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How I Learned to Thrive Living Abroad

Leaning into opportunities eased anxieties for this international student

By: Nabiha Irfan Sidat, AFM student and Velocity campus ambassador

Image of Nabiha a young woman standing in her winter coat and mask to the side of the University of Waterloo sign outside on campus.

Entering university can be a daunting thought for many prospective students. Packaged with the excitement of kickstarting a new phase in your educational journey is the nervousness that comes with starting anew. But it’s not all bad!

My name is Nabiha Irfan Sidat and I’m a second year Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) student. I’m originally from Dubai, United Arab Emirates and I want to share my experience as an international student.

It’s one thing to imagine moving abroad but it’s another to do it. I was excited to embark on this new adventure. Although, my introduction to university life was different than I imagined because of COVID-19, and I started this new phase virtually having chosen to stay in Dubai for 1A. The time zone difference meant that I would sometimes stay up well into the night to attend classes and meeting new people was a bit of a challenge.

While this arrangement allowed me extra time to settle into a new style of learning, it also introduced anxieties around “not doing enough” since I wasn’t on campus. However, there were many opportunities to get involved (virtually) and I took part in events that caught my interest to overcome my FOMO (fear of missing out) and familiarize myself with this new environment.

Luckily, as restrictions eased, I was able to travel to Waterloo for my 1B term. Having to brave my first Canadian winter was no easy feat since I had only ever lived in hot weather but seeing the first snowfall of the season was nothing short of marvellous (and it meant I could finally enjoy hot chocolate!). It’s easy to see as a newcomer that Waterloo has a diverse rich culture and one of the best experiences was learning about its history and traditions and exploring the many food options and cultural clubs.

Involvement in innovation created community

After setting foot on campus, I was determined to get involved with as much as I could which is when I decided to apply to become a Campus Ambassador for Velocity. The role allowed me to connect with people from across the university and learn more about its expansive innovation ecosystem. A particular highlight from this experience was touring Velocity downtown Kitchener and learning about all the awesome startups. It was inspiring to see people at work on their ideas and proving their passion for entrepreneurship.

New experiences propelled confidence

As I explored the university and met more people through classes and volunteering, I quickly realized that university is truly what you make it to be. Sure, I was a little intimidated at first but breaking out of my comfort zone and using all the opportunities available to me made me more confident in my ability to not just survive but thrive in this environment. After all, this is perhaps the only time we get to explore and grow as individuals with the safety net of a supportive network made up of our parents, friends, professors, advisors, and peers. So, if you are someone preparing to enter university for the very first time, or maybe someone that needs a little nudge to break from your comfort zone, this is the article for you.

Lean into all that university has to offer you and get involved as much as possible to make lasting memories!

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