Strangers in a friendly land


The following article was written by Neil Reimer, a Red River College student in the Creative Communications program for “Community News Commons”, an online news hub. The story is about “foreign students” (Neil Reimer’s term) and the challenges they face when they come to Canada and adjust to life at Red River College. Neil Reimer interviewed Gabriela Ludusan, Mentor Program Coordinator, and focused the article on the impact and importance of the Cultural and Language Mentor Program. This article is posted with permission from Neil Reimer.

Foreign students at Red River College have to face many challenges living in Canada. Fortunately, they don’t have to do it alone.

One of those students is nineteen-year-old Nipneet Butter. She comes from Punjab, India, and is studying Applied Accounting. It was hard for her to leave her home. Now, her biggest challenge as a foreign student living in Winnipeg is meeting new friends.

“Leaving your friends with whom you have spent all your happy and sad moments is definitely challenging and heartbreaking,” said Butter.

She would like to see her fellow students outside of the class more often but doesn’t feel there are enough opportunities to bring them together.

In order to meet more people and to try to make friends she has signed up for The Cultural and Language Mentor Program, a program offered twice a year at the college, from September to December and again from January to April.

The Program pairs an international student with a Canadian staff or student for friendship, English language practice and cross-cultural exchange. Last year there were 280 completions.

Ayomikun Kayode is from Nigeria, and now lives in Winnipeg. A recent graduate of Red River College, Kayode also took part in The Cultural and Language Mentor Program while studying at the college.

“I was able to have very great partnerships with two wonderful people that were always ready to advise me accordingly, support me even outside of school, and introduce me to lots of opportunities out there,” said Kayode.

Gabriela Ludusan, Mentor Program Coordinator

Gabriela Ludusan, Mentor Program Coordinator

The program helps students from other countries adjust to College life in Canada by providing friendships with other Canadians, improving communication skills, reducing isolation, and developing skills to be successful at Red River College and in the workplace.

When Gabriela Ludusan came to Canada from Romania she already had a degree and enough skills to enter the work force. Currently, she is the coordinator of The Cultural and Language Mentor Program at Red River College.  She knows first handmany of the difficulties facing foreigners who choose to live in Canada.

“The Local Mentor is typically a Canadian students or staff, someone who was either born in Canada or raised here, or students who have been here for a while and they identify with the culture of the city,” said Ludusan.

The foreign student, or Global Mentor, brings with them their knowledge of a foreign culture. The aim of the program is to have an equal cultural exchange between the two mentors.

The biggest benefit of the program for the Global Mentor is the improvement in language and communication skills. According to Ludusan, 74.3 percent of the Global Mentors have seen a significant improvement in this area.

“The idea is to empower the students, giving them the skills they need to survive on their own,” said Ludusan.

While the program is a volunteer opportunity, some academic programs also partner with the Diversity and Immigrant Student Support department to offer the Cultural and Language Mentor Program as a graded assignment option to students.

For more information, or to volunteer, check out: