Natalia Balyasnikova

Research Topic

Culture, identity, and belonging of senior ESL learners: A case study at a community-based program

Research Description

My research examines how a community-based literacy program located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside assists senior immigrants in mitigating the difficulties of relocation, and helps reconstruct their sense of belonging.Through a close examination of seniors' narratives about their language journeys, I explore the ways in which language learning processes affect feelings of inclusion within local communties and larger Canadian society. The ultimate goal of my project is to identify promising practices that best accomplish the twofold goal of achieving language proficiency while promoting learners' social and cultural integration into Canadian society.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I am thankful to have found a supportive and understanding community of peers here in Vancouver. My first two years as an international student would have been very different if it hadn't been for the people I met through living in Green College and being a part of Russian-speaking communities at UBC.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

My main reason for choosing the UBC Faculty of Education was that it is a global leader in pedagogical research, attracting outstanding scholars from all over the world. I was familiar with the work done at the Department of Language and Literacy Education through faculty members' publications and conference presentations. Once I was accepted to the program there was no doubt in my mind that I had made the right choice.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The Department of Language and Literacy Education has given me opportunities to engage with multiple on-campus and off-campus communities through research, volunteering and activism. I collaborate with the UBC Learning Learning Exchange in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and I have worked for the Centre for Intercultural Language Studies and Digital Literacy Centre at UBC.


Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

As an English teacher in Russia I have always striven to enhance my practice through classroom-based research. My experience inspires me to create meaningful relationships between research and the practitioner community: pursuing a Doctorate in Education at UBC allows me to achieve this goal.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I enjoy going to the theatre and museums. Every year I look forward to the Vancouver Fringe Festival and the special exhibitions at Vancouver Art Gallery.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I think it is crucial for emerging academics to contribute to a collaborative environment within their community. My advice for new graduate students would be to engage with their peers and lean on each other for support. You can do this through forming study or reading groups, but also through socializing outside the classroom walls.


I am thankful to have found a supportive and understanding community of peers here in Vancouver.