LEAF students and the international connections at Laurier

Our small and intimate campus is home to a surprisingly large number of international students. The LEAF program, which draws the most international students to our campus, is designed to build English skills for those who meet the academic requirements for university, but lack the English skills that the university requires. Students come from around the world, with many coming from China and Saudi Arabia. Some come with friends or have family close by, while others make the journey entirely alone. Although it’s daunting for many students to come to a foreign country with little knowledge of the language and customs, Laurier students quickly make them feel at home.

Some LEAF students end up spending a lot of time together with other LEAF students, but many are quick to join campus clubs, make friends at Laurier and become part of our community. In addition, many Laurier students welcome LEAF students with open arms, including them in activities and events to make their transition easier.

LEAF students Aldo Zhang and Wynne Du, for example, were quick to embrace the local community and have made many friends as a result. Aldo volunteers with The Sputnik as a photographer, while Wynne is involved with a number of workshops and sports.

Living with Canadian students has had a definite impact on their experiences here; many are quick to reach out and include LEAF students in activities and events, as well as lend a helping hand.

“Every Goldenhawk is full of passion and energy,” says Zhang. “By the encouragement of my Canadian friends I have tried many new things here.”

In addition to including them in activities and providing some form of support, many students have also had a positive impact on the LEAF students by helping them practice English. Learning Services runs a program that pairs Laurier students with LEAF students as a way for LEAF students to practice their English skills and build relationships.

“They are so nice and willing to help you,” says Du, “it reflects the typical helpful spirit of Canadians.”

Both from China, Zhang came to Laurier from Tieling, a city in northeastern China roughly between Beijing and the North Korean border, while Du came from Nanjing, which is closer to Shanghai. Like many other LEAF students, both plan on staying in Canada to begin undergraduate studies. Zhang is planning on beginning a degree in communications, while Du has already been accepted into the business program at the Waterloo campus.

While they are from rather large cities (Tieling is home to 3 million people and Nanjing is home to around 8 million), they have quickly fallen in love with the students, the school and a much smaller city. It’s our friendliness and willingness to interact that sets us apart.

“Although Brantford is such a small city, it is quiet and people here are nice which just reminds me of my hometown. I love the environment of Laurier,” says Zhang.

Brantford doesn’t have the appeal of larger, more cosmopolitan cities, but it does have a certain laid-back feel to it. It’s the tight-knit community that we have here that appeals to LEAF students looking to become part of the community.

“I like the cozy atmosphere of Brantford. The houses and buildings are beautiful and unique,” Du says.

Taylor DeClerico works in the Student Life and Engagement Office as a LEAF Liaison. She says that the quicker that the LEAF students are able to immerse themselves in student and Canadian culture, the quicker they can learn and excel socially and academically. We as students also have a role in ensuring that each LEAF student is becoming part of the community.

“Laurier students can help by treating them like every other student, and by making the effort to involve and include them in events that Laurier runs,” DeClerico says.

Part of our university experience here at Laurier Brantford involves interacting with students in the LEAF program and developing relationships with them. Moving halfway across the world to attend school is daunting for anybody, but going alone to a place with an entirely different language is downright terrifying. As Laurier students, the little things that we do are what matter most: inviting LEAF students to events, including them in group activities and even simply asking how their day was all go a long way in making sure they have positive memories when they look back on their time here.

Start a conversation, invite them out for lunch or just hang out with a LEAF student, they’ll appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. At worst you know that you helped them understand English a bit better or made them feel included, and at best you’ve made a new friend.

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