“I From Foreign!”

In the dialect of my home country, this phrase — in more ways than one — says that I’m not from around here. These would have been the words spoken from my mouth four years ago as I arrived in downtown T.O. for the first time. I had no clue where I was, what I was doing here, or where I was going to fit in this great big city that I now called my home. If you’re an international student like me, then you’re likely to have had a similar experience, carrying an identity that, for the first time, didn’t match anyone else’s. But as time progressed, I realized that being “from foreign” was not such a bad thing, and even more comforting was the realization that I was not alone! There are over 8,000 international students at U of T from over 150 countries around the globe, and innumerable resources on campus to help you feel at home here. But this plethora of information can sometimes be just as daunting as the changes that you’re facing. I’m here to sift through the fluff and shed light on the best that U of T has to offer its out of towners. Find People Like You One of the easiest ways to transition through a change in your life is to have someone that’s been there and done that. I-Connect is just that: a volunteer mentorship program open to all U of T students with a mission to help you in your cultural transition to university, to Toronto and to Canada. There are few things better than learning from someone else’s mistakes! Ask Questions If you’re anything like me, your first two months away from home have been crazy: you’ve experienced your first university party, your first Canadian Thanksgiving, and you’re about to experience your first winter (it’s not so bad — follow these guidelines and you’ll be fine!). There a lot of firsts, and you’ll be experiencing them even well into your third and fourth years at university. Places like the Centre for International Experience at the lovely Cumberland House (33 St. George Street) are overflowing with people who want to help you transition into your new life and answer any questions that you may have, so don’t be afraid to ask. They’ll help you with immigration issues like student and work visas, they’ll host you for holiday dinners, they’ll even help you do your taxes! Get Involved This is purely based on personal experience, but I’ve found that getting involved outside of class has spurred my quick acclimatization to life at U of T, so much so that — to my parents’ detriment — it’s given me a life here that I don’t want to leave. Student life at U of T has all the answers and there’s a great page on their website with links to literally every way you can get involved on campus! Be Yourself! This is by far the most important thing that I’ve learned in my four years at university. I’ve found that what set me apart from everyone else was that I was different, that I had a different childhood, that I came from a different culture, that I spoke a different language (well, kinda). The more I embraced my otherness, the more fun I had, the better my experiences became, and the more friends I made. This is the one time in your life that you’re allowed to be anything you want to be, and all the things that made you the oddball in high school are the things that will set you apart in university, and make you awesome. So don’t be afraid to get out there, experience all that U of T and Toronto has to offer, and feel free to steal my mantra: “When in doubt, get up, dress up, and show up!” ~ Chad

2 comments on ““I From Foreign!”

  1. What you wrote was empowering, but I beg to differ on one thing: racism is everywhere, and being yourself by flaunting your own native culture, well, lets just say that racist words can hurt like knives.

  2. Hi Brynn,

    Firstly, thanks so much for commenting!

    With respect to the racism comment, trust me, it’s something that I am fully aware of. Racism is terrifying and can be quite dangerous at times, and it would be foolish to assume that it no longer exists or that anyone is colourblind. That’s just fighting ignorance with more ignorance.

    I would add however, that I feel strongly that bigotry, in any form, should not be fueled by fear. What I was suggesting in my post was not so much that racism or a resistance of foreign cultures doesn’t exist, but that by embracing who you are is, on a very basic level, fighting off the very nature of concepts like racism. The more a member of one race can be proud enough of his/her own culture to embrace it outwardly, the more opportunity there is for people around them to learn, to accept it and ultimately, to embrace it themselves.

    Especially for those of us in Toronto, who are lucky enough to live in a society where the vast majority is accepting of new cultures, we need to take advantage of it, and to be who we were born to be.


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