Lunar New Years Activity at the International Dormitory

by Dan Mullins

Xīnnián hǎo!
New Year Goodness!

This is a common New Year greeting in Mandarin. The Year of the Tiger began on February 1st, which this year corresponds to the lunar New Year on the traditional Chinese calendar.

For the students in the International Youth Programs who are living at the John Killingbeck Dormitory, the celebrations were… delicious!
Staff there led a dumpling making event for the small number of students currently living in the dormitory. The idea was to bring a piece of home to the Chinese students, so far away from their family in China who were celebrating the Chinese New Year. The students had the previous day off to speak with their families on the phone, relax, and watch a little television.
Students from Thailand and Iran, who are also living at the dormitory, participated as well. “Celebrating these types of cultural activities allow students to learn about each others’ cultures, to share a laugh, bond and create memories,” said Shalini Dowlani, the dorm manager and event organizer.
The dumpling filling, made of pork, ginger, onions and scallions, and the wrappers, were prepared in advance by the dorm’s Chinese kitchen staff. Cafeteria helper Betty then demonstrated wrapping techniques to the group of students, who assembled their own dumplings. Chef Bin boiled the completed dumplings, and everyone enjoyed eating the savory treats.
“I liked this activity because China is very far away for us,” explained Yiwen Xu, a student staying at the dorm, “this decreases the distance, and like, it makes us feel warm.”
It’s no wonder that Dowlani has insight into what might be appreciated by the students at the dorm. Once an international student herself, she has worked placing them with homestay families for over ten years. “I even hosted some students, before joining Lester B. Pearson,” she noted. She and the rest of the administrative staff at the International Centre handle applications from prospective students, communicate with agents in various countries who facilitate studying abroad, place the students in appropriate schools or centres, and of course oversee the students in the dorm and organize activities!
People attending the International Programs can study in the Youth, Adult or Vocational sectors, and high school students often choose to live at the dorm. Others are hosted by local families, organized in partnership with the Canada Homestay Network. During the 2020-2021 school year, the global pandemic forced the closure of the dorm. Even still, it is far under its capacity, with only twelve students currently in residence out of a possible ninety-six, which makes the connections formed between the students even more precious.
Other student activities this school year have provided a taste of Canadian traditions. There was a pumpkin carving event in October and a Christmas cookie decorating event in December. Soon, the residents will head out to a hill to try tubing!
Besides the various planned activities, dorm residents have access to a gym with a basketball court, as well as an adjacent outdoor skating rink. A games room is popular, and students spend time in the study hall, learning English and French in class for an hour per weekday and studying on their own for an equal amount of time.
So, considering the academic and cultural learning these brave and lucky students are engaged in, it seems appropriate to end by writing:
Hǔ nián xīngwàng!
Wishing you a prosperous year of the Tiger!