Tuesday, August 29, 2017

College Orientation

Last week I went to two different orientations for new students attending Langara College: International Orientation and the normal version. Being American (and college educated) I suspected I would know most of the information bring presented. I also figured that since it had been over three decades since I last did anything significant related to school, I should show up with an open mind.

Mostly, I was right. There wasn't a lot in this presentation that I needed to know, but it was still interesting, in large measure because either college has changed since I was a student, or the world has changed (hello Internet!), or both.

Here are some things I noted from the presentations in no particular order.
  • There is a lot of support for students at this school. Counselors, free tutoring in a bunch of subjects, study spaces you can reserve, and much more. If such things existed back when I was in college, I don't remember it.
  • We were told that Langara has about 3000 international students. That's a huge number, and it imposes a lot of interesting things on a college supporting that kind of enrollment. As you might expect, cultural differences can be significant and lead to several issues. Here are some things that popped out:
    • Eye contact is good. It implies attention and listening. Some cultures see it as a challenge to authority, so it is not something that all students are comfortable doing.
    • Speaking up in class, asking questions, and interacting with the instructor and other students is expected. Again, not all cultures see this as a good thing.
    • Personal space expectations differ between cultures. Canadians have a bubble of personal space and like to keep it (as do Americans). Not so with everyone.
    • Plagiarism is a thing that you have to teach people to avoid. Some cultures think copying the work of others is just fine, or even a form of flattery. That is obviously not the case here, so that has to be discussed.
  • Another interesting section (to me) was on consent. With all those kids getting away from home for the first time and being free to try new things - ahem, sex - I guess that is a topic that really needs to be discussed, but we didn't do that 30+ years ago. Good job for bringing it up.
  • Things seem more organized now than I recall from my original college days. We were told every class will have an outline (syllabus) and all the relevant due dates, exams, papers, and so on will be listed on it. We're to be given that on the first day of class, and we'll live by it. That and Google calendar should be enough to keep anyone on track, but given the tenor of the discussion there are clearly plenty of students who can't manage that. I know some of my classes back in the day had syllabuses, but not all of them, and they were pretty simple things.
  • On a related topic, it was obvious I was much more prepared than other students I interacted with. I had gone in a couple of weeks ago and gotten my student ID, bought my textbook (only one of my classes this semester has a required text), knew my classes and schedule, had activated my local computer accounts, setup WiFi access, and so on. I figured doing all of that would be easier when there were no lines. Lots of people had done nothing like that, despite being in town for weeks already.
  • There is at least one other, mature (a lovely euphemism meaning "older than normal" in this case), international student starting in the fine arts program, like me. He's an Aussie with some silversmithing background. He's younger than I am by a fair bit, but still older then the typical entering Freshman. I hope we share a class or two as we go through the program.
All in all I actually enjoyed the orientations, and while I didn't learn a whole lot that will help me, I am reassured about my own ability to cope as I jump back into this world after a very long time away.