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Making Carleton My Home: An International Student’s Experience

Humna Shaikh is a fourth-year Law student with a concentration in Business Law and a minor in Psychology.

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Making Carleton My Home: An International Student’s Experience

Humna Shaikh is a fourth-year Law student with a concentration in Business Law and a minor in Psychology.

September. September is “back-to-school-month”, but for me it’s a little more. Around this time, nearly three years ago I landed in Canada from halfway across the world. My name is Humna and I am an international student.

I remember my first night vividly. I had flown on a 14-hour long flight from Dubai to Toronto by myself and spent a gruelling 2-3 hours in customs and immigration. A family friend was picking me up and I had no way of contacting him – I didn’t have a Canadian SIM card and my wifi wasn’t working: cue anxiety. Fast forward that same night – my first night in Toronto, I remember trying to fall asleep and suddenly realizing that this was it. I had moved out. I had left my family behind and I was starting fresh, all on my own. I had never missed my parents as much as I missed them that night. I hadn’t even cried when we said goodbye at the airport! Guess who was crying now?

The next day was a new day and I was finally flying to Ottawa. I decided that I would not let the last 24 hours deter me from the university experience I had chased from continent to continent. Soon thereafter, I saw the green peaks of Ottawa from the plane, I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be, even if it didn’t immediately feel that way. A friend from high school picked me up at the airport and we made our way to the university. Never have I been as enthralled in a taxi ride as I was in this one. Ottawa already felt familiar.

I arrived a week late and on the last day of frosh which didn’t help the intimidation growing in my stomach. Once I had my keys, we headed to my residence building. As soon as I got to my floor, this guy that was hanging by the door practically beamed at me, “Are you Humna?” “Let me take your bags!”. I didn’t even have a chance to answer because I was smiling so wide. Apparently, my arrival had been highly anticipated because I was the only one on the floor that hadn’t moved in yet. Everyone knew who I was and one might think that this was overwhelming, but for me it was anything but. Maybe it was the fact that the floor was a themed community or maybe it was just the people that were intensely warm. Either way, everyone was incredibly welcoming and eager to help me settle in. This set the pace for the year that I would spend with these people, and it was a memorable one.

As I enter my fourth and final year at Carleton, I can’t help but look back at the person I’ve become and the experiences that have shaped me. The transition has to be the best aspect of my entire experience. It would be misleading to say that the transition was easy, because it never is. However, I like to think that the days I spent homesick made me stronger, and all the times I missed home were opportunities for me to build a new home. Since back then, I can confidently say that I have built a new home with the help of the friends I made and the support system they became for me. Transition is incredibly difficult, but if I hadn’t persevered and stuck to what I knew I wanted, I would never have made it past my first night in Canada.

This morning on a Skype call, my parents said that they were proud of everything I had accomplished and I was able to accept the compliment without shrugging it off. I am studying what I love, I have been given bountiful opportunities such as interning on Parliament Hill, doing research with faculty and being a support person for new international students. This is everything that I hoped for and more when I envisioned the perfect university experience. This experience and my new home are exactly what Carleton has given me as an international student.

Humna Shaikh is a fourth-year Law student with a concentration in Business Law and a minor in Psychology.

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