Dear international student,
Congrats on making it into BCIT! Consider yourself lucky; there is no place quite like it. I say that with the most heartfelt understanding and fondness of how BCIT grows on you. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the BCIT path is not for the faint-hearted. Your experience here will be an intriguing mix of fatigue, exhilaration, and pride.
Your first couple of weeks might have you wondering why you even applied here in the first place. You might feel like you bit off more than you can chew by applying into an accelerated program while trying to acclimate to a new country and culture. That’s an understandable feeling. You might even look at your classmates who are local students with a hint of envy because they seem to adjust to the pressure of school more easily since they don’t have to try to navigate a cultural divide. That feeling is hard to get over.
The most vital lesson you could take from that out-of-place feeling in the first few weeks is that you are growing out of your comfort zone. You might have a hard time understanding how being out of your comfort zone might help you. It gets even harder to cope with when homesickness kicks in. I’ll let you in on a secret, though—it is one of the most gratifying and character-building experiences you will ever go through. Learning to stand on your own two feet and exploring your independence feels scary at first, but once you get the hang of balancing school and your wellbeing, you will be glad you took the leap of faith to study abroad.
BCIT’s international student orientation is a great opportunity for you to meet other bewildered people, and if you can make friends from that brief session, you’re off to a great start. I say this because the hectic schedule of being a fulltime student here makes it difficult to keep up a social life at first. The friends you make in the few campus coordinated events are ones you make because you want them. Most class projects leave you with acquaintances that you have to put up with because you are stuck together. Making friends in a new environment will certainly be an intentional process, because often you will experience a cultural divide or language barrier with the local students. The trick to navigating those awkward first encounters is reminding yourself that the next day is a new day to build from the hiccups.
While everyone around you in your program is interacting, don’t feel shy, bring yourself forward too. No-one is eager to make friends with people they don’t know, so make the effort to be known by your peers. Try asking questions about what people do for fun here, or what people’s experience was like growing up here. At BCIT, the onus will probably fall on you when it comes to making friends with local students, because it’s natural for people to lean towards what they know. For you, that might look like finding a local community here in Metro-Vancouver that shares your heritage. Still, a handful of campus friends wouldn’t hurt.
On that note, I’d like to point out that making connections with other international students will likely feel much easier. You’re instantaneously bound by your acclimating experience and it’s always interesting to hear how other international students are coping with living away from home. The people you meet from this pool are in the same boat as you and are as eager as you to make new friends. Knowing that is heartwarming because the people you meet within the international student community could end up being the friends you never imagined you could have.
In a way, BCIT is reflective of the larger cosmopolitan Vancouver environment. With the transition to mostly online learning you may feel alone, but it’s important to remember that you are a part of a larger network. You will meet people from all walks of life and that will open you up to different perspectives on not only school and work ethic, but belief systems, interests, and so much more. Be open to it. I feel you only get to experience all that BCIT has to offer if you open yourself up to being around people that challenge you and help you see things in a different light.
Best of luck,
From one international student to another.