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Forgotten at the airport on Christmas Eve, foreign student vows to help other newcomers


For 21-year-old Parth Tadhani of Gurgaon, India, the dream of studying in Canada turned into a nightmare when he landed in Toronto on Christmas Eve, 2010, and a former classmate failed to meet him at the airport.

“It was freezing cold, and I was afraid since I didn’t know where to go,” recalls Parth, who waited five hours at the baggage claim before he reached a relative of his old schoolmate, who came and offered temporary shelter.

Things didn’t improve soon either, since Parth struggled to master English and keep up with his electromechanical engineering studies at Centennial College. Every detail of daily life was confusing, including managing his money. Without a bank account, he nervously stashed cash in his room, and when he finally opened an account at a major bank, no one explained how to use debit or credit cards.

Fortunately Parth persisted and learned the Canadian ways, by making friends at college and at his apartment block, where a kindly building superintendent advised him about everything from catching a bus to depositing money at an ABM.

Parth then pledged to help other newcomers avoid stressful arrivals in Canada, like his. He contacted a community centre in India to spread the word that he could assist any Indian students landing in Toronto. Soon, he was busy exchanging e-mails with foreign students, greeting them at the airport, teaching them to use transit and register for school. At Centennial College, where students hail from around the world, his advice was quickly in demand.

Parth provides his peers future-minded financial tips, like telling them to get a credit card, and make the payments regularly, so they can build a credit history and access loans later if needed. Today, he suggests the Scotiabank StartRight Program for International Students, which includes special product offerings to provide worry-free financial solutions while studying in Canada.

Parth now knows that international students can actually apply for a bank account in Canada through select Scotiabank branches in India and Mexico or in China through China Everbright Bank, before leaving their home country, to reduce their financial concerns.

Not expecting any thanks for his volunteer duties, Parth was amazed when he was invited to a formal ceremony at City Hall last October to receive a City of Toronto Community Service Award, as well as a $500 award from Scotiabank, to recognize his good deeds for international students.

“Parth’s commitment to his peers and to helping them start right is much like the efforts of our Scotiabank advisors,” remarks Winnie Leong, Vice-President, Multicultural Banking at Scotiabank.

“Every day, our advisors are able to help newcomers through our Scotiabank StartRight Program, offering advice and financial solutions to help them plan for their dreams in Canada. Many of these same advisors were new to Canada once, and they understand what it’s like to just be starting out.”

“I volunteered because someone helped me and I want to make sure that others have fewer problems,” says Parth, who is graduating with top marks while he works as a peer tutor and applies for a Masters degree in engineering.

“I’m happy there are people out there, including Scotiabankers, who can help remove the difficulties that newcomers often experience.”

Posted: Aug 1, 2012

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