Before I came here, I was really worried about the intensive courses of the MBA program because I have been out of school for so many years and I seldomly spoke English.

Can I adapt to the new life? Can I communicate well with new classmates from different countries? Can I catch up with the lessons?

When I was frustrated, the Pre-MBA QBridge Program came into my sight. This two-month program with small classes and experiential learning were attractive for me. Two months prior to the MBA program, which starts in January, I came to Queen’s to begin the Pre-MBA QBridge program at Queen’s School of English.

If you ask me to describe the program, I would say it’s my rainbow bridge.

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For the first several days, I dared to talk to anyone. I was nervous when I went to the grocery store because I was not sure whether I could understand what the tellers were saying. In China, we usually buy live fish for cooking, but when I came here I never went to buy live fish because I had to talk to the sellers. Making a phone call was even more difficult. I made no phone calls in the first several weeks.

I have to say that the QBridge program saved me. Everyday during the morning sessions, we spent half an hour reading the Globe and Mail newspaper. Our writing teacher, Susan, explained some political, economic and cultural news to us.  Sometimes we watched videos from TED Talks. The knowledge I gained from the newspapers and videos has proven to be very useful in my latter MBA program. Now if I want to start a conversation with teachers or classmates, I have many topics to talk about: the revenue-split policy of Harper’s government, the slumping oil prices and traditional Canadian food. In some of the MBA courses, professors often assign some reading materials or videos from Globe and Mail or TED Talks. The reading and listening in QBridge was a good start for me.

During the QBridge program, we had an experiential learning once a week. We had a conversation with a local business owner, a portfolio manager and a customer manager at Scotiabank. We also joined the Christmas party of Chamber of Commerce, the established meeting of disability organization in Kingston, and the ceremony for the Memorial Day. During this process, we had a chance to better understand the culture and the business world of Canada, and to learn communication and networking skills that are essential for MBA students.

In the last week of the program, teachers and students brought food of their own countries and enjoyed an international potluck lunch together.

For me, the Pre-MBA QBridge Program is not just a language program, but a warm-up program for my MBA.  I feel very lucky to have been enrolled in this program because when the MBA program started, I had no time to learn the language or to adapt to its fast pace, but only to work hard on all the papers, team projects and different assignments.

Today is the 100th day I have been at Queen’s. I like talking to my wonderful classmates from Canada, India, Africa and Brazil. I have made several complaint calls to my internet providers and I often go to grocery store and I buy live fish for cooking. Although it’s cold in Kingston now, I can still feel the warmth and colorful lights of the rainbow of the Pre-MBA QBridge Program. I’ve gone through the rain days and now I am walking to my dream.

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!