Indeed, time flies so fast! It feels like I was submitting our study permit applications just yesterday! Now I am graduating in just two months. These two years were very exciting! So many places have been explored, many friends have been made, many life-long lessons have been learnt. The experience gained in Canada is truly priceless.

Every international student would agree that moving to a new country is not easy. But they would also be grateful for the lessons and experiences that made them who they are now. In the beginning, my brother and I were often impressed by how things work here. Some of them are unspoken laws people follow, some are the results of deep thinking and consideration for the common good. Thanking a bus driver, holding a door, enhanced garbage recycling system, ramps and door buttons on every entrance, traffic lights with sound, washrooms in camping areas, needle disposals in public places, emergency blue buttons on campus, uncompromised yielding to police/ambulance/firetrucks and etc. These all show that people care for each other and the environment.

Sometimes it feels like Canada is a hub of the world where many different nationalities, cultures and people were brought together to live and work in peace and harmony for the greatness of the community. I think the global citizen concept is what allows people to prosper. Being an open-minded, respectful and active member of the community are the key values of global citizenship. It’s not a state of mind but a constant work on yourself. Today many people are self-centered and focused only on benefiting themselves. Very often, it comes with a sacrifice of the common good. However, this does not work in the long term. The world is facing many global challenges now, and global citizenship is the tool to “fix” them.

The way I see the world has truly changed in these two years. My mind is now always open to new ideas and perspectives. I see a huge value and meaning in active community engagement. Recently we just finished our Grocery Shuttle bus project on campus to help students with food insecurity. Many people found the service very helpful. It feels great helping people through meaningful work. Therefore, moving towards the end of my studies, I am going to use my experience gained in Canada to continue contributing to the well being of the global community.

Since I applied to study in Canada, school was always the main priority. My goal for the last two years was to earn a diploma and become a knowledgeable and skilled specialist ready to start working. Now I am in the last term, and things have been going well.

I learned a lot about Telecommunication technologies, worked on various equipment and machines, designed interesting projects and connected with great people from the industry. Yes, from time to time, courses can get challenging, and you may not score up to your expectations, but studying here feels very interesting and engaging. Even online.

Speaking about it, my first term was fully online, which was the most challenging time during my two years of studying. I was back home at that time with 13 hours time difference studying from 9 pm to 3 am. My initial ideas and expectations about school life in Canada were different, but sometimes odd things in life happen, so we have to adjust. 

These are two main things that helped me along the way to overcome difficulties:

  1. Friends and people: Canadians are very friendly and always willing to help. Being an international student away from home, I never felt lonely or homesick. I have great friends, teachers, roommates, colleagues and my brother who always supports me and brings happiness, growth and unforgettable memories in my life.
  2. Support system for international students: many Canadian institutions have international student centers, Student Associations, Student Life departments that focus on helping students to thrive during their time in school and providing support in different challenging situations. Make sure you connect with them and learn about all available resources and services they are offering. Make the most out of your time in school.

One thing you should always be aware of is finances. Studying in Canada is exciting, promising and very interesting but also requires lots of dedication and discipline to manage school life with other responsibilities. The hardest part is to be able to successfully manage your expenses like tuition fees, housing and all other living expenses. Keeping weekly spending limits is a good idea, and just generally being aware of where you can buy inexpensive stuff always helped me a lot.

But in my opinion, financial stress is worth it because it strengthens the character and prepares one to face the real world. I am graduating from a well known polytechnic institute, where I would have gotten work experience and developed a good network. I am confident that the skills and knowledge I learned here will pay back in the nearest future.

The word “community” means people who work together and engage with each other for the common good. Active involvement in community life was always an integral part of my life. It shaped who I am today. At a very young age, I learned to be involved in my community, take action and collaborate with people to get things done.

There were always many life transitions, from moving to cities and changing schools to going abroad and studying in a new country. I learned that understanding and incorporating new values, perspectives, and ways of living come quickly through active community engagement.

In 2020, I came to Canada from Kazakhstan. It was not easy. I was feeling isolated: a new language, different culture and a global pandemic. But I wanted to belong, to be part of this community just like when I was in Kazakhstan. So, I realized that if I want to adapt to a new environment and incorporate its values, I need to start interacting with the community.

Therefore, I decided to live on campus. It allowed me to connect with local people from many different cities in British Columbia and outside. Student Housing at BCIT is well known for its solid sense of community. My roommates became my friends. These people became the first community that helped me to sense Canadian culture.

Reflecting on my experience, being a student helped a lot. The student community is unique because it allows you to meet with people who have the same goals, concerns, and interests as you. Especially with a diverse student body, there is always a chance to learn and grow. Therefore, I got a job on campus and became part of the Student Association, which helped to expand my social connections, raised cultural knowledge, and improved my leadership skills. This community engagement created a fulfilling and impactful experience that significantly influenced my way of seeing life.

Community engagement is very high in Canada. Canadians always look for ways of improving life and solving problems. They genuinely care for the beautiful environment they live in. The realization that the community’s well-being depends on each member gave me an understanding that respect, kindness and sharing are the central values in Canadian culture. Only work and close interaction allowed me to see these.

One of the scariest parts of moving to a new place – at least for me – is the lack of friendships and support network when you arrive. While there are certainly unknowns for international students coming to a new country to study, the nature of attending a school means there are lots of opportunities to make friends with people who are similar in age, meaning some of the work has already been done for you. The trick is to then find folks that have things in common with you or who share your values. In my case, I was lucky to be coming in as part of a cohort of students pursuing a natural resources and environmental studies degree, so an appreciation for our environment was a given. Fortunately, the Canadians are as friendly as advertised (and my fellow international students have been lovely too).

Being so far away from loved ones can be a challenge, and the community that my university has provided me – ranging from friendly faces to lifelong friendships – is something I’ll always be grateful for. These people have both brightened my day-to-day life and taken me on memorable adventures throughout the province. Not only have they emotionally supported me through life’s typical problems, but they’ve banded together in the face of a labour strike at the university, grappled with a pandemic, and consoled one another after the death of one of our classmates. I could not have possibly imagined the sort of adversity I’d have to deal with over the course of my degree since I moved to BC, but these people have been an immense support and I’m a better person for knowing them.

I plan on graduating over the summer, so depending on how opportunities shake out these may well be my last few months living in British Columbia and Canada. I intend to make the most of my remaining time by appreciating the connections I’ve made to both people and places here. While the past year and a half hasn’t been the easiest, I remain thrilled that I decided to move to Prince George, attend UNBC, work with the people I do, and befriend all the folks that I have in Northern BC. Thank you, BC.

It has been three years since I came to Vancouver to pursue my Bachelor’s degree. As I write this blog, I find myself in a comfortable position with my life here. I’m emotionally connected with friends I’ve made, I’ve stayed on top of studies and work, and I’m starting to take on responsibilities as an adult.

However, looking back, it has not been always easy, especially during my first few months here. Learning to live in a foreign country, transitioning from high school to university, and becoming independent in every way possible. I remember not having the courage to speak in a 150-person lecture hall given my shyness and language barriers. I remember feeling homesick and feeling envious of domestic friends who got to go home every day. I remember getting stressed about all sorts of IRCC paperwork, bank statements, and insurance; all things I never used to worry about.

What would I recommend to incoming international students? Strategize what social relationships to maintain, think about how much time to dedicate to work, hobbies, and studying, and recognize what is creating a meaningful impact for your life. Disengage with ones that do not. What has helped me is staying active in clubs, working a part-time job or two, doing volunteer work, and being responsible for my own learning. Over the years, my involvement in these things has strengthened my soft and hard skills and exposed me to numerous opportunities.

I certainly do miss the comfort I get back home under the protection of my loving parents. However, growing up is about exploring new adventures and taking risks. As I continue to build relationships and a life here, this land once foreign to me has started to feel like home.