As I started to think about the Winter Olympics coming up, I was immediately reminded of a long overdue conversation with our community of international students here at the University of Waterloo.
It Takes Courage
Like many universities across Canada and around the world, our student community has a longstanding international representation. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the determination and perseverance of our international students. It takes courage to leave one’s comfort zone of what and who they know in search of the best educational experience possible in another country.
I also want to congratulate our international students for making the brave decision to leave their home not only for a new school but a new country, culture and community. It is a tremendous decision not everyone is brave enough to take in the name of receiving a world-class education.
Turning Challenges into Benefits
When our international students come to campus they are faced with tackling many challenges our domestic students do not. These challenges range from big and small, but all are important. From food to language, some students face a learning curve that takes considerable effort to adjust. And, most come to Waterloo with no social group or support network before setting foot on campus.
While these challenges can be daunting, international students can benefit greatly from being part of a new culture, new environment and building an expanded network of friends from around the world. In today’s economy and job market, having global experience is invaluable to employers and also offers students new perspectives on challenges they may face in their lives.
Being a Welcoming Community
Our university may not be 100 per cent in tune with every need and challenge you, our international students, face during your time on campus, but I do hope that you are receiving the top-tier education that you were searching for.
To all of our international students, know that no matter what you do after you graduate, you are a lifetime member of our family. The relationships you will build and the experiences you will have are part of our institution’s life as much as it is yours. I also encourage all of our students to welcome their international peers into the Waterloo and Canadian community with the openness and kindness that we are known for around the world.
We need new, innovative ideas on how we can better engage and help all of our students, but in particular, our international students succeed academically and socially. I encourage you to join me in building a list of ideas because we are stronger together.
I finally, want to say thank you to all of our international students for choosing to make the University of Waterloo your home away from home as you pursue your passions and an outstanding education.