I was fortunate enough to be born into a middle-class family in Peru. I grew up learning English and even went to a Peruvian-American school. Since Peruvian Universities are not well funded, I started to look for opportunities outside of Peru where I could advance my academic goals. I studied in an international school with a lot of teachers that came from a wide range of different countries. Since I had professors from both the United States and England, I had a good idea of how the Western education system worked. I wanted a shot at this kind of education.
When I first started thinking about studying abroad, my initial thought was that I should study in another Spanish-speaking country; it was what I knew best and was most familiar with. However, after some reflection, I decided to broaden my horizons and step outside my comfort zone. Having also studied English, I started to look into universities in England, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. Ultimately, I chose Canada due to the universities’ high rankings, lower costs, and kinder culture.
At the time, the online application process was nearly impossible; that was one of the most challenging barriers I faced throughout the entire course of my transfer. Eventually, I found a private company willing to help me with these steps, which greatly expedited the situation. Once everything was approved and I was ready to go, though I knew they would miss me, my parents were very happy for me. They said this was a great opportunity I had gotten and advised me to make the best out of it. My sister applied to the same university and was quickly accepted. It is my hope that soon, my whole family might eventually move here to Canada; this process is on hold for now.
The greatest joy throughout this process was being accepted to university. Once the process was complete, I flew to Calgary and got a study permit. Through his work, my uncle had become good friends with people who lived in the city; he got us in touch. I feel so lucky that even before landing, there was a group of people already looking out for me. As a result, the moment I touched down, I was introduced to many Peruvian people living here and others with similar cultures. It did not take much time to feel accepted. I started living on campus. I am happy with my life here as a student: everyone is so kind and understanding.
The hardest thing I had to go through living in Canada was getting accustomed to the food served at the university. Peruvian food is very similar to Chinese and Japanese cuisine with its focus on fish, meat, and seafood. Eating only from the university cafeteria and finding unfamiliar foods took a lot of work to get used to.
The second most challenging experience I had while living in Canada was figuring out how to live by myself. Once Covid-19 broke out, I had to relocate myself off-campus; I had to figure out how and where I was going to go. Thankfully, a friend of mine offered an extra room in a nearby apartment. At this same time, I was almost looking for work and was fortunate enough to find a position as a math tutor through the university job board.
I miss many things about my home country, but at the same time, I have built my life here, and it has become my second home. I have been blessed with amazing friends who make my Canadian and university life uniquely fun. The one thing I would tell my younger self is not to worry about everything. There are some things you can control and some that you can't; that’s ok. If you only focus on what you can handle yourself, life becomes much more manageable and enjoyable.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Samia Qadeer and Jose Alvarez