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School of English bridging programs go beyond reading and writing

Queen’s School of English

Shanghai native Jennifer (Chenyin) Li couldn’t be happier about having taken the Queen’s School of English’s new customized course for students entering the School of Business’ MBA program.

An eight-week intensive course, the pre-MBA QBridge program is designed especially for international students who have been conditionally accepted to the MBA program, needing a boost in their English skills prior to commencing their studies at Queen’s.

“It made for a very smooth transition,” says Ms. Li (MBA’15), who took the QBridge program in November and December, and started her MBA in January. “The teachers were very good – not only did they help me improve my reading and writing skills, they also taught me so much about Canadian culture. I felt immersed in the culture by the end of the program.”

The pre-MBA QBridge program was initiated by Queen’s School of Business’ Matthew Reesor, now the director of strategic planning and new initiatives, who recognized a need for the program, noting that among the excellent international students applying to the MBA program, there were some who needed a little more help with their English, and business speak in particular.

“We meet thousands of potential students every year from around the world,” says Mr. Reesor. “Many of them have graduated with outstanding academic records from top universities and have gone on to successful careers at highly reputable firms and organizations. The only thing missing is sufficiently advanced English language skills. Pre-MBA QBridge was created to ensure that we can attract these top candidates and partner with them to ensure their success as students.”

The pre-MBA program follows on the heels of several other specialized programs offered by the School of English on a regular basis. CanMEDIC, or Canadian Medical English for Doctors from International Contexts, started five years ago and runs in the fall, helping international medical graduates improve their English communication skills for use in the workplace.

“These students are already professionals and they have the basic language skills, but often they have a hard time communicating with patients or colleagues,” says Corliss Finlayson, an instructor in the CanMEDIC program who has both teaching and clinical experience, having worked as a counsellor in hospitals and rehabilitation centres. “We work especially on listening skills – Canadians speak very quickly and often the main challenge is building the confidence to ask someone to speak slower or to repeat what they’ve said.”

Ms. Finlayson says, in many ways, she is also a “cultural consultant,” not only working with students on the reading, writing, listening and pronunciation skills, and the medical terminology, but also answering questions on Canadian slang, what happens on holidays, and how to give bad news to a patient. “It really is about confidence, and being in a group helps them realize that they are not alone in the language and cultural challenges they face,” she says.

Janice McAlpine, Acting Director, Queen’s School of English (QSoE), says these programs are crucial to a student’s success. “We are really trying to give them the confidence to perform optimally and not to be overwhelmed by cultural barriers,” she says. “We are setting them up for success.”

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