Dealing with Culture Shock and Becoming Independent

It is one thing to have had the opportunity to travel outside of your country with family. When travelling with family, you have the company and comfort of a loved one throughout your journey. However, for many international students in TRU, this is the first time that they have left home to be on their own, hence stepping out of their ‘comfort zone’ and heading into unknown territory. Some people tend to adapt quickly to the change, however, for others, the culture shocks that they face during their first few weeks in Kamloops can feel never-ending!

Take as an example current MBA student Harsha Boodhun. Harsha arrived in Kamloops on August 26th,2017, and although she has travelled previously to China with her family, this is the first time that she has travelled overseas on her own. Arriving late on a cold night, the person that was supposed to pick her up from the airport decided to not give her a ride to her dorm in TRU McGill Residence in order to ‘teach her how to be independent’, leaving her to carry her luggage and to find a cab on her own. Undoubtedly, this incident changed Harsha’s perception of Kamloops’ residents.

Narrating her first night in Kamloops, Harsha states, “In my home country of Mauritius, we just see if a cab is free and request them to take us to our destination. Here, it’s different. You have to reserve it first. When I approached a few cab drivers outside of the airport, they informed me about how to book a cab and since I did not have a Canadian number yet, one of the cab drivers called a cab for me. This was the first time I realized how nice people are in Kamloops. The cab driver who picked me up was very friendly and showed me around Kamloops while telling me Kamloops stories on the way to my dorm. There, at that moment, I realized how friendly people are in this small city. Later that night, the International Advisor with whom I was in contact throughout my journey from Mauritius to Kamloops learned that my suitcases got stuck at Vancouver airport and brought me some basic utilities, such as blankets, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. at 10 pm. My perception of people living in Kamloops started to take a new turn.”

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Soon, Harsha’s first semester at TRU began. Harsha used to socialize only with other fellow Mauritians who were also new to Kamloops. They assumed that other international students did not want to befriend them as they would prefer to stick with people of their own ethnicity, maybe because it’s easier to communicate amongst themselves in their home language. However, as time passed, Harsha was introduced to ‘the world of networking’ and soon realized that she is the one who has to take the initiative and approach people from other cultures or backgrounds. After all, there is nothing she could lose. Eventually, she broke out of her nutshell and she was able to build a network of her own, both personal (with her classmates) as well as at a professional level, such as with the staff of SoBE and faculty members at TRU.

Harsha started to participate in volunteering activities, both on-campus and around the Kamloops community, to meet more people and build her experience. she describes her experience as follows: “I initiated by being a participant in the TRU BC MBA Games 2017 whereby TRU was hosting the game and as TRU students we were responsible to motivate and guide the other 4 universities from BC. Later, I also took part in the TRU BC MBA Games 2018, this time being hosted in Vancouver by UBC. Personally, both times it was a learning experience and a lot of fun, especially after we won the MANN Cup in 2018. I mentioned learning experience because I met students and faculties from other institutes, which helped me build my network.”

Describing her overall experience thus far, Harsha recounts the following: “This is how it all began, my journey to becoming independent. During my first semester, I became active in the Bridge to Business (B2B) initiative. An atmosphere of knowledge and experience within the real business world, meeting entrepreneurs, being taught about dining etiquettes and all of these for FREE! My continuous participation in this initiative gave me the opportunity to be selected as a B2B Co-Chair of the Communications Officers. Next, I joined Toastmasters High Country Achievers Club in 2018. They are like a family and they have helped me improve my public speaking a lot more than I had imagined, being selected as the Vice-President of Membership for the club in 2019. I also had the opportunity to assist a professor on campus as a Graduate Research Assistant, as well as to conduct some focus groups regarding a research paper that is being written, and the list goes on and on.” 

“The point is, coming from a small island taking upon my shoulder a completely different background, culture, way of thinking, eating habits and having been able to adjust and live in the Kamloops community makes me feel proud and successful, especially after having built a network of my own. The main reason for narrating every success I achieved during my time at TRU is because both TRU and Kamloops taught me to never stop. Life is just more fun and successful when you keep trying and keep challenging yourself to aim for higher goals.”

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Indeed, there is so much we can learn from students’ experiences, such as Harsha’s. She is always happy to sit down for a cup of coffee and make a new friend, so do not feel shy to say hi to her whenever you see her on campus!