We have a glass inside of us that is gradually filled with experience; this glass is not made of crystal or any regular material, as it resembles our chest—a container that expands and contracts as we breathe. When we arrive at a new place, our inner glass expands in the same way our chest does when we take a big breath to prepare for our first steps; in a bigger container, the experience that filled it drops, making our glass feel suddenly half empty. This happens not only because of the empty space on the upper half, but also because what fills the bottom half starts to feel useless.

Even a great explorer of the forest would be tempted to describe their experience as “useless” if they ever found themself in a desert. The immediate value of what we know depends on where we are, so relocating yourself often means that a lot of what you carefully kept in your glass—more than just street names and slang—starts to feel like it’s only taking up space.

The word opportunity derives from the Latin phrase ob portum veniens, whose literal translation would be “coming to port,” the perfect analogy: a person who is constantly exploring the horizon and observing it attentively is more likely to detect a port and guide their course towards it. There’s nothing that inspires a person to be aware of their surroundings more than a totally new environment; the constant feeling of having too much to learn enhances our senses, as routine and familiarity dulls them.

We start filling our glass so fast that we don’t allow ourselves the right amount of time to process all this new content, making our inner glass suddenly seem half full. We could start second guessing what to include in this diminished space, or we can navigate in its miscellaneous content. Eventually, similarities appear, and differences stop competing for space as they start complementing each other.

But deciding whether a glass is half full or empty is not only about the content as it about us as a container. Growing is about acknowledging the immensity of what remains to be known; if our glass feels emptier, it’s because we have grown as a container. So, we shouldn’t try to minimize our empty space because that’s where opportunity can be found.

Before I came to British Columbia, I had very firm expectations about what I thought it would be like to study here. As I had never visited BC before, I thought it wouldn’t be diverse. And I also thought there wouldn’t be a lot of international students. In a way, my expectations of BC were similar to what I had experienced as a tourist in the United States. The only thing I was 100 percent sure of was that I would be in a completely different environment and that I’d need to adapt quickly.

I could not have been more wrong. It turns out there are a lot of international students in BC. And I’ve learned most people from Vancouver aren’t born here, which means it’s a very diverse city. At first, I thought I’d barely speak any Spanish, my native language. But as time went on and I got to know my classmates better, I’ve come to realize there’s many people from Latin America here. Making friends from a similar culture as mine has made me extremely happy and it’s been completely unexpected. It’s made my adapting period a lot easier. I’ve found my people, and it’s the best feeling in the world.

These last five months in BC have taught me a lot. Learning about community has helped me navigate Vancouver with confidence. People here are very open and accepting of multiculturalism, making the adaptation process easier on international students. After all, we are all here for the same reasons, and I think that unites us. Most importantly, I’ve learned there will always be a community for me, and I love being part of it.

Studying and living in British Columbia as an international student can be quite costly sometimes.

But before looking for part-time work, it’s important to remember that an education is the best investment for your future. During my first year, I prioritized my studies and tried focusing on adapting to a new environment and overcoming a language barrier.

Fortunately, BC is a place of various opportunities. Once your confident in managing your studies, you can find a part-time job in almost any industry to get some experience. The best way to do it is to listen to yourself and identify at what you’re good at. Following this strategy, I got a position as Student Life Ambassador at BCIT, which has helped me get more involved in the social aspects of school and make new friends.

One of the options for part-time jobs for international students is finding a job on campus. It saves some time on transportation and provides a more flexible schedule where you can do your assignments during breaks. On-campus working hours are also not included in the overall limit of weekly work hours for international students.

One thing that helps in time management and succeeding at a part-time job is setting priorities. Sometimes international students might feel overwhelmed by both work and school. In such moments it’s crucial to ask yourself which tasks have a closer deadline, and which are more important for your future.

Juggling school and work can be a challenge sometimes. But if you remember what brought you here, and the goals you’re trying to achieve, you can do anything. The important thing to remember is to give yourself some rest along the way.

Motivation works like any type of fuel, where a small amount is enough for the initial part of any journey. However, fuel runs out fast through the distance between the first draft and the expected results. The more immersed you are in the process of that transition, the harder it is to keep track of the finish line; the problem is not in the process itself, but in the finish line that doesn’t stay still.

It’s easier to be patient through a 10-second countdown because we know the exact numbers that are separating us from zero. But when the countdown is from expectations to reality, the in-between is far less defined and measurable than numbers. But it often seems as infinite.

Creative projects often frame thoughts or ideas about a particular matter in a specific moment; unfinished projects are more likely to stay that way when the specific moment they belonged to has left it behind. On the other hand, finished projects, despite their flaws, manage to complete an idea that can be revisited. I have often found value in what I initially thought to be flaws.

A good example would be my painting projects, since most of them were left unfinished as they didn’t resemble what I expected. I did finish the portrait of an elder Indigenous woman; at the time I thought it looked good despite my failed attempts to paint realistic wrinkles and details. I found the painting six years later, and I realized that the only original thing about this oil painting was the oddly painted wrinkles; so I worked on the details with newly acquired techniques, and the result is the portrait that I’m currently most proud of.

Many projects are left unfinished because they could get as perfect as the finish line required them to be; but this only happens when we use “perfect” as the noun that our project will never deserve, instead of using it as a verb that guides us throughout the process. The trick is not in improving all the aspects of our work—no wonder motivation gets lost in that approach—but in recognizing which aspects don’t need to be improved. The balance in symmetry is as perfect as it is boring, while finding balance in the asymmetrical is a much more motivating challenge.

Once you realize you have gotten to your dream city as a student, it’s a reason to celebrate! However, one of the common challenges international students face is not spending the holidays with our loved ones. Here’s a few steps on how to handle homesickness:

  1. Try to become more familiar with the local culture. Consider your time in BC a chance to do something new and learn more about the holidays here. For instance, Christmas is common in BC, and even if you don’t usually celebrate it back in your home country, it’s always nice to enjoy the magical atmosphere and watch classic holiday movies.
  2. Celebrate with the people around you. Most likely, by the time the holiday season begins, you will already have met your classmates and roommates. One of the best ways of bonding and escaping loneliness is celebrating the holidays together! It not only helps to start the new year but also allows you to learn more about cultures and become more open-minded. I like to organize a Christmas dinner with other international students in my dorm, where everyone makes the food, they usually eat at home.
  3. Teach your culture to your friends. BC is home to hundreds of different ethnicities with unique customs and religions. Thanks to this, various cultural fests happen here on specific foreign holidays. People teach each other about their home traditions, national cuisine, and beliefs. So why don’t we do the same? If you are far from home, you can always celebrate traditional holidays with your friends and tell them more about your origins. In my first year in BC, I prepared traditional food and music for roommates for Nauryz, Kazakh’s new year.

These are just some activities that help me handle being far from family on holidays and focus on the positive side of being away from family and friends.