Gabriela Mangano knows first hand the challenges of adapting to a new academic environment.
Originally from Argentina, she now teaches geological sciences at the University of Saskatchewan.
“I had to learn how to interact with people and how to communicate my ideas,” she said.
She also works with the school’s World University Service of Canada to help international students adjust to their new life, but admits she feels many students don’t know what the group does.
That’s why the organization hosted a public forum Wednesday to raise awareness about the about the challenges faced by refugee students and get ideas of how to make them feel welcome.
“The refugee camp itself has a different dynamic and we need to help them to integrate to learn the rules of how we interact,” Mangano said.
As Syrian refugees continue to flee their homeland, some of them making their way to Canada and university is preparing to welcome a couple next fall. The school will welcome six refugees, some of whom are from Syria.
Levies on student fees usually help sponsor two to four refugees and they usually come from African nations. Next fall, students will sponsor three refugees while the university will pick up the tab for the other three.
The students have all passed entrance exams so studying and funding won’t be the main issues. Mangano said their main challenge is making students feel welcomed into Canadian culture and making sure they can maneuver the education system.
“To understand how to enroll or choose courses, what are the opportunities after you finish a degree in a particular field,” she said, adding the refugees aren’t the only ones who benefit. “We get this huge advantage of having these successful, very hard working people with very high potential that are coming in our society.”