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Clarinne Tham: ‘It can be scary to be in an unfamiliar place’

Clarinne Tham: ‘It can be scary to be in an unfamiliar place’

Clarinne is a third-year undergraduate student who is currently majoring in Psychology and minoring in Interpersonal Development. She also is a research assistant for the Social Health Lab and she is currently working on a study, partially funded by the AMS through the Impact Grant, that aims to understand the experiences of LGTBQ+ students during their first year in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. Remembering her first steps at UBC, she tells us all about her own experience. 



My background

I am an international student who was born in Malaysia but spent most of my years studying in Shanghai, China. I really love travelling and exploring different places – I really enjoy learning about new cultures and traditions. I also love food (who doesn’t?!), but I am PASSIONATE when it comes to desserts.

As an international student, I have experienced first hand how difficult transitioning to a new environment can be, this experience has inspired me to be interested in the ways humans, specifically, students, integrate into a different environment. 


Ups and downs during my first year 

For example, my first year was a mixture of highs and lows. Most of the lows were in the initial part of my first year. I remember how anxious I felt to be thousands of miles away from home and to be in a country where I have never stepped foot in before. Classes were different, lectures were different, making it quite tricky to transition from a high school learning environment/style to a university learning environment/style. The highs were the people I met, the friends I made and the community I bonded with. I felt like my friends in my life enabled me to power through the challenges I faced.


Connecting with others at UBC 

I feel like there’s definitely a good number of opportunities (e.g. Pride Collective) that help LGBTQ+ students make new connections within the community, but I do think that more opportunities will always be helpful to make UBC a more inclusive place. Additionally, I think that connecting LGBTQ+ students with non-LGBTQ+ students is also important for students to understand and develop an awareness of LGBTQ+ concerns.


Tackling loneliness 

What really helped me with my loneliness during my first-year was being part of community events and going through the Jumpstart orientation. I feel like the UBC community does a great job in engaging with one another. However, I do feel like a few things can be improved. For one, making these events even more accessible. That is, lowering any barriers to being part of an event. For example, lowering costs or incorporating disability needs etc. I think it’s very important to be aware that UBC students are unique in their backgrounds, and so we need to be mindful and be more inclusive and inviting of everyone.


Look after your wellbeing 

I feel like self-care is really the key to our wellbeing. Knowing that, as humans, we have our flaws and limits, and by accepting that, we should be kind to ourselves. Do things that make you feel good, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others!

I feel like it can sometimes be scary to be in an unfamiliar place, going through an entirely new experience, but I hope that all our incoming first years will find UBC and our community a great place to be part of.


Get involved 

I got involved in this study from the Department of Psychology with Dr Gu Li and Professor Frances Chen as a research assistant. I am really interested in learning more about the factors that can influence a person’s social integration into society and how it interplays with their well-being. I think it is especially important to do so amidst COVID-19 since our incoming UBC students are kept apart from campus and have to transition very uniquely.

I recommend all students to participate in the survey.  We are still collecting data and I believe that being part of this study will allow you to express yourself, and will help to influence and shape UBC for future generations of students. And, it is also useful to reflect on your own experiences and think about how you can contribute to the UBC community.

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