Reviving Opportunities for New Language Learners

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Language and education are priceless assets anyone can acquire in their lifetime. They offer unlimited opportunities and can never be lost due to their intangible nature.

In the Winter of 2022, in the wake of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the Global and Strategic Communication domain at the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) saw the opportunity to give the priceless gift of language to forcibly displaced individuals and refugees arriving in Montreal. A special pilot project was created to grant free access to language and culture classes. Backed by a proven curriculum, faculty expertise and pre-existing program, the 6 months that followed granted a sense of routine and inclusivity in a new environment.

Anna MilhunovaAnna Mihunova, an aspiring art mediator from Karazin Kharkiv National University is one of the students from the first cohort of the English Language and Culture Program. Her experience at SCS speaks to how the program not only helps individuals learn a new language and integrate into a new culture, but also how it facilitates a sense of normalcy and community.

“SCS helped me to integrate into Canadian society, find new friends and make wonderful connections,” she said. “It became a place for us to study and be a part of a welcoming community full of interactions that provided us with something meaningful. Through learning a new language, we gained a new perspective about the world, obtained the capacity to contribute to Montreal and McGill, overcome challenges, and discover new opportunities.”

With hopes to be a part of the reconstruction process of her home in the future, Anna aspires to gain as much experience as possible while in Canada. After she graduated from SCS, she began to spend time in the arts scene of Montreal, refining her language skills, coordinating volunteers for mentorship programs, and contributing to anti-war advocacy groups. When asked about her future she said,

“I hope to improve my language skills and potentially return to McGill again. The university gives students so many opportunities for self-improvement and I believe that a graduate degree could strengthen my role in rebuilding my home.”

Leonid BumakhLeonid Bumakh, an economics student from the Kharkiv University of Political Science is currently enrolled in the English Language and Culture program. He believes that the most important factor in the program is that it empowers learners and instructors to work effectively through routine and constructive dialogue, allowing for a more effective learning experience.

“SCS allowed us to make connections and have a safety net moving forward into the professional workforce through the experiences we gained from these language programs,” he explained. “The inclusive nature of these classes grants us a level of security and normalcy that we need.”

When asked about his first impression of SCS he stated that “It felt like a time machine,” like he was young again. He felt welcomed each time he entered the building and noted that everyone was always extremely kind and gracious.

In the past Leonid participated in maintaining an education center for both children and adults, with classes in various fields such as arts, languages, math, and much more. He expressed an eagerness to join the professional workforce in Montreal, after completing the program. Leonid believes he can effectively apply his past education and work experiences in Canada while simultaneously preparing for a future back home.

Margaret LeveyMargaret Levey, Associate Director of the Global and Strategic Communication (GSC) domain and Faculty Lecturer of English for Professional Communication, describes her involvement in working on the pilot phase of this initiative as the highlight of her time at SCS.

“I feel privileged to have played a role in helping forcibly displaced people learn French and English. Language is vital for all recent arrivals to be able to function effectively in Quebec. Forcibly displaced people, who are already facing hardships, face an additional barrier because their access to language courses is limited due to financial constraints. Global & Strategic Communication and SCS are committed to offering free language courses to forcibly displaced people to help reduce this barrier.”

With one year passing since the development of the initial pilot project, GSC aims to renew its efforts to maintain a longstanding initiative to offer free language courses. With McGill24, the university's 24-hour digital fundraising campaign, quickly approaching on March 15, 2023, SCS has chosen to make a commitment to ask students, staff, alumni, family and friends to come together to sponsor another cohort of learners. On March 15th, make a donation or give now to SCS on our alumni page.

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