Here are the narratives of newcomers to Canada sharing their experiences navigating the challenges encountered upon entering a different world. The interviewees decided to remain anonymous to feel comfortable sharing their stories. For the interview, they were asked to explain the challenges that come with living and studying abroad.

Student 1: Embarking on my journey from Uganda to Canada was a rollercoaster! Picture this: a biomedical sciences student diving into a whirlwind of paperwork just to step foot in the Great White North. The English language proficiency test (IELTS) was like scaling a linguistic mountain, and let’s not forget the medical exams approved by the Canadian government, talk about a financial workout! 

The initial months? Whew, they were a mixed bag. Here I was, oceans away from home, missing the warmth of family hugs, and tackling emotions that could rival a soap opera. Transitioning from a cozy nest to a solo flight? That was a plot twist I hadn’t quite prepared for! 

Oh, Canada, your weather! Born and bred in the land of perpetual warmth, I had to cozy up to a climate diametrically opposed to what I knew. Seasonal depression? That was a curveball! I went from “sunshine on my shoulders” to “where’s the sun, though?” But hey, now I’m a seasoned pro, vitamin D and C are my BFFs, and a brisk walk outside? Works like a charm. 

Let’s talk language: swapping from speaking my native tongue for over two decades to suddenly swimming in English’s deep end? That was like navigating a linguistic labyrinth! People sometimes mistook my linguistic acrobatics for a lack of smarts. Breaking into social circles? Tough nut to crack with that language barrier. Who knew being an extroverted soul could be lost in translation? 

Culture shock? Bingo! In Canada, it’s all “Hey, first-name basis, no matter your title!” Back home, it’s a whole different ball game. Oh, and the speed of life here? Fast and furious. I barely made it to class on time initially, hello, Ugandan laid-back vibes! 

Speaking of Canada: Opportunities? Check. Education? Check. Diversity? Check, check, check! Canada’s like a melting pot of cultures, and the University of Toronto? It’s a competitive arena where labs scream ‘cutting edge.’ 

Funny anecdote? Picture me strolling into a snow-covered wonderland wearing regular sneakers, wondering why everyone else seemed to have mastered ice-walking. Let’s just say, slipping and sliding became my new normal until the light bulb moment, special boots were the game-changer! 

Life here may have started with slip-ups, language barriers, and weather woes, but Canada’s charm and opportunities have me feeling like I’ve found a second home in this snow globe of a country, and I am a whole different person in compared to the girl that left her home to grow. 

Student 2: Being a graduate student in Immunology from Tabriz, Iran, getting to Canada was a wild ride. Visa struggles were a major headache, waiting almost a year to hear back from IRCC about a visa was a test of patience. But hey, eventually, here I am after a ludicrously long wait! 

While juggling visa woes, I was also hustling for grad school spots. Bagging acceptances from two departments at UofT was thrilling. With my heart set on Immunology, especially cancer research, I took the leap. But let me tell you, convincing foreign universities that you’re the real deal is no joke. High TOEFL scores, GPA hustle, and papers, it’s like an endless checklist. And if your home country’s education system is vastly different, buckle up for an even wilder ride. 

Now, here’s the kicker: I’ve just landed here, and English is my main battle. It’s crazy, I’m fluent in my head, but sometimes my tongue gets all twisted when I speak. I know it’s normal and nothing to be embarrassed about, but as an idealist, cutting myself some slack ain’t easy. Plus, there’s this fear that people might not see my true smarts and capabilities just because of this language barrier. 

Missing my family back home is hitting me hard. I mean, think about it, you’re almost halfway across the planet, facing a whopping 14-hour flight just to see them. Sometimes, it feels like a hopeless endeavor. 

But Canada’s a beauty! The people here are super friendly, saying “good morning” with the biggest smiles on random streets. And the diversity, man, it’s a treasure trove of cultures that’s a lifesaver when homesickness kicks in. As for the cold weather, piece of cake for me, given where I’m from. 

UofT’s research centers and labs? Absolute game-changers. They’ve got everything you need to conquer a field. Professors and program managers? Superheroes in disguise, always having your back. And diving into T cells and cancer research? That’s my jam! Plus, working with a bunch of lab mates from all corners of the world is a constant reminder: different nationalities and beliefs working hand in hand towards one goal. 

Oh, and speaking of blunders, there was this hilarious moment when my classmates were chatting about “flow” cytometry, and I swore I heard “flu” shots! I was all confused for a hot minute before realizing the mix-up. Talk about embarrassing! 

In the midst of my challenges, I’ve always admired those courageously navigating language barriers to communicate, study, and contribute to science in a non-native tongue. Witnessing someone speaking my language with an accent always intrigues me—it signifies their capability in at least one language that I might not know. 

And here is the story of a graduate student currently studying in Europe. This may provide some insight for students that are interested in conducting their research abroad.

Student 3: Ah, the whirlwind adventure of a biotechnology master’s student in Italy, heading for the scenic University of Lausanne in Switzerland! Strap in for a tale with its fair share of challenges and chuckles. 

Picture this: the journey to La Dolce Vita started with hurdles, the IELTS test and the master’s entrance exam played hard to get. Note to future PhD aspirants: no entrance exam hurdles await you, just the quest for the right supervisor! Visa dramas added spice to the mix; it felt like waiting for a masterpiece to load on slow internet. 

And oh, the weather! Compared to the warmth of Iran, Italy’s chilly embrace felt like a freezer. Heating systems with a mind of their own, giving a mere 7-hour warm hug in a 24-hour day, thanks to the gas crisis post-Russia-Ukraine tension. 

On the brighter side, the research playground here is a treasure trove! No worrying about missing tools; it’s a cornucopia of research opportunities. Professors treat your ideas like gold, encouraging you to pitch and refine them. The master’s program? They cram your brain with theoretical goodness, prepping you for the lab life ahead. As a personal suggestion, more lab shenanigans in year one, bring on the pipettes and goggles! 

Italy’s chill vibe is contagious, walking and chatting with folks? Instant stress relief therapy! Warning: Italy’s lovey-dovey aura might catch you off guard. Single or not ready to mingle? Prepare for an overdose of PDA! 

Oh, by the way, if you are the type of person that loves sauce and ketchups on your pizza just forget about that in Italy! 

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Sarvin Fathi Daneshvar

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