As an international student who commuted to Langley for his classes, Kevin Chai remembers that his first year at university felt lonely and isolating, with few connections to others outside of the classroom.
“This motivated me to reach out to the community in my second year through joining student leadership,” said Chai, who lives in Maple Ridge.
Now a third year business student at Langley’s Trinity Western University, Chai is determined to make the university experience better for others.
Which is how TWU Access Chapters – a virtual and in-person social network – came to be.
Chai describes TWU Access Chapters as a friendship-building initiative born out of a pandemic year. Social groups called chapters are divided by geographic area, and group members connect on Microsoft Teams and other web platforms.
The idea is to help students make friends with others who live in their locale. In B.C., there are six chapters spanning Fraser Valley to Vancouver. Outside of B.C. there are four chapters covering Canadian and international communities.
Chai explains that the program provides TWU students with opportunities to feel a sense of belonging, through virtual events and Zoom study sessions.
Chai himself hosted many virtual events over the past academic year. He listed Among Us game night, Jackbox game night, Super Bowl live stream watch party, and NBA All-Star Weekend live stream watch party among the events he hosted with his chapter teammates.
He also led activities for TWU Intercultural Programs, which helps foster appreciation for different cultural groups at the university.
When it comes to in-person events, Chai admits that it has been challenging to organize, especially given the changing provincial health restrictions.
“Many times [we] had events planned, locations booked, and even supplies purchased, (but) we had to cancel the event according to the new restrictions posted the night before the event,” he said.
Yet, despite disappointments, Chai still gleaned some good lessons, “This really motivates [us] to be more adaptable and creative regarding future events.”
“It is especially cool to see fellow students living in different places connecting with each other through online events,” he continued, adding, “Although sometimes the turnout isn’t as good as expected, the stories we hear, and connection and relationship built in this program, is incredible.”
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