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Around the world in three days

International students visit Labrador with Culture-to-Community Program

Student Life

By Laura Barron

Memorial University students hailing from Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia recently travelled to Nain and Sheshatshiu, Labrador to visit with students and staff at Jens Haven Memorial School and Sheshatshiu School.

This year’s Culture-to-Community Program includes Mohammed Kasmi, a master’s student in the Faculty of Education who comes to Memorial from Morocco; Deniz Sariguzel of Turkey, who is also a master’s student in the Faculty of Education; and Satria Kusuma of Indonesia, who is an undergraduate student in the Faculty of Business Administration.

From left, Satria Kusuma, Deniz Sariguzel and Mohammed Kasmi in Nain.
From left, Satria Kusuma, Deniz Sariguzel and Mohammed Kasmi in Nain.
Photo: Valeri Pilgrim

Organized by Memorial’s Internationalization Office, and funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Culture-to-Community provides students in the K-12 school system in Newfoundland and Labrador with access to other cultures through direct, in-person contact with international students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Valeri Pilgrim, international student advisor and new arrivals co-ordinator with Memorial’s Internationalization Office, says the Culture-to-Community Program gives international students the opportunity to experience various regions of our province in a cross-cultural setting. It also offers our province’s K-12 students valuable insight into different cultures, faiths, languages and experiences.

Born and raised in Labrador, Ms. Pilgrim has been happy to assist the program with logistics over the past two years.

“This year, the students made it all the way to Nain, which happens to be my hometown,” said Ms. Pilgrim. “I was honoured to show off my home community and I was thrilled my home community welcomed them in many ways.

“Their presentations within Jens Haven Memorial School were amazing and the kids were engaged. I was also tickled that Mohammed, Satria and Deniz attended an Inuttitut class, took part in an Illusivut class – which is life skills programming, such as sewing – and participated in traditional Inuit games. They also tried some traditional food such as goose and Arctic char. It will be a trip we will never forget.”

An inuk in Nain, Labrador
An inuk in Nain, Labrador
Photo: Deniz Sariguzel

Mr. Kasmi, Mr. Sariguzel and Mr. Kusuma were equally excited to share their cultures and experiences and to explore life in Northern Labrador Aboriginal communities.

As a teacher, Mr. Sariguzel was eager to see the classrooms in these communities and to see how students and teachers work and study in classroom settings in Labrador. This was his first trip to Labrador as well as his first visit to an Aboriginal community. He was struck by the similarities between cultures.

“It was surprising for me to find very similar words in Inuttitut and my language, Turkish,” said Mr. Sariguzel. “This gave me an idea that Inuit people and my ancestors may come from the same origins.”

He was also excited to share his experiences.

“I always like to tell something about my country to the people I meet here. I want them to know more about my country, my culture and traditions.”

Along with pursuing a master’s degree in education, Mr. Kasmi is an assistant for the Culture to Community Program, and was thrilled to visit Labrador for the first time.

“To be honest, I loved it!” said Mr. Kasmi. “It was awesome to visit Aboriginal people of Canada. They were very nice and excited to hear from us about our cultures and countries. Even though Nain was so cold and freezing (-33 c), we found a lot of warmth from the people of that community. We were invited by an Inuit family to try the traditional food of Nain. It was the family of Valeri who invited us to try the traditional meal and eat the goose. It was my first time to try it and it tasted delicious!”

Mohammed Kasmi meets a polar bear.
Mohammed Kasmi meets a polar bear.
Photo: Deniz Sariguzel photo

Mr. Kasmi says he learned a great deal from the trip.

“We learned some words and phrases in the Inuttitut language, like saying ‘thank you’ – ‘Nakummek;’ ‘good morning’ – ‘Ullâkut;’ and ‘my name is’ – ‘Uvanga.’ We also learned from the students that their families rely heavily on hunting animals as their main source of food, including sea mammals and land animals like seals, goose, Caribou and polar bear.”

Satria Kusuma speaks with a class at Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain.
Satria Kusuma speaks with a class at Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain.
Photo: Deniz Sariguzel

For Mr. Kusuma, visiting Jens Haven Memorial School was the highlight of the trip.

“I was able to present to various grades including grades 3, 6, 7, and 9, whilst the rest of the team visited other grades in the school,” said Mr. Kusuma. “All the students were interested in the presentation and were constantly asking questions about various culture differences.”

All three international students were intrigued by the traditional Inuit games played by the students at Jens Haven Memorial School.

“I learned and participated in a few of the games, and we had a chance to challenge the students as well,” said Mr. Kusuma. “But, of course, the students were way more skillful than us!”

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