"Vancouver looked amazing and very different from Korea. I had never seen such a big beautiful blue sky. I felt like swimming in the sky. But my start wasn't as bright as the Vancouver summer weather. My cousin helped me to find my homestay house and school. He was a Langara College student so he was the person who introduced the college to me. I got help from a Korean study abroad agent but they didn't recommend an ESL program in Langara College. My parents believed in my cousin more than the agent, so I became a 'Langaran'. Fortunately, I remembered some of the English I learned from the TOFEL class I took in Korea. I started at one of the lower levels of the STEP (Short Term English Proficiency) ESL program. After starting, when my parents heard the good news that the program didn't kick me out of the school the whole family was excited and happy as if I had entered the best university in Korea! From the STEP placement test, I was very nervous all the time. "What can I do if someone starts to talk to me?" "How can I start talking to the teacher if I don't understand what s/he is talking about?" "Is anybody going to laugh at my English?" "How can I pronounce words with f, z, or v?"
Many of my STEP classmates looked motivated. Honestly, I felt everyone in my class was a native English speaker at first. I often felt embarrassed with my English. My teacher was really funny; she tried so hard to get everyone's attention that she sometimes looked like a circus clown. When I was an elementary student, I hated to write a diary as vacation homework, but I really loved the journal homework I got from STEP. I was living alone in an apartment and very lonely at that time, so I tried to do some fun things everyday. I enjoyed writing about my daily life and reading my teacher's comments. STEP materials were fun, too. I love movies and my class sometimes watched videos or read about the true stories made in movies including 'Catch Me, If You Can.' Through telling my stories and fun reading, I gradually felt more comfortable using English.
After graduating from STEP classes, I started to study in LEAP (Langara English for Academic Purposes). I knew that this program would be another challenge that I had to face and overcome. But I couldn't imagine it could be this hard! LEAP 3 was fairly similar to STEP 3001, but I experienced near panic attacks when I had a presentation in front of the whole class. Even though all presentations I had made me nauseous or very anxious, I came to like, and even love, them; I learned various things, including communication, discussion and social skills that I really needed to know for the college and university level. Before I received my result on the last day of each session, I wanted to cry because I wasn't sure whether I would pass or not. At this time, my family was always very supportive. My mother used to say that it was okay to fail, but most important to improve my English. Whenever I saw that other students were moving up to the UT (University Transfer) program, going back to their home country, or just quitting the class, I also wanted to quit, and go back to Korea. I knew that my parents would be disappointed with me and I wouldn't improve my abilities to get a job. So I suffered through tons of homework in LEAP, and soon realized that completing LEAP 8, the highest level, was very worth it.
After graduating from LEAP 8, I was confident to take the LET (Langara English Test) since I practiced writing a 45-minute essay every week in LEAP 7. I passed the LET with a score of 2, and was accepted to the UT (Arts and Science University Transfer) program. My college life started."
To read more about Jin's experience as a college student in Canada, visit Langara College's "Universities and Colleges in Canada" International Student Success Story.