Students relieve tension and smash stress with sports



The Sheridan International Centre held its second International Sports Bash on March 7.

The event was held in conjunction with Counselling Services’ Smash Stress program, where close to 40 international students at the Trafalgar Athletic Centre played badminton, table tennis and basketball.

The Smash Stress initiative was devised three years ago to create a way for students to relieve tension through physical activity – specifically racket sports.

The program has been running for three years, and in early March, members decided to focus on connecting to international students.

“In partner with the International Centre, we found a lot of the international students wouldn’t come in to the Athletic Centre because there wasn’t really anything catered to them,” said Tae Hwang, a Sheridan student counsellor of seven years, as well as the head of the Smash Stress program.

The two organizations embarked on a joint venture that would see international students participating in various gym activities after class – which are specific to the feedback received. Badminton, table tennis and basketball were most popular.

“This is the first year we’ve tried to incorporate sports into the picture. We’ve done some research and realized that sports is a really great way for students to connect,” said Elena Shik, international student coordinator at Sheridan.

Shik’s focus is on making the transition to life in Canada as smooth as possible for students emigrating from a foreign land.

“When a student leaves class – and if they don’t have any friends – it would be nice for them to find that connection piece,” said Shik.

“So this is a way to connect, and I can’t emphasize that enough,” said Shik, who is constantly searching for ways to provide international students with “the full college experience” and not just life inside a classroom.

And she’s not alone.

International Centre peer mentor Tima Ogan, 21, also lends a hand in preparing activities for international students, and feels meeting new people is what Canada’s all about.

“Canada’s a very multicultural society,” said Ogan, who’s in his second year in the Advertising and Marketing program, and an international student from Nigeria.

“But you need some sort of structure, something like [the Sports Bash] to get out there, make new friends and connect with the Canadian community.”

Among the diversity of ages and ethnic backgrounds, every participant wore smiles and the event’s effectiveness is apparent.

Take 38-year-old Young Jun Moon, who’s in his second year in the Bachelor of Craft and Design – Furniture program.

Coming from South Korea in 2012, Moon had no relatives here and “sometimes felt alone” because of language barriers.

He found solitude at the Sports Bash held last semester when he met Ying Yu Sung, a 24-year-old Computer Animation student from Taiwan, and fellow table tennis enthusiast.

“People who come here like sports, and this is a good way to connect with each other,” said Sung, who moved to Canada just before the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.

The pair now communicates regularly outside of school, and often attends international events together.

As for the International Centre’s next steps:

“We’re planning on doing some career-oriented workshops for international students who will be graduating this year,” said Shik.

Finalizations for the plans have yet to take place.