Danbi Lee is carefully stitching together pieces of leather to make her own pair of moccasins during a cultural awareness workshop at Brandon University.
She aspires to be a banker and has travelled to Canada from her home in Jeonju, South Korea, to improve her language skills in BU’s English for Academic Purposes program.
"Brandon is terribly cold," she says with a laugh, "but a good place to learn English because there aren’t many other Koreans here, so I am really using my new language skills."
The moccasin making is designed to expose students, many of them from other countries who now call Brandon home, to aboriginal culture and history.
"This is a shining example of how BU’s cross-cultural activities add to our students’ experience," says David Rowland, BU’s international activities director.
"They not only leave the workshop with something tangible — a handmade pair of moccasins — but a better understanding of aboriginal culture. It’s a win-win."
Led by the staff at BU’s Indigenous Peoples’ Centre, students listen to traditional aboriginal stories, eat soup and bannock, and sew deer-hide into custom-fitted footwear. The workshop is called "Walk a Mile in My Moccasins."
Raj Vuth is from the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to Canada five years ago to join his brother.
"This workshop has given me a deeper view of the aboriginal culture," he says, "and that helps me to better integrate into Canada."
Lee agrees, saying she gained a new perspective on the challenges facing Canada’s First Nations.
"We learned about colonization and how that has affected aboriginals. It makes me sad," she says.
Each year, students from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America enroll in the BU’s English for Academic Purposes program, in many cases to prepare themselves for continued education at the university.