Day in the Life: Paula Ceroni

Continuing Studies

- Joanne McGachie

Paula Ceroni probably knows how to say “hello” and “welcome” in more languages than just about anyone else on campus. That’s one of the perks of her job in the English Language Centre, managing UVic’s homestay program. Each year the program places over 1,600 students from as many as 30 countries into 600 host families (and they are always looking for more hosts).

“I love my job!” says Ceroni. “I love the people I work with, the level of creativity my work affords me, and how quickly we can implement new ideas.”

The work is very diverse, Ceroni notes. “I get to work with students of all levels, teachers, staff and community members. And each day is varied—no two are the same.

“I spend a lot of my time doing interviews of prospective hosts, so I get to meet community members I wouldn’t otherwise meet, and visit them in their homes. Actually, that’s another perk of this job: I get lots of great remodelling ideas by visiting homes, and I keep discovering new neighbourhoods—little gems of Victoria.”

Ceroni says she is constantly amazed at the level of enthusiasm and commitment of the host families and individuals. “These are people who genuinely want to meet others and have a meaningful exchange. They’re perfect strangers thrown together to live as family, which can be hard, but I’m in awe of how our hosts make connections with their students, and build relationships that last long past the placement.”

The work is not always easy though, Ceroni says. “Sometimes we have to do some conflict resolution between our hosts and students. Often, they’re dealing with cultural misunderstandings or miscommunication, especially if there’s a language barrier. And sometimes we’re faced with more serious issues such as accidents, assaults or mental health concerns.”

Having been an international student herself—from Chile—Ceroni knows a lot about the difficulties that students can face when coming to UVic from another country. When she began working on campus, she was interested in finding ways to help students share their experiences about choosing a university from abroad and coming to Canada.

“There are so many challenges our international students can face, from creating community to the academic,” she says. “Feeling like you belong in a place is paramount in making or breaking your educational experience.”

The desire to help international students deal with issues of diversity and inclusivity led Ceroni to get involved with the Provost’s Diversity Research Forum, first in 2010 and most years since.

“The diversity conference provides spaces for people to share, for others to hear and learn, and to hopefully come away with a better understanding of the myriad of perspectives and lived experiences that are found within our campus,” she says. “Despite the fact that the conference topics are challenging, and often the discussions make us feel unsettled and out of our comfort zone, they are needed. They help us and allow us to recognize ourselves in others, and through this experience make an authentic commitment to advocate for change.”

Ceroni’s own career at UVic has revolved around international students, in one way or another. She first came to Victoria in 2002 when her now-husband was accepted into the Indigenous Governance master’s program, and she was hired to fill a maternity leave as an admissions officer and international student advisor at the Faculty of Business. From there she became an international student recruiter and admissions officer in the Office of the Registrar, then on to a stint in the Office of International Affairs before moving into her current role with the homestay program.

“I’ve enjoyed all the jobs I’ve done at UVic,” she says. “Regardless of the work itself, it’s the people I’ve had the chance to work with that have been wonderful. There is a sense of community here at UVic that makes it a very special place to work.”


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Keywords: English Language Centre, administrative, staff, Day in the Life, languages and linguistics, international

People: Paula Ceroni

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