Every year, VFS opens its doors to over one thousand excited and sharp-minded students ready to pursue their passions. Instead of delving in a traditional 2 to 4 year program, these students have chosen to dive deep into a one-year intensive learning experience here at VFS. For the Game Design program, this means one year of absorbing as much as they can by immersing themselves into all things game design.
This can be hard enough for local students, but if you are an international student, there can be added challenges. For example:
- English may be a second language
- you have left your home, friends and family to relocate to a new country where you don’t now anyone
- this is the first time you will be living away from home
The point is, no matter if you are a young adult or mature student, this year can be an overwhelming and we at VFS understand that.
YOUR FIRST FEW DAYS AT VFS
Since you’ll be starting in the Fall, you may wonder, ‘What’s up with all this rain?’ It really does rain a lot here but our temperatures don’t drop too drastically which is a good thing. One of the more daunting questions troubling you is, what do I need to bring on my first day? Nothing. Not a thing – not even a backpack. On your first day of class you will receive your Student Kit, this includes a backpack and most of the basic course materials you will need, along with your Student ID and Campus Access Card. There’s even an umbrella in there – I really wasn’t kidding about the rain.
My biggest advice is to not worry if you feel nervous; be patient with yourself. The first few days or weeks are the most difficult. If you allow yourself time to acclimatize, you’ll find things quickly becoming easier as the weeks progress. It will help you to read the Student Handbook so you are familiar with VFS’s policies – there are no surprises that way.
At no point will you be alone; first of all you’ll have me (Tanya Jensen) your Program Manager, along with Program Assistant Sharai Grant. Then there’s Dave Warfield, Head of the Game Design Program. If you have questions or concerns, you are more than welcome to speak with me, Sharai or Dave – our doors are always open and we look forward to student visits, so stop by and say hi!
The Student Services team are here to help you settle in quickly after your arrival, and will continue to assist you should you need it at any point through your year. You will meet Student Services Manager Lilah Orkin and the rest of the team at Orientation.
Student Services help with:
- Medical Insurance/Coverage
- How to open a local bank account
- Social events around town, and much, much more.
YOUR FIRST FEW WEEKS
A Term in the Game Design program is 8-weeks long. The first few weeks of the first term are busy for every new international (and Canadian) student as you get to know your classmates, learn about the campus and get used to the class schedule.
We will take you on a campus tour so you start to get an idea of its layout. Familiarize yourself with where you need to go for classes. If you need ESL help, contact Student Services to set up some free classes. Do not forget to ask questions if you want answers!
Studying at VFS
Classes at VFS require you to be actively involved. One year will fly by faster than you think, so why not just dive in and get the most of your time? The easiest way to make sure you give yourself the best chance to succeed is by attending all of your classes and completing assignments on time.
As teamwork is the crux of the game design industry, you will work towards enhancing your teamwork skills through team projects. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and speak up in class but be open to different points of views. This way you will also hone your critical thinking skills.
Course work and examinations
Different criteria of evaluating your work will help you to learn a wider variety of skills. For example, some people do much better on written tests but others are better in presentation situations. By practicing presentation skills, teamwork skills and research skills, you will become academically stronger and better prepared for the workplace.
It is extremely important to participate in all class activities. For example, you may be asked to participate in in-class discussions. Apart from the obvious learning experience, your attitude and eagerness to participate will be a good reflection of your professionalism …let’s face it, brownie points are always cool. You may come across some assignments and/or activities that you feel do not apply to you. Trust me, they will in the long run. You will get out of this program as much as you put in.
Make no mistake, this is an intensive year. If at any point you start to feel overwhelmed or just need someone to talk to, we have School Counselors available. If this sounds like something you want to do, just email the Program Manager’s office or Student Services and we will set up an appointment for you. This is done under completely confidentiality with no explanations are necessary.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS: Typical problems and concerns
During the first week, International Students will need to drop off copies of their Study Permits to Admissions Office at 198 West Hastings Street.
Vancouver boasts a multi-cultural community. People are generally friendly and helpful so don’t feel shy about asking for assistance or directions. Below is a list of the most typical concerns international students have:
If English is not your first language, then you may find having to use English on a daily basis challenging at first. Some language problems you might encounter when you first arrive are:
- You may find the local accent difficult to understand. Give yourself time to get used to it.
- You might also have your own accent which other people find difficult to understand right away. Don’t let this stop you – simply speak slowly and, if you are having a hard time understanding someone, don’t be shy about asking others to speak slowly.
- You will need time to get used to the local slang – this will come with time.
- Humour and sarcasm vary in different parts of the world. Here in Canada, these often go hand-in-hand in daily speech. This should be interpreted as a sign of friendliness, not disrespect.
- Canadians use lots of abbreviation in their speech (for example, TA for Teachers Assistant). If you don’t understand something, simply ask the meaning of it.
Be fair to yourself – give yourself time to adapt to the language and don’t be afraid to make mistakes! This is all part of your learning experience.
Homesickness is a normal emotion and can happen at the beginning or even well into your year. Here is some advice on how to tackle this:
Homesickness will pass. Be patient. Give yourself at least two weeks to get used to your new surroundings. If, after that, you still feel a little down, talk to your friends – explain what is happening.
- The worst thing you can do is distance and alienate yourself. Don’t stop coming to class; if you do, the homesickness will worsen.
- Homesickness can deepen by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick students feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone. Try to limit yourself to one call home every week. The sooner you integrate into the VFS experience, the sooner your homesickness will pass.
Most people travelling outside of their own country experience some level of culture shock (the process of adjusting to a new country and new culture that might be dramatically different from their own).
Like homesickness, culture shock will lessen over time as you settle in, make friends, improve your English and begin to understand life in Canada a little better. Again, be patient and remember that you are not the only one experiencing these feelings. Problems can be solved only if others know about them and can help you. You have a number of sources for help, including:
- Your Program Manager or Head of Department
- Student Services
- VFS Instructors and TA’s
- Your Homestay family
Don’t be shy – getting to know people in the Game Design program is easy because you all share the same passions and are on the same journey. It may sound simple, but a smile and hello goes a long way. Be polite and friendly; expressing gratitude and appreciation to those around you will improve your dealings with people. It’s amazing how much people are willing to help out if you simply say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
Then, before you know it, you will be graduating. So when you get here, don’t focus too much on the destination – enjoy the ride. That’s what it’s really about.
Tanya Jensen is the Program Manager for VFS Game Design