By Whitney Sharp
When Isabel Chan was preparing to study abroad and leave Macau, a former Portuguese colony now part of China, she had her sights set on Australia. But with extended family already in Canada, her plans to study Down Under were quickly replaced by plans to study in the Great White North.
Chan came to Canada as a teenager, completing high school at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver. After graduating, she began studying business as an international student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), where she completed a diploma in marketing and later, a bachelor of business administration in entrepreneurial leadership.
Like many international students, Chan was shy when she began her post-secondary studies. But the emphasis KPU placed on applied skills and hands-on learning meant she couldn’t stay shy for long.
“A lot of business courses required group projects or teamwork. Some research projects meant talking to people I didn’t know and asking them questions. I had to start talking to people. I had no choice.”
As she became more outgoing, Chan took on challenges in a new role at KPU: a student assistant with the international department, where she was the frontline in the office answering phones and handling general inquiries.
In 2008, after graduating with her degree, Chan parlayed her dedication and desire to help incoming international students into a full-time job as an international student recruiter at KPU.
She took on the globe, venturing to China, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan—places she had never been before—promoting the university abroad. Back on Canadian soil, Chan continued to work hard supporting international students throughout their studies, and ensuring they were aware of all the resources available to them.
“I learned things the hard way.” Chan says, adding, “I was in my third year before I realized I had benefits and coverage that I had been paying for all along”
Requirements for students studying abroad are more complex, and require additional steps like applying for permits and visas.
“I wanted to make a difference for students coming to Canada. It can be really overwhelming and lots of students don’t know what their options are or how much help there really is.”
Chan, still working at KPU, has made Canada her permanent home. She now works as an international recruitment and admissions coordinator, helping incoming students adjust to studying and student life at KPU and in Metro Vancouver. “KPU is like family,” Chan says, “I couldn’t imagine leaving.”
To find out more about the international department at KPU, visit kpu.ca/international