3D Toronto Sign at Nathan Phillips Square

Moving to Toronto as an international student

My mom was nagging at me. My dad was vacuuming out the air of my storage bag that holds my winter coats. My brother was trying to zip my overpacked luggage. As I stood there in my room, I came to a realization: There weren't many days left until I’m moving across the globe for a new chapter of my life.

My name is Michelle and this year I am going to be sharing my journey at the University of Toronto as an international student from Malaysia. I'm also living off of campus, so you will also be able to read about my experiences as a first year commuter student. I hope you find some comfort in my stories as much as I find joy in writing them 🙂

The other night, I had dinner with my grandparents. I unfortunately couldn’t see them as often as I used to due to Covid-19. We had a good time, with my grandfather telling me how proud he is, and my grandmother asking what food I would like to have for the next few days. While we were all smiles, I knew deep down that they felt sad. They were about to send me away for a better education and all they could do under the current circumstance was to have faith in me. I was excited for this new journey, but my excitement came with fears and restlessness. What if I don’t meet the expectation of my parents? What if I don’t do well in school? What if I can’t find people that I genuinely connect with? These were the thoughts that I couldn't control. I believe many first year students share similar worries, but being an international student moving across countries seems even harder to take in. At least it is for me, since I probably won’t be home for a while.

However, as I hold on to the pressure to succeed in school, I decide to have confidence in myself. I’ve already met some good people virtually and I think the University of Toronto is not as bad as what people have been saying online. It's not hard to meet people (it's not as dead as what you might have read in online platforms) and it's not the toxic environment I was worried it might be. I've already found so many opportunities: first year communities, work-study, clubs (U of T has more than 1000 clubs and student run organizations), and so many more! I could probably tell you everything that I found over the summer, but those that I know of are probably only a small part of what the school has. It's genuinely not hard to get involved, which is why I am so thrilled (and nervous) for university life. I cannot control myself from feeling anxious about everything, but I do hope that my passion and diligence will take me far in this journey.

As first years, we are all more or less in the same position. I can't tell you what to do and I don’t know what you will do, but I hope by the end of the year we can proudly share our stories in this school with each other and the people we meet in the future. This is going to be a roller coaster, but that’s okay. A roller coaster usually ends with great pleasure. Even if not, I guess it will be a memory to hold and to share. And to you who are reading, I want to let you know that you are in your current position for a reason, and the best thing you can do is to believe in yourself. Trust the process!

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