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Date: April 21, 2005

Heartfelt Letter Leads to International Award

A heartfelt letter home about how her struggles with Canadian culture provided a surprising academic advantage and won University of Victoria graduate student Mika Oshige the inaugural International Student of the Year Award from the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE). Oshige, a master’s student in educational psychology from Nagoya, Japan, receives a $1,000 prize for the award.

CBIE invited international students to write a letter telling family or friends what it’s like to study in Canada. Five hundred students sent entries from across the country representing visiting students from around the globe.

Oshige originally came to UVic with plans to be an interpreter and she earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and linguistics. In her letter she describes how her daily attempts to unravel Canadian culture increased her awareness of being in a minority “both ethnically and cognitively.” Struggling to learn a new language gave her insight into challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities. She acknowledged how deeply her own cultural values influenced her belief system. Being aware of both cultures simultaneously, Oshige was able to bring a different perspective to class discussions.

“Because of my unique experiences, I became interested in studying how cultural and societal belief systems influence human social development,” wrote Oshige. “In the end, my original goal of becoming an interpreter took a different form. It’s [as] an interpreter of human minds rather than human languages.”

CIBE established the new award in honour of Elizabeth (Liz) Paterson who, for 25 years, served as director of the International Student Centre at the University of Toronto. The program is supported by the Elizabeth Paterson Endowment Fund. The full text of Oshige’s winning letter, and those of students whose entries earned an honourable mention, can be found at www.cbie.ca.
Media contacts:
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-7656 or ppitts@uvic.ca
Jennifer Humphries (CBIE) at (613) 237-4820, ext. 246 or jhumphries@cbie.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

(image: fern)