Julia Kupchinskaya from Irkutsk

Rotary Watch and Learn student in Campbell River for the week

Julia Kupchinskaya arrived on Vancouver Island for a month long business internship just in time to participate in the Canada Day parade in Comox.

Kupchinskaya, 21, is here from Russia for a month long program through the Rotary Club called Watch and Learn.

So far, she has visited more than 11 businesses in both the Comox Valley and Campbell River.

Cathy Kaardal, president of the Rotary Club of Campbell River, said that the program is designed to expose Kupchinskaya to business practices in a Western democracy.

Kupchinskaya is a fourth year management student at Irkutsk State University in Irkutsk, Russia. After writing her final research paper she will be graduating.

“I don’t know what I want to do after graduation but I’m trying to find a sphere that I really like, maybe this internship will help me in this decision,” she said.

So far she has learned the basics of a wide variety of businesses from Canadian Tire to local accountants as well as the Campbell River Mirror.

There are still two more weeks to go in her internship, but so far the most eye opening business was NexGen Hearing.

Managing a business that provides a medical service is not something Kupchinskaya has been exposed to at university. Learning how to communicate with people who can’t hear properly was a new business consideration for her.

She also said there are many more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs here, compared to Russia.

She is learning about the cooperation and coordination of business owners in the community, something she said she doesn’t see much in Russia where there are many large businesses holding monopolies over a specific product or service.

The Watch and Learn program has three primary goals: to familiarize students with the ethics in a free market economy, to immerse the students in a different culture and language and to get them involved in volunteering and social responsibility through an introduction to the Rotary club.

At the end of the day it was an opportunity for Kupchinskaya to travel.

“This is my first practice in a native English speaking country,” she said.

She started studying English in her final year of high school and many of her classes at university are taught in English.

It is also Kupchinskaya’s first time travelling without her family. She is happy to be here and has felt very welcome.

“You’re really smiling all the time and you really want to help, it’s amazing,” she said. “We smile, but not all the time. Sometimes we are angry or not in a good mood, but Canadians are just smiling all the time.”

Kupchinskaya is staying with a different host family each week for her month long stay. Rotary has her scheduled to visit one to two businesses a day for her whole visit.

At the moment Kupchinskaya hasn’t found her calling, but she thinks that when she goes home and has a chance to sit and think about everything she has learned this trip will impact what she decides to do after graduation.