Eva Chan is a fifth-year English Literature major and Critical Studies in Sexuality minor, and the 2015 recipient of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in the UBC Community. Having dedicated her undergraduate years to enhancing the university experience for other students, Eva discusses how she made her impact on the UBC community through Rezlife, Peer Programs, UBC Recreation and the UBC Learning Exchange.
Tell me about your life philosophy “to make all people feel like they truly matter.” What motivated you to better the university experience for other students?
Although UBC has a very diverse and vibrant community of students, it’s still possible to feel like another face in the crowd. My goal for the past five years has been to foster positive connections in the community, by making students feel valued and appreciated.
I’ve always loved customer service, and when I joined Peer Programs in my third year, the network of students that support other students spoke to me. Since then, I have become passionate about intercultural communication, team-building, and enhancing the experience of others through kindness and encouragement.
What has been your favourite involvement experience?
It would definitely be working with Rezlife. As a Residence Advisor at Thunderbird Residence, I work in a small team to create programs that turn Thunderbird into a second home for students. It’s been great to develop fun and informative workshops and events for residences, such as the ‘How Not to be Awkward’ workshop, holiday dinners, and international movie nights.
Another memorable UBC experience was the Ted Talk-inspired presentation I did when I was in Peer Programs. I feel very blessed to have been a Career Peer Coach; I did it for two years. The talk was presented to over 100 Peer Program leaders, and it was on how Peer Programs changed me. It was extremely nerve-wracking and personal, but so rewarding as well. My main purpose was to inspire other student leaders, and show that even though everyone goes through different experiences, most of us are here for the same cause: to help other people. I love encouraging others to believe in their own potential to be great.
What kinds of challenges have you faced throughout your UBC experience?
Time management has been a great challenge. As UBC students, we often burn out trying to balance school, work, volunteer, and social commitments. There have been numerous times where I’ve felt very overwhelmed. Something very important for self-awareness is to understand your strengths and weaknesses and realize that sometimes, you can’t do everything. Keeping to-do lists or planning out your days carefully can definitely be helpful.
How did you start getting involved?
My on-campus involvement was with UBC Recreation. I was so nervous at the interview that I even forgot my backpack when I left! I didn’t think I would get the position, but the hiring manager saw my potential and felt that I had a lot of room to grow and develop.
Even years later, I’m so thankful to my manager for believing in me. To think someone like me, who was so meek and shy, could become the person I am today – a high-spirited and positive Team Lead who now interviews, hires, and trains new staff alongside my manager; I have grown so much. After my experience being a Team Lead at UBC Recreation, and then further becoming a Career Peer Coach, a Peer Programs Executive Committee Representative, a Learning Exchange Facilitator and a Residence Advisor, I felt that everybody had that potential as well. My passion is to tap into their strengths, and to help others see what they can accomplish.
Tell me about your experience with UBC Learning Exchange.
Since May 2014, I’ve been volunteering with UBC Learning Exchange as an ESL conversation facilitator, teaching conversational English to immigrants and refugees in the Downtown Eastside area. It made me realize how much I love connecting one-on-one, and facilitating a comfortable environment where people feel safe to ask questions and make mistakes.
One of my favourite moments at the Learning Exchange was helping an older gentleman become a confident facilitator. He didn’t think he would be a great facilitator, but right from the start I encouraged him with positive and constructive feedback. An important aspect of leadership is being able to encourage others to take the reins because leadership isn’t always about you; it’s about sharing it with others. At the end, he told me that I had changed the course of his life. He is now a confident facilitator with his own class. I hugely appreciate my experience with the Learning Exchange, and it has made me consider teaching in the future.
If you could re-do your UBC experience, what would you do differently?
I would redo my first year. I was so overwhelmed and excited about everything, that I didn’t end up joining anything! I also stayed solely with my high school friends rather than meeting new people. I later realized that everybody will grow and pursue their own interests, but you will always stay together as friends despite being in different schools.
What are your plans after graduation?
My immediate plan is to work as a Cultural Assistant with UBC Continuing Studies. I will be supporting the international students coming to Vancouver this summer, and I’m really excited about it! I also recently obtained my Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) diploma. In the long term, I will be teaching abroad for one to two years to see the world and get more experience, before pursuing my master’s.