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Photo by Astitwa Thapa

Celebrating our international graduating students

April 16, 2015 — 

This week, President David Barnard invited 72 graduating international students into his home for a special reception celebrating their accomplishments and welcoming them into the University of Manitoba’s vibrant alumni community.

The President’s Reception for Graduating International Students is an annual tradition in which the President and his family open their home to honour these students – celebrating their contributions to our campus and community by choosing to pursue their education at our institution.

The event highlights the importance of culture and intercultural competencies in our increasingly connected world. Many international students choose to remain in Canada to work and live, and those who decide to return to their countries of origin do so with a wealth of experience and knowledge that benefit their home communities.

One of the 72 students invited to attend the event was Yunyi Chen, who is graduating with a master’s of education. She has been at the U of M for almost three years. She had been teaching in China at an international high school when her principal encouraged her to pursue graduate studies in Canada. She says, “I did quite a lot of research and finally chose the University of Manitoba based on the programs offered.”

Last July, Chen was contacted by the International Centre for Students (ICS) and encouraged to apply for a student position in the Centre. She did get the job and has been with the office ever since. She explains: “It has been such a wonderful experience working there. All the staff are understanding, supportive and professional. With their help, I have learned a lot, such as how to interact with students, staff and community members with diverse cultural backgrounds. It is because of this work experience that I have found other work opportunities on campus. I have become more confident speaking and writing in English.”

She adds: “My work experience at ICS has changed my life.”

This week’s reception book-ended their journey here at the U of M, which began in October 2014 with an orientation for new international students and the annual Welcome Dinner coordinated by the International Centre for Students. The dinner features fellow international students sharing personal experiences of transitioning to a new country and culture, and a keynote speaker addressed themes around identity, resilience and community.

“The welcome dinner and the President’s reception are important because they honour and recognize the achievement of international students,” says Oritsegbubemi Tenumah, an international student in political studies. “Also, they help make international students feel like we are truly valued and accepted in the Canadian community.”

He adds: “I am looking forward to connecting and celebrating with the other graduands of this fine institution. I am looking forward to having a chat with the President and also a photograph!”

And celebrate they should. Asked about a particular memory from her time in Manitoba, Chen says: “The winter here is frigid! I was so surprised by how cold a place could be upon my first winter in 2012, and the 2013 was even worse―or I should say a lot worse. I am glad that I survived!”

UM Today salutes Chen, Tenumah and the other international students who survived Winnipeg winters to achieve such positive life-changing educational experiences.

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