Jane playing the guqin, a traditional Chinese instrument

Grebel’s student leadership and residence life are unimaginable without international students. Grebel is committed to developing a more culturally representative student body in residence and leadership roles. At the core, this initiative is about building belonging and celebrating diversity in the community.  

In 2023, Grebel Student Council introduced a new International Students leadership role within the Student Services Larger Leadership Team (LLT). Darley Dau and Jane are the first International Student Representatives and have already contributed to a stronger culture of inclusion and belonging in residence. Early in the year, Jane and Darley hosted a Chinese Culture Hour event where many Grebelites and University of Waterloo students came together to create traditional art, practice calligraphy, listen to traditional music, and participate in various workshops. In the future, she hopes to invite other cultural clubs to host events at Grebel. 

Darley Dau playing violin in a piano practice room.

Darley was drawn to Grebel because of the many music practice rooms and the music community. She nurtured her passion for music by getting involved in Grebel’s student-led musical production of “Something Rotten!” as a violinist in the orchestra. Darley is enthusiastic about how Grebel allows her to flourish as a musician. “I love having the chance to play with such talented people—it is so inspiring,” she expressed.  

Michael Wu, member of Student Council and the Social Convener, has broadened his social network and strengthened his leadership skills while living at Grebel. Michael and Gia Zhou, Student Council Treasurer, are working on stocking the Grebel Kitchenette with equipment so students remaining between terms can cook healthy and affordable meals for themselves.  

Michael Wu in the cafeteria

Reflecting on his first year at Grebel, Michael encourages others to immerse themselves in the vibrant community at Grebel. “When I first moved to North America from China a few years ago, the adjustment was difficult,” said Michael. “After living in Grebel for the past two terms, I have found myself again. I am happy to propel myself out of my comfort zone and flourish.”  

This is especially true for sponsored students that come to Grebel through the World University Service of Canada’s Student Refugee Program (SRP). “Sponsored students are an integral part of the community, enriching others with lived experience and knowledge,” said Beverley Fretz, Director of Student Services. She noted that SRP-sponsored students "develop lifelong friendships, enhance their leadership skills, engage in active citizenship, and work hard to prepare for their future with education and work experience.” 

Kassim Ibrahim

This past year, Kassim Ibrahim was Grebel’s sponsored student who came to Canada from a refugee camp in Kenya. With two terms of Grebel experience now, he plans to remain at Grebel for future terms and work alongside Student Services to help future refugee students have smooth transitions to Canada and a transformative student experience at Grebel. “Coming here through WUSC provided a supportive community. They have transformed my life,” said Kassim. “In the camp, you don’t have freedom like you could have in Canada. When someone brings you from that to a lifestyle like this, it is like a light at the end of the tunnel,” he shared. 

Grebel strives to be a welcoming, multi-year home away from home where everyone feels a strong sense of belonging. International students are helping lead Grebel in becoming a more culturally diverse and inclusive residence. As cultures are shared, wisdom is gained, and lifelong friendships are built. 

By Farah Jurdi