International Students and Acclimatization

Thunder Bay through the Eyes of International Students

By: Sanjana Sharma, Staff Writer

From dreaming of studying abroad and gaining exposure, to departing from our loved ones with hopeful tears in eyes, to being nervous and excited about starting a new life in a different country, life as an international student can be full of adventures. After all, it takes courage for a young adult to become a part of a new community with different lifestyles and culture.

With more than 2,500 international enrollments as of 2015-2016,  Lakehead University continues to welcome even more students from across the world.

Something common among international students is moving to a new city, which can be overwhelming at times and exciting at the others. This year’s fall intake had their own experiences when they first came to the city, and The Argus is glad to share them.

Afieqha Mieza Binti Azemi, who is a Malaysian student studying her H.B.Sc. in Computer Science, told The Argus, “Honestly, I felt very homesick for the first two months. This is my first time away from my family and friends, so this has been the hardest, most challenging time ever in my life.”

Inderpreet Singh, who is from India and is doing an M.Sc. in Forestry said, “Before coming here, I was a little nervous because I had nobody who I knew in Thunder Bay though I have family in other parts of Canada, but, I was excited.”

Dhruv Lalkiya, an Indian student majoring in Biology, commented, “I was excited. In the beginning, I wasn’t confident with English being the first language of communication, but I’m happy to have been able to cope with that problem now.” Lalkiya told The Argus that he wasn’t prepared when he first came here: “I didn’t know where I would stay. I stayed at a friend’s place temporarily. I felt grateful to have a friend in this new place. I think I did just fine.”

Singh had a similar experience as he stayed at Haven Hostel for the first 5-6 days, though that was an expensive option. Later on, he found a good house to rent.

A Nigerian student, who prefers to remain anonymous told The Argus, “At first, I felt that Thunder Bay was small, and I hated it. I also miss my friends and family, but I talk to them often.”

When asked about the community in Thunder Bay, most of the students agreed that everybody is very friendly here. Mieza said with excitement, “My friends, roommates, and the International Student Centre have really helped me here. Even some Muslim Canadians at Walmart once guided me on what to buy.”

Singh also had an interesting story to share when asked whether he missed his family: “I do miss my family because I left them behind. But, one day when I was walking near Marina Park, an old couple just started talking to me and asked me how I was doing. That felt good and home-like. In India, people don’t greet strangers like that.”

The education system is another area which greatly varies from country to country, and international students understand this well. Singh commented how Lakehead University requires master’s students to do many presentations, which is essential in developing professional skills. Mieza, on the other hand, pointed out how the courses are more difficult at LU, but she likes how the class timings are flexible.

It is also important to look closely at how international students are being treated. One student said, “I have faced racism a few times.” Mieza pointed out that she faced discrimination a few times because of her religion. She said, “by being here, I’m learning to survive in the real world, and I’m out of my comfort zone, which makes me feel stronger. I wouldn’t have gotten this exposure in Malaysia. Being here is different.”

On being asked whether they would stay in Thunder Bay or go back home to complete their studies, all the students said that they would rather stay here. Lalkiya said, “I would stay here because I really like Canada. It’s a country of peace. I like independence. I think that this place suits me more than any other country.” The Nigerian student also said, “I have adjusted to Thunder Bay, and I somewhat feel like a part of the community.”

The students also said that they’re enjoying the cold weather and snow. One student even said that she chose to come here to experience the winters.