Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Unpacking the Bags: Can we lose skills?

November 1, 2017 by Renata Silva, contributing writer

Learning to communicate effectively in a different language is undoubtedly the main obstacle international students face. It’s not just a matter of expressing ideas in English; we’re usually capable of that after just a couple of months. The problem comes when we realize that moving to Canada means relearning some of the skills that we found to be important to communicate effectively: for example, the ability to think quickly, the ability to present work under pressure, or the ability to stay calm during times of stress.

Unpacking the Bags is a column giving advice for international students appearing in every issue of Nexus.

Who has never felt words disappear when you’re presenting a project and the teacher asks an unexpected question? You then think, “It would be so good if I could answer in my language.” The ideas are in your head, but the “mental translator” takes a few seconds to process, which increases tension and fear.

I have never thought that it was possible to lose a skill. As a journalist, I have seen some characteristics that I have always been proud of disappear. My writing skills and fast-thinking in Portuguese do not fit in my new country. This is frustrating, because it was something that I used to have in my skill set.

Losing a skill can make you question yourself as a professional and as a person. However, I believe that questioning can be something positive. We have a unique opportunity to re-evaluate our performance and develop new skills. I had to study and practice a lot to develop my abilities when I was in Brazil. Now, in Canada, I need the same amount of dedication. The important thing is to not assume that your expertise is sufficient.

The most difficult thing is to deal with the expectations of teachers and bosses. They will always require professionalism, and they are right. The secret is to not despair, to have a lot of perseverance, to be curious, and to always learn from each situation.

Above all, you have to be patient with yourself, you have to respect your limits, and you have to celebrate your daily victories.

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