Kwantlen Focus Week celebrates student exchange

Tai Chi, anime and other events promote program

Torin Slik / The Runner

From Nov. 16 to 20, Kwantlen Polytechnic University hosted a variety of activities and information booths as a part of International Focus Week, the purpose of which was to demonstrate the institution’s commitment to valuing international cooperation of study.

According to the KPU website, “International Focus Week is [KPU’s] biggest line up of events each year, designed to showcase the value that Canadians place on connecting with the world through studying abroad, internationalized curricula, and international service, and on opening the world to Canada by welcoming international elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students, promoting international exchanges, and encouraging qualified foreign students to make Canada their new home.”

Kwantlen provided various activities during the week, from Tai Chi classes to anime screening and to information booths for studying abroad.

One of the information booths, which was stationed each day during the week, was the Amazon exchange booth. Here, students could hear all about past students’ experiences when they went on this adventure.

Connell Green, a creative writing student at Kwantlen, and Lisa King, a recent Kwantlen graduate from the general studies program offered their insights as to what going to the Amazon was like for them.

“We’ve got our university here,” says Green, “And it’s great because we’ve got different people from all over the world here … Going abroad is an opportunity to enter a whole new world.”

Studying abroad in places like the Amazon gives students an opportunity to really immerse themselves into cultures outside of our own.

“It’s a chance to step outside of this identity, this knowledge, that we’ve cultivated over our lifetime,” says Green. “It’s like living in a valley and then going up on this mountain and looking out to see all these different valleys, and then we have a different map inside your head of how we fit into the huge picture of life, really.”

Going to another country in the first place is a unique experience for those who have never done it. Going to another country as part of a university program is quite different. There are a lot of opportunities a student can experience through a study abroad program that would not be possible just as a tourist.

“You’re learning together and get to do things that you wouldn’t necessarily get to do travelling even in a group or on your own,” says King. “We were able to meet contacts there that were exclusive to us. I think that’s the difference between travelling and learning about the stuff yourself or in a group and learning in an educational manner.”

It’s easy to imagine how close one would become with their school partners when living together for two weeks straight in another country, even if they didn’t know each other in the beginning. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to become close friends with fellow students.

“I didn’t know anybody when I went down in the group that we went with,” says King, “But now, I know everyone intimately.”

Of course, the Amazon trip is not the only study abroad program that KPU offers. There are a variety of different locations students can choose to study in, and they are all for different periods of time. While the Amazon trip is two weeks, other places can go up to six months to nearly a year where you study in another institution.

Studying abroad in unfamiliar places can be a daunting idea at first, but what better way to conquer your fears?

“I was very afraid of spiders,” says King. “But I became friends with them when I left.”

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