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Youth Speak

The Quest of Learning and Developing Yourself

By Ali Najaf, 20 Sep, 2018

    International students like me not only contribute to the cultural and social growth of the universities we attend but also the communities we live in. 

    Being an international student and studying in Canada has been an incredible and rewarding experience. Although there have been challenges and ups and downs, thanks to the support system from peers and university management, those obstacles became easier to overcome.  
    According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, there were 494,525 international students in Canada in 2017 which represents a 119 per cent increase since 2010. International students like me not only contribute to the cultural and social growth of the universities we attend but also the communities we live in. 
    We provide an incredible injection of languages, personalities, customs, art, food, and music from around the world. International students enrich the educational experience of Canadian students in elementary schools, high schools, universities, and colleges. We create a global village in Vancouver in which all students, Canadian and international, can have a taste of the multicultural climate they’ll face as tomorrow’s leaders.
    I still remember the day I landed in Vancouver back in 2012, and can still feel the nervousness and excitement I had. It was not only the fact that I was going to a different country but also to a different culture and society. This was the first time I was travelling alone. I still remember the first time I used public transport ever in my life, and it took me three hours to navigate my way back home. 
    I’ve formed close relationships with people from all over the world, learned all about their cultures, and had the opportunity to become a mentor for other international students. These are all things I had never done back home, and may never have had the chance to do in such a meaningful way until I arrived here. From exploring different cuisines with my international friends to giving back to the community, living in Canada was a learning experience and continues to be.
    Throughout my time at Simon Fraser University, I got the opportunity to make the most of my experience and have tried my best to get involved, give back to the community, and help my fellow students grow. I got a chance to be elected as Senator, and have worked as Team Leader for the International Mentorship program and have worked as Community Advisor at SFU Residence for three years, where I have helped other students integrate into the community while creating opportunities for them to grow as leaders. 
    One of the biggest challenges that international students face in Canada is integration into the wider community and navigating the different teaching style. In the beginning, one of the biggest challenges according to an economics student of Simon Fraser University, Arsal Malik, was the teaching delivery in a different language and the bigger class size. He credited the support from programs like student orientations, academic and personal counselling and pathway programs that helped him integrate into the Canadian culture and society. These programs enable international students to have a positive social and learning experience. 
    Living in a city like Vancouver has its own benefits, apart from being a beautiful city, its cultural diversity and celebration of various ethnic events make it easier for international students to integrate into the community and feel at home. 
    The best lessons that I learned in my early years of university was to give back to the community and provide support in the same way that you received it. I would recommend my fellow students to get involved in student clubs as it’s a great way for them to build their resume and engage in peer-to-peer learning which will further develop great friendships. 
    Ali Najaf aspires to be an HR professional. He is a recipient of Beedie Business Award for International Students and SFU International Award for Intercultural Engagement. 
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