Co-op Best Practices > Bridging International Learning at SFU

Bridging International Learning at SFU

posted on June 1, 2010

For students completing international co-operative work terms, SFU requires participation in Bridging International Learning (BIL), an online course to prepare and mentor students before, during, and after their international work terms.

BIL brings together all internationally bound co-op students to discuss the key preparations they will need to make before leaving Canada, things to consider while they are away, as well as issues to consider upon their return. This online course is conducted through WebCT and is an opportunity for students to share their excitement, have their questions answered, and obtain the information they need to make the international co-op experience successful.

Through BIL, students engage in discussions with each other and the international co-op coordinator, who facilitates the course. This interaction enables students in the same location to connect up abroad and share valuable insights, as well as gain advice from the international co-op coordinator.

The goals of BIL are to:

  • Help students prepare successfully for their international co-op work term,
  • Help students learn how to adapt to a foreign environment and workplace,
  • Support student learning and growth over the course of their international co-op work term, and
  • Support students upon their return to SFU.

A new BIL session runs every semester and discussions are updated, monitored, and responded to regularly.

The following excerpts illustrate the types of discussions that take place through BIL.
On one occasion, students were asked to respond about their impressions of the workplace etiquette at their respective international locations:

“Ways of business are more aggressive at my workplace and mainly racing with time.

Working in HK or mainland speed and accuracy is critical. Higher speed = more productivity = boss likes you, higher accuracy = less customers coming after your tail = boss also likes you :)

Yes there are less office socializing comparing the workplace in Canada.” – Co-op Student

“Yikes, Hong Kong sounds like a "rat race".

How about everyone else, I have a feeling that India, Botswana, Ecuador, and Hungary might be different, but we need our local "experts" to advise us. Where is everyone?” -International Co-op Coordinator 

On another occasion, students were asked to respond about their experiences with culture shock:

“I have experienced culture shock when I was 11. I went to the States for the first time and my English was poor.   I found that Chinese was somewhat discriminated at the time. The way I dealt with it was to try to make new friends, which helped me a lot to learn the new language and understand the new culture. Luckily, I was young and started to learn everything fast.  I  got used to North American food fast, but I still don't like tacos” –  Co-op Student
“Making new friends in your host country is the best way to learn about the culture and improve your language skills, so I'm sure that helped you to overcome your culture shock when you first arrived in the States.

Often students on international co-ops and exchanges find other foreigners from their home country or other English-speaking countries and spend all their time with them. This prevents them from making friends with people in the host country and sometimes leads to culture-bashing sessions where all the foreigners complain about the host country. It can be helpful at first, but ideally, students get past that stage quickly and make an effort to meet local people and learn about the local culture.” – International Co-op Coordinator

If you have questions about Bridging International Learning at SFU, please contact
Andrea Sator, Program Manager, Work Integrated Learning Curriculum, by phone: 778-782-6745 or by email: