Kealan Branellec

Why did you choose the University of Waterloo?

Living in France, Trinidad and Tobago, and Canada, I had a strong desire to learn more about our world; the cultures, the people, and the endless landscapes. I developed a passion for multiculturalism and a deep appreciation for cultural relativism. When I read through Waterloo's International Development program description back in Trinidad in 2016, I instantly knew what my next move would be. To return to the land of my birth and equip myself with the necessary skills I require to leave a legacy of excellence in this world.

When you received your offer of admission, how did you celebrate your success?

Paired with emotions of ecstasy and jubilation, I instantly started my to-do list in my head. I was ready to undertake this new adventure with enthusiasm.

Before you arrived, what worried you about coming?

A sudden wave of anxiety also accompanied the thrill of being accepted into the University. Concerns for funding were at the top of my mind, as well as intimidating thoughts of once again having to get out of my comfort zone, migrate, and adapt to another culture and environment. However, these were significantly appeased by my mother who has supported me every step of the way. She was my pillar of strength when I thought I was too weak to transition into this new season of my life. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for her moral, financial, and emotional support.

What did you expect Canada and the University of Waterloo to be like?

I expected the University to be highly competitive given its reputation for excellence. I also expected to encounter a diverse pool of cultures and ethnicities in the student population. Both are true and I quickly realized how much the University takes pride in these characteristics to pursue its mandates of excellence, inclusiveness, and tolerance for all. I am happy to be part of this community and contribute towards this diversity.

Kealan at the intramural soccer tournament.

Was there anything that surprised you? How so?

The abundance of support systems for students at the University is remarkable. Each faculty and department on campus is well equipped with resources and persons who are passionate in attending to the needs/concerns of students. As a trainer with the Athletics and Recreation department, I have seen the tremendous work they have done to promote a balanced, healthy lifestyle to maximize the student experience.


Were there any highlights to your first term at Waterloo?

The Off-Campus Community helped me to integrate and kept me informed of interactive events happening all over campus, and across all faculties! I also joined the Caribbean Club whose members were tremendous in making me feel at home. 

Did you face any challenges in your first year? If so, how did you overcome them?

Every single day of my first year, my mom told me, "Be patient with yourself, give yourself the time you need." These words helped me through times when I doubted my program choice or myself, and when I felt homesick. Through consistent interaction with my family overseas, I was able to voice my concerns every single day and receive the reassurance that I needed to continue. 

What were your experiences like when you returned home?

I returned home in spring 2017 to spend some much needed time with my mother and brother in Trinidad. They were delighted to hear about my experiences in first year and I remember telling them how excited I was to return and continue with my journey. My dad, who lives in France, also encouraged me to continue pursuing my goals. 

If you were arriving as a new international student again, what would you do differently, or the same?

I would be easier on myself and practice more self-love because we must acknowledge that every good and meaningful thing in life takes time. I wouldn’t trade those challenging learning experiences for anything in the world though, as they have become part of who I am.

What is one piece of advice you would share with new Waterloo students?

As my mom would always tell me, “Be patient with yourself and have faith in your abilities. You had a desire and you made it happen, so with that same enthusiasm see it through to the finish.”

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

To all international students, you are coming to one of the most productive environments for learning in Canada. It is not going to be an easy road, but it is definitely going to be worth it! Take pride in your desire to come out of your comfort zone and let that drive you towards your goals and aspirations. With that being said, see you soon Warrior!