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Community Champion: Mia Salmon provides friendly ear to newcomers

Cultural liaison for Vernon college’s international education program December Community Champion
Okanagan College Vernon campus’ cultural liaison for International Education, Mia Salmon, is the Community Champion for December 2020. (Contributed)

Mia Salmon emigrated from the south of England five years ago with her husband and three children. Mia and her family have travelled the world and studied, lived and worked abroad, particularly in the Middle East. Mia and her husband made long term plans to move to Canada when the time was right.

Mia and her family have settled into Canadian life and they take part in skiing, hiking and yoga. Mia enjoys photography as well.

Prior to coming to Canada, while still in England, Mia was very involved with the 90-strong Military Wives Choir. They sang at Royal Albert Hall and the Invictus Games where she met Prince Harry and Boris Johnson, now the current prime minister of England.

She understands how it feels to move to a new country, and despite knowing the language, found there were still a few hills to climb.

Mia is the Cultural Liaison for International Education at Okanagan College in Vernon. Simply put, she connects with all the international students at the college trying to make them feel comfortable while welcoming them to Canada at the same time.

“I provide a friendly ear when needed,” she said.

Mia has a reputation for going above and beyond her job description. Earlier in her employment with the college, Mia won a service excellence award as a receptionist in 2018. This was an acknowledgement of her excellent customer service skills which included helping international students. So it seemed to be a natural fit for her to become the cultural liaison for international education.

She helps students from other cultures from the moment they arrive and provides support, helping with the paperwork around different courses and with finding a place to live. She understands how homesick and lonely a student may feel and has helped to create different events at the college.

One of the events was for Diwali the Festival of Light which was celebrated with food and dancing and decorations. This was followed by the Chinese New Year and all the decorations and activities that go with that celebration.

She has worked with students from the Philippines, Columbia, Jamaica, Brazil, India, China and the Middle East.

“There is a joy in seeing people far away from home, be able to integrate into student life, even with the culture shock of being away from their families. It is lovely to see them succeed,” she said.

As a child, Mia lived in Kuwait with her parents.

When Iraq invaded the country, her father was taken hostage for three months. The building they lived in housed military people, so they had to destroy all paperwork and clothing that may give them away, wearing only the clothing of the country and basically go into hiding. It was a frightening time for Mia and her family. She celebrated her 13th birthday while in hiding.

Due to Mia’s life experiences, she feels this has given her the skills to help others who may be experiencing challenges that arise when moving to a foreign country.

The monthly Community Champion feature is submitted by Respect Works Here, which is an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan. They are also the host agency for the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network.

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