Imagine stepping off a plane into a brand new place. Within minutes you realize how different it is from your home country; the weather is not the same as home and you start to miss the warm breeze you’ve grown up with; the people are not the same and you start to miss the familiar faces. Even the food is different from home, and all of a sudden you miss the places you grew up eating in. You start to realize then not how different the new country is, but how different you are. You keep thinking to yourself: “I don’t speak like them and I don’t act like them,” suddenly becoming insecure and having a need to fit in and learn the ways and norms of your new home.
This is the case for Daniyal Irfan, a first-year international student at Laurier in the business technology management program. According to Statistics Canada, he is one of 4,555 student immigrants to come to Canada from 2016 to present day.
Irfan was born in Karachi, Pakistan and then moved to Dubai, UAE where he went completed his elementary and high school education. When it came to his university education, he had to make a decision: “It was either Canada or Dubai and honestly they have a good education system but the quality of education is not as high as Canada’s so this was a better choice,” said Irfan.
Irfan also praises how helpful Laurier was with the process: “Laurier’s International Week was very helpful as it informed us about the norms here and gave us time to adapt to our new surroundings”. Laurier’s international student program is full of students and staff that are trained to make the transition as easy as possible for the students. Someone who has stood out – not only in Irfan’s eyes but also in the eyes of all the international students – is Teeba Alsafar. Alsafar is a international student advisor with a Master of Education degree in Counselling Psychology, and her main interests lie in assessing the impact of on-campus integration programs and watching students develop and learn about cross-cultural issues. She loves to see international students become leaders on campus and support incoming international students in following years.
One way that they help international students like Irfan is by inviting them to come a week earlier than the rest of the first-year students. By letting them come early, international students have more time to get used to the environment, because Laurier understands that they are not just changing schools but they are also changing lifestyles. This made it so that when Irfan and the other students went through the process of assimilation, it was voluntary rather than forced, and they chose to become a part of a larger group of people.
Another way that Laurier helped students like Irfan get used to Canada is by holding different information sessions about topics that would interest them. Some examples of these topics are about health insurance in Canada, student visas (whether or not international students are allowed to work), and safety in Brantford. This gave them a way to become informed and meet people who are in the same boat as them.