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December 6, 2012

Student shares advice at Mount’s Diversity Dialogue

In Russia, Anastasia Knyazeva knew she wanted to find an academic program that would provide her with the chance to be creative and interact with many different kinds of people. Fast forward a few years, and she’s found that opportunity at the Mount, where she is now a successful third-year student in the Bachelor of Public Relations program.

Anastasia KnyazevaIt was Anastasia’s father who gave her early encouragement to make the move to Canada.

“Canada was always my father’s dream” she says. “Although he had never been to Canada, it was always his dream for me to come here to study.”

With more than 500 international students from 51 countries, the Mount prides itself on having a diverse student body. A strong commitment to delivering appropriate services and providing targeted resources for international students has meant extra support and an easier transition to Canadian student life for many.

Anastasia admits that there are challenges to being an international student in Canada. Like language, the culture, visas and permits and being away from your home country, for a start.

“Language and writing are my biggest challenges, and I try to improve on them every day, but that takes time” says Anastasia. 

Academically, one of the more difficult aspects of being an international student in the public relations program is the mandatory co-op work terms.

At the Mount, co-op terms are mandatory for both public relations and tourism and hospitality students. For international students such as Anastasia, it may not be common to work as teenager, so acquiring prior work experience can be a challenge. Anastasia realized early on that due to her lack of work experience, she would have to try twice as hard to get hired.

“I didn’t have any work experience. I was in a different position than other Canadian students, so it’s a big competition for me to get hired. [However] I found a job here at the Mount, and then kept looking for any opportunities to volunteer and get more work experience just to fill in my resume.”

The Mount’s Co-op Office offers specialized support for students from outside Canada. A new professional development session has been implemented this year to provide international students with extra advice and services to help with resume-writing, cover letters and interviewing skills. The Co-op Office also offers additional one-on-one time and a work visa workshop specifically tailored to the needs of international students.

“Once I found out what co-op was supposed to give me, I was really happy. You get such tremendous and valuable work experience, so for international students that’s really important.”

Anastasia knew that coming to Canada would present challenges, but she was able to embrace the cultural differences and do what was necessary to succeed. By taking opportunities to learn new writing and language skills she has proven that she is willing to work for her success. Anastasia Knyazeva Harry Tian Kyle Stubbs - 2

Anastasia was given the opportunity to share her story and to provide new international students advice on what to expect when entering the co-op program at the Diversity Dialogue that was held on November 30. (Photo (L-R): Anastasia with fellow panel participants Harry Tian and Kyle Stubbs)

Hosted jointly by the MSVU Co-Op office and the International Education Centre, the Diversity Dialogue brought together employers, international students and Canadian students for an afternoon of discussion and networking. Highlights included an employer break-out session discussing the successes and challenges of hiring international students, an international co-op student panel, and guest speaker Elizabeth Mills, Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration.


The above article was contributed by Melissa Nodding, Bachelor of Public Relations student and Student Assistant with the Mount's Cooperative Education office.