Alina Yahya Barry

Alina is an Environment & Business student in her 2A term. Here is what she had to say about her first year at Waterloo.

Why did you choose the University of Waterloo?

I was impressed by the University's ability to provide a hands-on experience through co-op. The co-ops would allow me to gain valuable work experience in fields linked to my studies and help me obtain practical skills. I would also be able to make professional connections.  

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

It is safe to say I was delighted to receive the offer! I received the admission offer while visiting Canada over the summer; the very next day after receiving the offer, I booked a campus tour for my dad and me.

Before you arrived, what worried you about coming?

I was primarily worried about adjusting to the Canadian weather. I heard many horror stories about the Canadian winter. However, as time went on, I got used to the weather and learnt that proper clothing and footwear are all that matter when it comes to surviving the cold.  

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

I expected Canadians to be kind, friendly and inviting. When I arrived, my expectations for the University were successfully met. I also had the expectation Canada has vast landscapes, which include stunning mountains, beautiful lakes, and massive woods. Waterloo is known for encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation.

I anticipated a thriving Startup society, incubators, and support for prospective entrepreneurs. The University also welcomes students from all over the world. Hence, I expected an interactive and welcoming learning environment where I could interact with peers from many cultures and backgrounds.

AlinaA selfie of me going to one of my morning classes. 


I observed that Canadians are among the most welcoming people, with a culture of inclusivity through my interactions with my peers. The walks I took in the nearby park were enough to appreciate Canada's flora and fauna.  

Was there anything that surprised you? How so?

Something that surprised me was the large number of communities and extra-curricular groups. From cooking clubs to debate clubs, waterloo has something for everyone! I also love how green and beautiful it gets during spring, with many areas around campus to enjoy a picnic with your friends.

Were there any highlights to your first term at Waterloo?

The first highlight was moving in. I moved in during the daytime with the help of my parents. It took me the whole day to unpack my suitcases and to put everything in its designated place. Another highlight was finding my best friends through the International Peer Community. Going to my first Pakistan Student Association event was another highlight. Lastly, I found out how to channel my artistic abilities by being the social media lead for IAESTE in Waterloo.  

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

The main challenge I faced was making friends and fitting in. I actively sought ways to meet new people through social gatherings, community groups, or common interests. There were also times when I yearned for the familiarity of my home country. But, as time went on, and as I got more used to life here, Canada began to feel like a second home. Cultural differences that were previously intimidating became sources of intrigue and admiration. I accepted the local customs and traditions. 

What main differences have you noticed between your home culture and Canadian culture?

Singapore and Canada are both noted for having multicultural cultures. They value diversity and have societies that include people from various ethnic communities and cultural traditions. One main difference between the two cultures is that Singapore's culture is more collectivist, emphasizing group harmony and family values. Canada has a more individualistic culture that values personal freedoms, and self-expression. 

What were your experiences like when you returned home?

Singapore is relatively hotter and more humid than Canada. Returning back home, it took me a while to adjust to the climate. I was elated to meet my family after a prolonged time of being in a completely different continent. I also made sure to soak in the sun as much as I could.  

AlinaThis is a selfie I took when I first arrived to Waterloo, ready to move in and excited to start classes!

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

One thing I would do differently is to bring many pairs of warm socks! I was surprised at how easily cold my feel got, especially during the winter. I would also enroll myself in the different yoga classes held on campus since I had no clue that physical-activity-related classes were held at the University. 

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

I would tell them to get involved in the communities that they are interested in. For example, I knew I wanted to dance in some sort of way, so I got involved in a club that gave me that opportunity. I'm happy that I did because I'm now able to be part of a community that is supportive and fun. It is very easy to feel isolated and alone in a new environment, but when you take steps to help you find your people it makes the transition worth going through.


You are away from home and away from family. What practices helped you stay grounded? 

I love painting and sketching, so whenever I felt low or was not able to call my family because of the 12-hour time difference, I indulged in what I enjoyed doing the most. My religion and how I practised it also helped me stay mindful and grounded.