It takes great courage to be an international student. For Mike Zhong, it was the challenge of adjusting to a new world all on his own that drove him to leave home. Mike lived in the Sichuan Province of China and he arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, in the Fall of 2013.
We had the pleasure of meeting Mike when he stopped by our booth at the BCCIE Conference in Victoria this summer. A recent graduate of the University of Victoria, an IDP client, with a Master’s degree in Physics, Mike introduced himself as an IELTS test-taker with Global Village Victoria, giving us the perfect opportunity to learn more about his experience with our high stakes test.
Mike has lived in Victoria for three years and he is completely convinced that he wants to establish roots in Canada. That’s what led him to take the IELTS. “IELTS is recognized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada toward the fulfillment of the English Language Proficiency requirement for all immigration applicants. I 'm now in the process of applying for immigration to Canada and I took the IELTS for the first and only time in May 2016 at Global Village Victoria. I was able to get an excellent result and met the CIC’s requirements.”
We asked Mike about his experience with taking the IELTS and how he went about preparing for it. “My experience in taking the IELTS was great. Preparation materials are easily accessible, and while the cost is a bit high, the fact that it is such a widely recognized test makes the price worth it.
In order to prepare for the test, I ran an online search for previous test taker experiences and borrowed preparatory materials from friends to learn more about the test structure, and how its band scoring works.
Global Village Victoria offers free prep sessions for IELTS. I attended one of these hour sessions and found it to be extremely helpful in answering questions about the test that I may not have thought of on my own. My experience of taking the IELTS at GV Victoria was great too. Everything related to the test went smoothly, there were no interruptions, and the sound quality of the listening component was fantastic.”
Interestingly, Mike was very confident of his English speaking ability prior to his arrival in Canada, however, once he arrived, he admits to not being able to understand a word. “I realized that I was just not used to being immersed in the language and here, there was no escape from it. The good thing is, it didn’t take me very long to become comfortable and within a month, I started feeling a lot more confident.”
We asked Mike if he had any advice to share with potential IELTS test-takers, to which he quickly replied - “Anyone wanting to take the IELTS should begin by learning and practicing English not just for the purpose of passing the test, but with the goal of actually learning the language. Daily interactions in English are what make for the best kind of preparation. In my case, I joined the non-profit called Toastmasters about two years ago. It was the perfect place to gain confidence in my English speaking ability, as well as acquire communication and leadership skills”.
Naturally, we couldn’t let Mike go without learning more about his reasons to make his home in Canada. “My ideas about Canada before I came were very basic – that it is ‘sort of like the USA’, removed from world affairs, home of ice-hockey, bilingual, cold winters, and lots of Chinese immigrants! But both Canada and Victoria have exceeded my initial expectations. What I like best about Canada is that (compared to China) people are very friendly and they don’t judge people on their opinions, and that is why I want to stay.”
We would like to wish Mike the very best for his plans to settle in Victoria – his home away from home – a place where he has established a wonderful network of people, including many friends he likes to call his family.