After half a year living in Canada, I am learning to embrace my new identity: a global citizen. Individually, it’s given me the courage to validate my own experience and live louder because I am more aware of my inner power. Collectively, my sense of home has grown larger. Being a global citizen expands my definition of a community since no matter how different we are historically, culturally, and economically, human beings are interconnected, as long as we embrace our uniqueness and respect others.

Being a global citizen challenges ignorance. But it was not there to defeat us, because in this journey, we, as human beings, find the beauty in unity, in understanding that as our compassion for others grows much stronger, it changes the way we engage with the world.

This year we found ourselves sending hope and prayers to those who were once strangers. We acted, we choose to speak up, we advocated: for climate change, for liberation, for equality, for mental health, for everything that speaks to our hearts.

Studying abroad has really altered my perception. It has cracked me open and helped me see the world in a different light.

When being asked about my university life in Canada, I would say it is a delicately tailored experience. My academic advisor assists me with every step I take to make sure I’m educationally and mentally ready for the upcoming courses. It is so amazing to have her by my side and I am truly grateful for her time taking care of me academically. I’ve met many enthusiastic instructors who have encouraged me to write and take creative writing courses.

Becoming one of TRU’s Social Media Ambassadors has also been a profound experience. Working with people from different backgrounds, I’m learning to accept and respect cultural differences and to support others in a genuine way. By interacting with people not like myself, I’ve realized how judgmental I can be to those around me. It’s made me more aware that we all need to treat people with kindness.

No matter you are studying or working away from home, sometimes homesickness creeps up and loneliness has you sink into depression. And as you experience different emotional states, you figure out your deepest desire within every breath you take. Moving to a new place, I assume the upcoming journey is the search of joy, of the glow of small or great triumph. But at the end of the day, like other human beings, I do crave a sense of belonging.

Some nights I kept staring at the ceiling asking myself if I should reduce or even get rid of my associations with my heritage culture to blend into a new society. It kept lingering in my mind until I bumped into a Canadian woman, the conversation with her was an epiphany for me when she said: “Thank you for being here and bringing your culture with you, your existence makes a difference for our community.”

Her kindness reminded me that sometimes self-critical thinking and bias keep us from truly experiencing happiness. And I am reminded of how I have chosen to live:  to keep both my mind and my heart open to this new place that I will someday call home. Instead of seeking acceptance, I stepped outside my comfort zone and got involved in social activities, including volunteering for the Salvation Army this past Christmas.

Standing beside the Christmas Kettle to collect donations for those in need, I had a beautiful time connecting with people and witnessing their generosity even in the hardest times. I met people who were in awe of my home country, who hugged me, and expressed gratitude for my volunteering. I busted into tears when a lady asked my name then closed her eyes and prayed for me. It was such an uplifting experience which reminded me, everybody needs kindness.

For the first time, I recognized that community is not just about the people who speak my language, or the heritage culture embodied within myself. It is far more beyond my limitation. For a moment in life, Canada taught me that community means kindness.

British Columbia is a place where I feel I can take life at a slower pace for the very first time. Coming from Europe where I grew up with the pressure to be on time, all the time, BC feels like a place where I can finally embrace a work, or in my case, a study-life balance.

When I first came to Canada I was afraid of not finding friends. My biggest fear was not having a support system with my family living so far away. But Canada has proved these fears wrong.

Community means something different in Canada. As Canada is home to many different cultures, it creates a melting pot of different people all searching for genuine connection.

I’ve made connections here and have created a support system with my chosen family of friends. Integrating myself was key. I realized that community is going out and seeking connection. Volunteering have been another great way of connecting with people. In fact, I found myself trail building with a local bike association that has not only brought me great joy, but also great friends. There is always something to do here, and the community of Canada welcomes people with open arms to be a part of it.

Being a post-secondary student in my mid 30s isn’t something I had thought I was going to be. The urge to learn and become better just hit me. I gave up a well-paying job to come to Canada and to pursue the urge of knowledge. I wasn’t disappointed.

In terms of learning, I found some great role models, teachers, who have opened so many new ideas and pathways.

Today I look back on my achievements made so far, and I must say I’m more than proud of myself. I made the Dean’s honour list, I write for the student newspaper, and I feel I’ve achieved more than my teachers back in school would have believed in I could do.

Post-secondary education in Canada is different from Europe. Even though it is a bit too busy at times with all my assignments it’s more accurate in reflecting in what one can achieve than just hammering in some facts for a final exam. I really hope this concept finds its way over the Atlantic, too. The only thing that this takes away is a lot of time, it is quite hard to find new friends, because everybody is so busy with their assignments that there is just not enough time to socialize and make friends off campus. This might be a more “mature” student problem, but I’m working on it.

Before I came to study in BC I thought I’d gain more knowledge in what I was doing before, but now, all these pathways have opened and I have the confidence to pursue my goals even more.