I am three weeks into my program at UOttawa and things are going mostly well. I am inundated with work and being an English major means the majority of my work is reading large portions of several books at a time. I am exhausted, but my body clock is adjusting to the two hour difference, which is nice. I am also settling into my dorm and getting to know my surroundings. I meant to write this post a few weeks ago, but I had to hit the ground running when my classes started. But now, I have some time, so let’s do this!
I attended my International Orientation for all incoming exchange students about two weeks ago. It was mandatory for me to sit through the five hour presentation; however, my time was rewarded with a UOttawa reusable bag and a Subway sandwich, which I was totally fine with! I was wondering why they scheduled the entire morning for this presentation. What exactly did we need to know that takes five hours to describe? Well, it’s actually more than a few things. In fact, the International Office talked to us about a ton of things.
Before the presentation started, all of the incoming exchange students (including myself) packed into a 200, maybe 250, seat lecture room. The diversity of exchange students around the room was impressive, more than I had seen at DU. There were students from all over Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Sweden, Germany, Japan, China, South Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast . . so many countries that are so different from the States. It was so cool to see! The International Office introduced themselves and gave us their contact information since they are all of our lifelines while we’re here. They talked about the school, gave us a campus map, and discussed registration details. We then had special speakers come in and talk about the Writing Center, Health Services, and the Fitness Center. It was nice that they showed us all these resources from the get-go.
Finally, they discussed the importance of plagiarism prevention and student-professor relationships, which was interesting to me that they purposely discussed these things. In terms of the plagiarism, I am not certain if other universities around the world do not emphasize citing sources or if they do it at all, because they showed us everything from how to cite sources and how to determine if sources need to be cited. Maybe some students needed a reminder to cite their sources in their work or maybe some students were learning for the first time. It’s interesting that the International Office emphasized a whole section of their presentation to academic fraud, but unfortunately they did say that at least one incoming exchange student is accused of academic fraud per year at UOttawa. DU makes a big deal of academic fraud and citing sources, so it was nothing new to me.
The other fascinating topic was student-professor relationships. The speaker, whose name escapes me right now, was saying that the American, Canadian, and Australian university systems are fairly similar and that students from these specifics countries would have little difficulty assimilating to the academic schematics of the lectures, discussion groups, etc., of UOttawa. Though, students from other countries, such as the Netherlands, may have some difficulty with the “new” look of academics in Canada. The speaker went on to say that here the professor isn’t viewed as “a god” (her words) and that the student-professor relationship is still formal in nature, but way less so than in countries where professors are viewed with higher authority. While this isn’t a problem, Swedish or Danish students may have trouble with the casual nature of the lectures and discussions. They may not realize that they are actually allowed to ask questions or go to office hours to have a conversation with their prof. It is most definitely a cultural shift for those students. In my case, the concepts of office hours, lectures, and discussions aren’t as dramatic to me because DU operates in the exact same fashion. I am grateful in that sense that the adjustment to the academic system in Canada hasn’t been a hassle. Knowing how college classes operate here already allows me to dive into my work a lot faster than I would if I went something completely exotic. But if you’re up for that challenge, by all means do it!
Although the presentation was a little long for me, I’m ultimately glad I went. The speakers cleared up some concerns I had about various things and I became more confident in my new surroundings. The International Office said to email them if we had any questions at all, even if they didn’t pertain to International Office issues. For example, I emailed them about how to ship items back to my home and they helped me right away. There is a certain amount of autonomy that comes with this program and it certainly isn’t for people that aren’t confident being independent or doing things on their own.
But, the International Office will help if you ask them, which is a tip for anyone studying abroad anywhere: asking for help never hurts. Till next time!