They know the feeling of being a long way from home, that’s why a group of South Korean moms who attend Selkirk College are reaching out with kindness to the latest cohort of international students arriving to the West Kootenay.
Following strict COVID-19 quarantine protocols, 50 incoming students arrived in late-August and early-September from several countries to begin their Canadian post-secondary journey. To help get the new students through the quarantine period, a group calling themselves “We Care K-Moms” have been shopping and delivering food to different locations to help ensure a soft landing during a challenging time.
“Even though we didn’t suffer the quarantine time, we did have the same experience of being alone in a new country,” says Hyeonju (Julie) Yang. “When we deliver the groceries, they feel blessed and thankful. That we can make them feel more comfortable is a good thing. It makes us feel good as well.”
The We Care K-Moms have been working to ensure incoming international students have a soft landing in their new learning environment. The volunteer group of Selkirk College students includes: (L-R) Yeonmi Lee, Yujin Choi, Eunyoung Ha, Hyejin Lee, Soyun Lee, Seonah Jung, Hyeouju Yang, Mira Jeon, Jeonghee Lee and Wanhee Choi.
The We Care K-Moms group includes 10 students who are studying on the Castlegar Campus in a variety of different programs that include the English Language Program, Education Assistant & Community Support Worker Program, Post-Graduate Diploma in Accounting Program and the Early Childhood Care & Education Program. All 10 women have children who are attending public school in the Castlegar area.
Having arrived to Canada pre-pandemic within the last year, the women are eager to immerse themselves in both Selkirk College and the greater community as they settle into an exciting new chapter of their lives.
“We are people from different backgrounds and different education, however there is one thing that we have in common and that’s that we enjoy the voluntary service in Korea,” says Yujin Choi. “We are new to the area, but we want to serve too. Shopping for the quarantine students directly helps the safety of the community, we gladly accepted this work.”
New Learners Face New Challenges
International students are a vital part of life on Selkirk College campuses with students arriving from all corners of the world. COVID-19 travel restrictions have put a dent in numbers, but the federal government is permitting those students whose visas were approved prior to March 18 to enter the country if their program has an in-person component.
In the past month, Selkirk College has arranged safe transportation to the West Kootenay from Canadian airports and all new arrivals have been required to quarantine for 14 days in student housing, local hotels, homestays or privately arranged accommodations. While the college monitors the progress, volunteers have been stepping forward to help ensure meals, food and supplies are delivered.
We Care K-Moms members Jeonghee Lee (left) and Soyun Lee (right) during a recent grocery shopping run in Castlegar where they picked up and delivered essential items for new arrivals to the West Kootenay.
“Even in normal times, there is a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety that students face when coming to study in a new country,” says Misoon Jang, Selkirk College’s International Student Services Coordinator. “We have an excellent plan that protects both the students and the community, but there is a human element that requires us to make sure these new students feel welcome. This mom’s group is an important part of making them feel more at ease with this situation.”
Once the quarantine period is complete, the latest cohort of international learners proceed with their studies in different programs just like other Selkirk College students.
Feeling Welcome in a New Home
The students in the We Care K-Moms group are all university educated in South Korea and come from a variety of career backgrounds that include running successful companies, teaching and working in the financial sector. They arrived to rural British Columbia from massive cities like Seoul and Busan with the common goal of providing their kids a new experience in rural British Columbia.
“I made the change because of my children, I want to show them the bigger world,” says Yang, who has twin daughters in Grade 9. “I wanted to give a chance to my daughters to have an education in English and watching how well they are doing makes me want to learn even more. It’s a good chance for me to also learn more English.”
Though it has not been easy leaving their lives in South Korea, the moms agree that the people of the region have greeted them openly as they pursue their studies.
“The attitude of people in this community is so good, I can feel relaxed and comfortable even though my English is not so good,” says Choi, who also has twin daughters who are currently in Grade 6. “People are always smiling and don’t mind if I speak wrong. It’s the people’s attitudes that make me comfortable.”
The food delivery is just the start for the We Care K-Moms who are hoping to carry on their volunteer work in the greater community.
“It makes us happy to help other people, volunteering and giving our time is very important because want to be contributing members of this community,” says Choi. “We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to provide service to the community. We hope that the voluntary service we are providing will expand throughout the area. We believe that our actions will be reflected in our children and this cycle will make the world more beautiful.”