November 8, 2018 8:23 pm

International students showcase culture at University of Lethbridge ‘living library’

On Thursday, International students at the University of Lethbridge showcased the culture of their home country to fellow students at the institution's living library. Matt Battochio reports.

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There are around 1.4 million books in the University of Lethbridge Library. On Thursday, the substantial collection expanded, but not in traditional paperback or hard cover form.

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“Instead of borrowing a book, you go and talk to a person,” University of Lethbridge Library operations specialist Nanda Stannard explained.

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To celebrate international education week, the U of L hosted a “living library,” where students were the books. Students from 10 separate countries showcased their homeland on boards, helping others learn more about where they come from.

“I wanted to do this to introduce people to my country, because I think Japanese culture is very cool,” Kanade Tamura said. “Both in the traditional way and current trends. I just want people to know about Japan.”

Another student was also eager to help out his fellow learners.

“If they have any misconceptions, or questions, we are here,” Satwinder Chahel said. “Sometimes when we’ve never been to a country we have questions and an image of a country, the way it’s seen from the outside.”

Chahel is from India and is enjoying the chance to share his culture with Lethbridge, especially while he’s feeling a little homesick.

“Yesterday was the festival of Diwali. It was a huge celebration in India and I was missing my parents very much,” Chahel said.

Chahel certainly isn’t alone in his feeling. There are a number of challenges these students face, in addition to potential language and cultural barriers.

“They have expectations of making friends with Canadian students, and that sometimes is very hard breaking into those groups,” manager of international services at U of L international Imaru Baquero said. “Even the food is pretty big for a lot of our students. Lethbridge is a pretty small city and the availability of food from all over the world is not huge.”

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Since 2015, international student enrolment has varied at Lethbridge’s two post-secondary institutions.

Lethbridge College has seen a significant jump, citing attractive programming and shifts in foreign immigration policies for the increase.

The University of Lethbridge is on a moderate decline since 2015, noting the cancellation of a science exchange program called Science Without Borders as one of the reasons for the drop in numbers.

The institution tells Global News its goal is to grow international enrolment to 10 per cent of the student population.

As for Chahel, he’s happy with his academic pursuits and what Canada has to offer. He even relishes the weather some Canadians dread the most.

“I live in India, it’s a very hot country. So I like the snow,” Chahel said with a smile.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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