Thompson Rivers University

Campus connectedness and the cycle of support

October 25, 2017

Aksa Mughal says, "Be a good student and opportunities will follow."

After receiving her Master’s in English Linguistics and Literature from National University of Modern Languages in Pakistan, Aksa Mughal ventured to TRU to pursue her Master’s of Education.

Aksa flew for the first time at the age of 29 from Pakistan to Toronto to Calgary, completing the very long journey via a Greyhound bus to Kamloops. “I had never traveled internationally before. During the drive, I stared out the window the whole time; I was completely exhausted, but I couldn’t close my eyes and the smile wouldn’t wear off. I was in awe of the landscape.”

Upon arrival, Aksa zeroed in on her academic mission. “At International Orientation, I wrote everything down. I was incredibly focused and had to get everything done the right way,” she recalled.

Once classes kicked off, Aksa immersed herself in the course load. “My life was a cycle of eat/sleep/study. When I wasn’t in class or exploring campus, I was working in my dorm room.  Once I got straight A’s in the first semester, I knew what it took to succeed, and then—I was out there,” she laughed.

An active volunteer, Aksa participates in international and domestic orientations, tutors at the Writing Centre and helps with summer camps at Immigrant Services.  Aksa joined the Student Union in 2016, and was a part of the Caucus graduate studies committee, which identified and addressed student issues and concerns.  Though she remains diligent when it comes to carving out study time, Aksa relishes the time spent in service,  “Volunteering is important to me. The work connects you to the community and provides so many opportunities and benefits.”

Aksa aims to heighten the positive student experience and encourages that welcoming spirit in others. She believes that everyone could benefit from accepting a collective responsibility to create campus connections. It is especially important to be friendly and hospitable to international new-to-TRU students. “There are clusters of different cultures on campus; inclusivity starts with a simple greeting. Smile, say hello, ask questions and initiate the conversation. Make yourself available to help others,” Aksa said.

Jenna Goddard, Writing Centre Coordinator and Student Success Lecturer, said, “Not only do international students have to navigate a new language and culture, they often need to learn a whole new set of academic expectations and rules. Helping to facilitate this sometimes overwhelming transition is important.”

Keeping an eye out for fellow students who look lost or distressed creates a cycle of support that creates a chain reaction of care, inclusion and community on campus.  Aksa advises, “Treat your school work like it’s your job and do it well. Be highly organized, meet with professors regularly and set specific goals. Be a good student and opportunities will follow.”

As for handling loneliness, isolation or culture shock–which can hinder academic suceess, Aksa recommends that students take their time. “Don’t rush yourself. Take tiny steps to navigate the world around you.”

Jenna remarked, “Aksa is amazing. Her passion for teaching and learning is infectious.”

As for the future, Aksa enjoys academic life and foresees a career in Student Services. “I want to focus my energy on the student lifecycle and the support systems that assist their individual needs.”

Check out the website for more information about the Writing Centre.

Connect with Early Alert if you have questions or concerns about your academic well-being.


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