Hi there! ^_^
For this week’s blog post, I’m going to do something different & interview a friend of mine, Siwen Tang, who is also an OISE student.
I met Siwen on Facebook when I commented on one of her posts in a Facebook group we both joined. We ended up talking, and finally met in August of this year before we both started studying at OISE.
Siwen is a first year MEd student in the Language & Literacies Education program in the Curriculum, Teaching, & Learning Department at OISE. Her expected graduation date is Winter 2017.
Without further ado, I now present her opinion about OISE & Toronto as an international student:
A: What drew you to OISE’s program?
S: “Before coming to OISE, I was a full-time English teacher in a large English training institute in Shanghai, China. I taught English to adults who wanted to have a better job. I learned that English is more than just a language of communication between nations and cultures, but it is also a means for people from all walks of life to achieve betterment. Teaching English is one way of giving people a tool to find better jobs, get promotions and pursue dreams abroad.
While I really loved my job, I noticed the deficiency of my teaching, my limited understanding of language and literacy, and my company’s money-oriented education policy. This couldn’t be fixed simply by gaining teaching experience or experimenting. Sometimes my supervisor and I had different views on English teaching and learning. I realized I wanted to learn more advanced theories about language literacy education. I also wanted to see the world.
I feel this OISE is the best place for me to explore the answers to all my questions and achieve my career goals. The Language and Literacies Education (LLE) program offers me a big selection of courses related to my field. By attending these classes, I will gain a better understanding of teaching, learning and using English as a second language in diverse settings. I can also gain knowledge about language education, policies and planning and teacher education.
I believe that the University of Toronto/OISE’s Language and Literacies Education MEd will provide me with the opportunity to learn in a diverse setting, one which would not be possible in China or even across Asia. Canada also provides an ideal environment for ESL research and experimentation because of its unique status as a mosaic nation of bilingual immigrants.”
A: What did you love about the program and/or your professors and peers?
S: “There are three things I love about the LLE program at OISE.
First is the big course selection. I can choose ten courses from all the courses offered at OISE. While I can focus on courses in language and literacy education, I can also choose classes on leadership, curriculum studies and adult education. This allows us to explore our potential interests. For example, before taking the course Language Art in Elementary School by Professor Clare Kosnik, I was never interested in children’s literacy education. I didn’t know anything about this field. Now, I am so engaged in her class and have learned so much about this topic. Her class has totally changed my view on children literacy education. It is such an eye-opener.
The second thing I love about the LLE program is the flexibility. As I mentioned above, as a full-time student, I am required to take ten courses in order to graduate. The program is one and a half years. I can take classes during Summer session too. This means I will not be extremely burdened by studying. Three courses a semester allows students to have more time to themselves (to work, socialize, or travel). Currently, I just need to go to school three days a week. I have a lot of free time to do what I want to do outside the classroom. Right now I am making Mandarin tutorial videos on Youtube. I am also taking a part-time course at a college nearby. I also have time to explore the city and socialize. The flexibility of the program means graduate students can have a good balance between studying and leisure.
The last thing I love about the LLE program is the warm, welcoming learning environment in every class I am taking now. It is very different from my personal class experience in China, where teachers are talking while students are expected to be quiet and attentive. Here at OISE, there are always a lot of group discussion and presentations in class. Students are always engaged in class and encouraged to voice their opinions. Professors act more as facilitators who create this welcoming and open learning environment, where everyone feels included and willing to express his/her own ideas. Everyone’s opinion and contribution is valued. As an international student, I felt nervous and was afraid of making mistakes in the beginning. I did not talk much in class. I remember my hands were all sweaty when I did my first presentation at OISE. However, professors and other colleagues are so patient and kind with me. I feel much more confident and comfortable in giving presentations and participating in other classroom activities now.
Lastly, I love the people here – both the professors and my peers. The professors I’ve met are very intellectual and extremely kind. They are very friendly and patient. They always give me feedback, and are willing to answer or discuss the questions I have. My peers in the LLE program are experienced language educators in Canada or from different cultural backgrounds. I have met teachers from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Britain, China and Korea. This multiculturalism has brought an interesting dynamic and chemistry into the classroom discussions. I have learned a lot by interacting with them. I feel very blessed and lucky to work with them.”
A: What did you learn about yourself at OISE?
S: “At OISE, there are a lot of group projects in each course. By cooperating with colleagues, I learned that I am good at thinking of new ideas, but not so good at pushing myself to get things done. I am kind of a procrastinator. To solve a problem, the first thing to do is to recognize there is one. I will try my best not to be a procrastinator in the future.”
A: What would you say to a future OISE student?
S: “Don’t be shy or feel embarrassed to voice your opinion. Professor and students are here together to share our ideas, solve problems and create something new. At OISE, you can gain more than you expected, both academically and socially.”
I think that Siwen is a really interesting & enthusiastic person. ^_^ I also wish her the best of luck in completing her degree at OISE!
I hope that my readers enjoyed this post about the perspective of an international graduate student! OISE offers a unique experience due to the diversity of its students’ backgrounds & personal experiences. This post is just a small peek of that. For more information about OISE programs and student life/services, visit: www.oise.utoronto.ca/orss/.