For many students considering becoming first-time international scholars, concerns over ‘daily student life’ can be particularly nerve-racking.
As ‘daily life’ plays such a huge role in students’ overall university experience and ability to succeed in classes, it’s not uncommon for students (and their families!) to feel pre-departure anxiety over such issues as ‘Where will I be living?’, ‘Will people be nice to me as a foreign student?’, ‘Is it safe?’ etc. And these are all very valid concerns.
But as Canadian graduate Ankur Ahmed attests, students choosing a university in Canada often settle in quickly.
“Canada happens to be a country where settling in for a student isn’t hard,” he explains. “People are friendly and helpful. Living essentials and services are made easily available. For a student new to the country with adequate financial resources, it does not take long to familiarize with the environment, and once that happens, everything just ‘clicks’.”
Ahmed, originally from Bangladesh, graduated with a Computer Science degree from the University of Windsor in 2005. Having started his degree at Dhaka’s North South University, Ankur was able to transfer his credits toward the Windsor program. Although it was a big change, Ankur says it was the right decision.
“When I first arrived in Canada, I literally saw my life change in front of me. I was no longer living under the shelter of my mom and dad. I was totally responsible for looking after what I ate or where I lived. I was completely in charge of my actions. The changes were just pouring in. When I look back at it though, I can safely say that in my case, they were all good changes. Thanks, in a big part, to some good people.”
Good people, Ahmed says, included the staff at the International Student Centre, or ISC.
Like other Canadian universities, the University of Windsor offers a comprehensive international student support system. With specialized orientation programs, student advisors, academic support, and help regarding visas and/or study permits, such sup-port systems can make a big difference for international arrivals.
“Growing up, near the end of my teen years, I strongly believed in freedom and equality,” says Ahmed. “I believed that an honest and hard working person should be able to realize his/her dreams or, at the very least, lead a decent, secure and healthy life. These values, compounded with the need and desire for a quality education in science and technology, are the reasons why North America is where I always wanted to be. I chose Canada because of its reputation as a friendly nation and a beautiful country – and I am proud to say I made the right choice.”
Such a reputation is certainly a strong point in Canada’s favour – and with political stability, a strong economy with growing job opportunities for skilled workers, and multicultural values which welcome international newcomers, it is a perfect place for students and young professionals alike. And, as is the case for other cities across the nation, Ankur found Windsor to be “warm and welcoming,” right from day one.
Strong communities at Canadian campuses particularly help new arrivals to fit right in. Student-led clubs and organizations, particularly, give students a chance to meet others with similar interests and/or backgrounds – from drama productions to student politics, hobbies such as chess and outdoor hiking, and ethnic or religious-based gatherings. Such clubs offer newcomers immediate ways to get involved.
Additionally, Canadian universities also offer students great opportunities to gain valuable work experience, both on and off campus. Ankur, for example, worked a number of different positions, starting from his second year at Windsor – from being a Peer Counsellor at the International Students Centre, to acting as the Program Co-ordinator for an English Language Improvement Program and Graduate Assistant for courses in computer science.
“These roles and positions taught me discipline, work ethics, the importance of meeting deadlines, and enhanced my communication skills as well as my sense of responsibility,” Ahmed explains. “They significantly helped in preparing me for life after university.”
Which was a life that Ahmed decided to pursue, staying right where he was. In less than a year after graduating from Windsor, he landed a job with a software development company – in the same city.
“I’ve also become a Canadian citizen. I am staying in Canada,” says Ahmed. “It’s been almost a decade since I came here as a student. There have been ups and downs, but overall, this country turned out to be everything I expected when I first came here – if you’re willing to work hard, you can make a difference in your life, as well as the lives of others.”
– ARWEN KIDD
Posted: Feb 3, 2011