A Wikipedia search led Danish student Stine Hansen to the University of Lethbridge's web door, but it was the personal attention she received thereafter that brought her to campus.
Hansen is in her fourth year, thriving as an international student with her eyes set on completing a degree in urban and regional studies. Now an ambassador for the U of L experience, she's a far greater resource than any Wikipedia link.
"Everything I learned about Lethbridge before I moved here, I learned on Wikipedia," she laughs, admitting now that to pack up and leave Denmark to study in Lethbridge, Alberta was a major leap of faith.
"It was a bit of a risk but my parents were, surprisingly enough, very supportive," says the 27-year-old. "The registrar's office was really good helping me with my courses and transcript, and I just got a really good feeling about the place.
"I also got such good support from the International Centre for Students (ICS). They told me what to expect when I arrived, how to get settled, when to arrive, and how they would help me. At the time, because of all that support, it didn't seem that big a deal to sell everything I owned, pack three suitcases and move here. Looking back it was a little bit crazy."
You might think her assimilation into Canadian culture was an easy one. Hansen's a European who speaks English, and she had been motivated to come study in Canada after a high school exchange program took her to Nova Scotia when she was 16. But the culture, food and lifestyle are markedly different and it began to hit her on the drive from the Calgary airport to Lethbridge.
"The first town I went through was Nanton, then Claresholm, then Fort
Macleod and I really started to wonder what I had gotten myself into," she says, having grown up 20 minutes from Copenhagen and recently lived there. "I came into Lethbridge on a rainy Sunday afternoon – it looked deserted and I felt very alone."
She once again used the International Centre for support. Hansen attended the various meet and greet sessions with other international students, took advantage of the Global Connections partner program and signed up to play intramural soccer.
"If you're shy you're never going to get anywhere, you really have to open up. I used to be a shy person but now, I figure you have to step out there," says Hansen.
Her studies followed suit, and she quickly found that the personal attention she received from ICS and the registrar's office was reflected in her classes.
"That's what I like so much about the U of L, it's a small campus and pretty much every class I've ever had I can go to the professors and say, "I don't get this", and they'll sit down and help you out," says Hansen. "They really try, they know your name and I really like that."
Originally interested in pursuing a career in urban planning, she changed her focus to the study of human geography and found a special kinship with anthropology professor, Dr. Jan Newberry. She's excited to work on an Independent Study program with Newberry this summer.
"When I go back home I always say how much I love doing what I'm doing," says Hansen. "Even here, I've convinced a few people to come into my major. I love the multidisciplinary aspect of it, because you can study anthropology, sociology, geography, it's been great."
In fact, Hansen credits women's studies professor, Dr. Tiffany Muller Myrdahl, with setting her on a career path.
"She suggested I attend the Association of American Geographers' Annual Meeting last year. I went with another international student to Washington, D.C., and I came away knowing this is what I wanted to do. I really appreciate her showing that to me," says Hansen, who intends to pursue a master's degree in geography of disability and transportation.
Her success as a student has not been easy, and it hasn't been a straight line but because of support from all over campus, Hansen is eager to talk about her U of L experience. It's why she jumped at the opportunity to participate in the recent International Student Fair in the Atrium, where students from around the globe constructed tri-fold displays to help educate campus about their home nations.
"We got out there and the people who wanted to ask questions got that opportunity," she says. "It's definitely worth doing again. I believe if I only reach a few, it's still a success. I think there's a misconception that international students are only from the Far East but we are a really diverse group and maybe I'm the only one from Denmark but that's OK."
GET THE FACTS
• Post-secondary education in Denmark is free, prompting Hansen to quip, "My parents really love me."
• Hansen's older sister completed a master's degree in economics from the University of Copenhagen.
• Hansen became ill during her second semester and credits ICS liaison officer Charlene Janes for helping her through. "She is the best person ever. The ICS staff really knows its students and Charlene knew what was best for me at that time. Every time my parents come to visit, they make sure they go visit Charlene because they appreciate how much she looks after us."
• Hansen's tri-fold display highlighted the differences between Canadian and Danish Christmas traditions. She was also eager to tell people just where Denmark is in the world. "I love to talk about my country and I don't expect everyone to know. The Fair was great because I got a chance to show them what my Denmark is like."
For a look at the March issue of the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.