It all started on Tuesday, January 3, 2017, when ten Canadian SFU students met with thirty students from Grenoble, France, who would be spending a semester in Vancouver. The Beedie School of Business teams up with the Grenoble École de Management (GEM) to produce the Joint Semester in Sustainable Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program.
Over the Christmas break, I was anxiously waiting to start (something I thought I’d never say about school) and meet all of my classmates. The wait was finally over and I was ready to meet the students from across the world and enjoy a semester of memories and great ideas!
The first week of the GEM 2017 program, was fantastic. From sharing meals together, tubing and sledding at Seymour, to touring the great city of Vancouver, and hearing the French tear apart Canadian coffee, we have gotten to know each other a bit more each day. To start the program, we all met at the Diamond Alumni Centre for a Welcome Lunch and to get conversations going between the SFU and GEM students. While their English was superb, it was apparent that getting the French students to speak English amongst each other was going to be a challenge. Nevertheless, hearing about some of their lives and interests was a great way to get to know students from across the globe and get them talking. There were glaring differences and surprising similarities between all of us. There were also tons of questions for all the Canadian students like “What is typical Canadian food?” or “How does the WIFI work?”. The day after meeting them, there was a brief class where we, the SFU students, attempted to breakdown Canadian culture and answer any questions the GEM students hadn’t gotten the chance to ask yet. Soon after, we took off to tour downtown. Walking the beautiful city of Vancouver, we unsurprisingly ended at a café in Gastown where the French students could have a tiny cup of ‘acceptable’ coffee.
Up to this point, we hadn’t had a formal class yet. So on Thursday, January 5, we all took our seats to meet one of our professors for the semester, Matt Martell, and listened to a lecture on Canadian Economics given by Terry Wong. The classwork didn’t last too long though, as the next day we were off to Mount Seymour to enjoy a day of tubing and sledding, which none of the French students had ever done before. We all had a great time, from packing 8 people on one sled to throwing a few snowballs around. There were a lot of happy screams and loud laughs going on that day! It doesn’t matter what language you speak, the sound of laughter is universal and can bring a smile to anyone’s face.
The next day, tired and sore from sledding, we all crawled out of bed early on a Saturday morning for a team-building day hosted at SFU. The day started off with the name game. This meant gathering in a large circle consisting of over 40 people and saying our name along with performing an action we associated with ourselves. It sounds simple but you had to repeat all the names and actions of the students before you in the circle! This was all fun and games until we reached half way and realized what we were getting ourselves into! I felt so bad for the students after myself, repeating 30 to 40 names and actions. Surprisingly, we all did a great job! We had a very fun time trying to pronounce the French names properly. Soon after this, we were introduced to our group members for our semester long project and got to know each other further. We have only met once so far, but I am extremely optimistic about the group work with the GEM students. They all seem to be extremely motivated, understanding, hard-working students. It doesn’t matter where you’re from these are traits we should all look for in a teammate. We all seem to be motivated by the worldwide topic of social innovation and the possibility to create change.
While we’re still getting to know each other and becoming more comfortable with the differences between our cultures, it is amazing to see how students from across the world can share such similarities. I think some of us had generalizations and assumptions about people from France. We hoped they would be more friendly, open-minded, and more smiley than what we had assumed, and you know what – they were! It just goes to show that you can be down the road or across the ocean from someone, you never know what they will be like until you actually meet them. Keep your mind open and try your best not to accept stereotypes. Sometimes they can be good for the joke here or there, but in case you forgot the lesson your parents told you growing up, don’t judge a book by its cover.
In case you were wondering, the French students did have an assumption that Canadians were open-minded, friendly, and welcoming. I guess we did our nation a good service – they said we were even more open-minded, friendly, and welcoming than they thought! We aren’t sorry for that one, Canada.
Cameron Brock is in his fourth year at the Beedie School of Business, concentrating in Finance and Entrepreneurship. Currently learning about social and sustainable innovation during the SFUxGEM 2017 semester, Cameron’s passion lies in reading about various topics including macroeconomic, financial markets, and soccer. Cameron’s goal after finishing his undergraduate degree is to find an opportunity that gives him the ability to combine his financial expertise with an organization that has a purpose directed towards sustainability. His dream is to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Robert Kiyosaki, and create a non-profit corporation dedicated to education and financial literacy. Learn more about Cameron at iamcameronbrock.wordpress.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.