The International Centre at SAIT is spending the summer building ties between SAIT and cultural communities in Calgary by sponsoring local events.
Marketing staff at the centre have been reaching out to various organizations to establish these relationships.
Karen Cheung, a recruitment officer at the SAIT International Centre, sees connecting with community organizations outside of SAIT as an essential part of her work.
“It was a new focus we had never really tapped into before. However, the Catalyst logo here at SAIT, it has five points representing important groups at SAIT. One of those is local communities. I thought that it made sense for us to have a focus on community,” said Cheung.
According to Cheung, the possibilities for volunteerism and the connections students make with familiar cultures in an unfamiliar environment are enormously beneficial.
“I think it’s really important to get students engaged. Obviously, academics are important, but I want students to have a well-rounded experience. I think it’s really pertinent to their academic journey, whether around the school or in the community.”
Despite officially being involved in recruiting students for SAIT, Cheung says that at the end of the day, her job is equally about finding spaces for current international students to feel more at home.
“It’s obviously recruitment, that’s part of my role here. But I look at it more as awareness. I ask myself whether our students are aware that there are these community groups outside of SAIT.”
“It’s not to diminish what we have a SAIT,” said Cheung. “We have the counselling services, SAITSA, the different clubs, and of course immigration support here at the international centre, but we don’t want students to only go to one place. The outside communities are meant to supplement, and I think we have built a healthy network.”
Big Summer Plans
The centre rates sponsorship of gatherings put on by cultural organizations as an important piece of the effort to establish ties. The team has already attended several events this summer, with more to come.
“We started with the Lilac Festival in June. It was Lilac, Stampede breakfast, then Fiestaval, then we had a mariachi concert, then the Dragon Boat Festival,” said Gaby Zuniga, a marketing specialist at the International Centre. “We will also be attending Calgary Pride, and the Canadian Immigrant Fair.”
Fiestaval took place on July 22-24, at Olympic Plaza in downtown Calgary. The Calgary Multicultural Arts Society put on the event, and according to their website, it’s an opportunity to learn about Latin American culture.
During the event attendees sat shoulder-to-shoulder on concrete steps, temporarily turning the plaza into an amphitheatre. Excited children wove in and out of the long lines for art vendors and food trucks.
The musical acts were performed on a central stage, and the performers lead the crowd in sing-alongs and dance numbers.
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SAIT was an official sponsor of the event, and they had an information booth set up.
Throughout the day on July 24, a steady trickle of event-goers came up to speak to the SAIT staff, who were handing out merchandise and answering questions about the school.
The Calgary Dragon Boat Festival was a similar success. Large crowds gathered in North Glenmore Park last weekend despite soaring temperatures. The event is held annually by the Calgary Dragon Boat Society, and it’s meant to showcase dragon boat racing and local Chinese culture.
Jamie Caine, a recruitment events specialist at SAIT, manned the booth during both of the festivals.
“Turnout has been pretty good, we’ve been having lots of good conversations,” Caine said with a smile. Cheung was just as enthusiastic.
“We show up, we bring our swag, we bring our materials, and we bring knowledgeable people for community members to talk to,” Cheung said.
“So far everything has been really successful. There’s great turnout, people are engaging, and we’re having great conversations.”
According to the International Centre, SAIT has over 3000 international students currently attending.
The Canadian Immigrant Fair will take place on Aug. 26, and the Calgary Pride Festival will begin that same day, continuing until Sept. 5.