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Finding Heart in a New Home: Hassan’s Story

Moving to Canada has been a roller-coaster of new experiences. From learning cultural norms to trying foreign foods for the first time, it was all a whirlwind. However, it can also be a fun learning experience: meeting new people and living independently in order to build your own life is incredibly thrilling. Everyone reacts differently to change: while some are wholeheartedly excited, others are reluctant to leave parts of their life in the past. As an international student, I have experienced both ends of that spectrum.

I was in high school when I discovered my passion for computer science and decided I wanted to pursue it as a career. Fortunately for me, my parents were supportive of my interest in pursuing a higher education elsewhere; I soon started applying for university programs in Canada. When the pandemic hit, I knew I was going to face unexpected challenges, but I also knew that hardships often present unexpected opportunities. Moving to live on my own has been a journey of both mind and heart – it was not always easy. There was a lot of worrying, many mistakes, and more than a few “rainy days” (especially in Vancouver) that awaited me. However, I kept my goals in mind and continued on my path.

I started my first year of online school all alone with no understanding of the Canadian education system. Fast forward to today: I am in my third year with numerous friends and even more memories. In those years, one of my main struggles was the language barrier. New languages are always overwhelming: English in particular. Not being understood was one of my greatest fears. I took English classes back in Morocco, but speaking it 24/7 is a wholly different challenge. After 3 months, I was finally able to express my thoughts and hold long conversations. To practice, I watched videos and listened to music in English; sometimes I even had whole conversations with myself. I can now confidently say that I have next to no trouble with the language (with the notable exception of some especially confusing slang).

I’m grateful for the people who made this journey easier for me. Most people here were empathetic: everyone from my dentist to my teachers were lovely and helpful. In my experience, Canadians do a great job of making immigrants feel at home. It also helps that I am able to keep in touch with my family; the contact keeps me grounded and reminds me that there are always people who care about me and have my back

My goals in coming to Canada were to build a life I am proud of, to craft a career that I am passionate about, and to make friends along the way. Having accomplished most of my goals in such a short period of time, I couldn’t be prouder of myself. The journey ahead is still a long one, but I can’t wait to see what it holds.

If I could give a single piece of advice to incoming international students, it would be to brace yourself for change and challenge, but to not only accept it, but embrace it. I promise you that it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there will always be someone there to guide you along the way. Take heart, and you will find your path.

Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity

This story is a collaborative effort between Nada Aouni and Hassan Abdullah

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