Student newspaper aims to break down international barriers

A new feature in UPEI's student newspaper hopes to introduce international students to its readers, including other international students.

1 in 4 students at UPEI is from outside Canada

Malak Nassar, right, stepped up for the first Disposition column for Chelsea Perry. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

A new feature in UPEI's student newspaper hopes to introduce international students to its readers, including other international students.

Disposition is a forum for international students to introduce themselves. It was recently launched by editor Chelsea Perry.

About one in four students at UPEI come from outside of Canada, something Perry said she was struck by during her first year at the school. She wanted to learn more about them.

"I want to know what it's like growing up from a very, very different background from what I'm familiar with," said Perry.

"It was a very personal project initially. I just really like learning about people and learning their stories. I hope that it builds that greater sense of community."

Telling their own stories

Perry said the idea came from a Ted Talk she saw while she was in high school, The Danger of a Single Story, which focused on the variety of stories that make up our identities as people — and the dangers of oversimplifying those stories.

The hope is by letting international student tell their own stories in Disposition readers will be able to see how people are all similar, rather than focusing on differences.

Malak Nassar, an international student from Egypt, was profiled in the first Disposition. Nassar is at UPEI following in her sister's footsteps, who did an exchange program on the Island.

Nassar said she sees the feature as helping international students understand each other, as much as it helps Canadians.

"International students … put themselves outside of their comfort zone," she said.

"They come here and they're struck with challenges so they try to creep back into their comfort zone and they go into groups of people from the same place,"

Don't be intimidated

Nassar said this happened to her, and it took a conscious effort to go back to spending time with people from backgrounds different from hers.

"It's very important to not be intimidated, to go up to people from different backgrounds, from different cultures, to Canadians. There's so much more similarities than differences, and try to see those," she said.

Perry said there has been positive feedback from the first column, and a number of students have approached her about writing their own stories.

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With files from Island Morning


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