Coming to a new country to pursue an education isn’t an easy thing to do. Homesickness can get the best of even the toughest students and making friends in a brand-new environment can prove tricky, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
But a pair of clubs is stepping up to ensure no international student has to be truly alone at Mohawk College.
The Atmiya Mohawk Community has been running for several years and offers newcomers to Canada the opportunity to connect with like-minded students from different cultures and backgrounds.
“Our group is specially for newcomers and immigrant students who feel homesick after arriving here,” club president Sevil Harpal said. “We provide a platform for everyone to meet with each other in the community and learn more about the process in Canada for new immigrants.”
Club meetings take place bi-weekly at various locations across campus.
Harpal said while most of the club members are from India, the Atmiya community is open to everyone.
“Sometimes it’s nice when you meet someone in the same program as you,” Harpal said. “They can mentor you and tell you what to expect out of the program. But generally, everyone who’s in upper-year classes takes on a mentorship role for new members.”
While the Atmiya community has been active for a few years, its founders weren’t the only ones who saw a need for connection within international student communities.
Jony Zhang and Alan Lin founded the Chinese Student Community in 2022 after they noticed a lack of outlets for Chinese students at Mohawk College.
“I’ve seen other schools, colleges and universities that have Korean or Japanese communities,” Lin said. “I wanted to start a space and a community for Chinese students at Mohawk. It took a little while to find enough people to make the club, but now we’re here and starting out.”
According to Lin, a Mechanical Engineering student, his introduction to the campus community was lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic. That experience inspired him to form the club and make sure other Chinese students didn’t feel as lonely during their college experience.
“I was thinking about anyone who needs help finding their place here,” he recalled. “I was here during COVID, so the college was pretty much empty. I only had one friend who helped guide me, so I wanted to make sure that anyone new from China gets that help too.”
Mohawk College student Christina Ng discovered the Chinese Student Community at a clubs and communities event hosted by the Mohawk Students’ Association.
“I had no idea this was available to me,” she said. “It’s been weird for international students specifically during the pandemic. You travel abroad to study and expect a certain type of experience, but a lot of us ended up feeling isolated studying online. That makes it harder to distract yourself from missing your home and your culture, because you don’t really have those familiar things around you.”
Whether students are looking for a mentor, a friend or a study buddy – both the Atmiya Mohawk Community and the Chinese Student Community are excellent places to start.
For more information or to join the Atmiya Mohawk Community, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Chinese Student Community can be reached at @jony_zzz27 on Instagram.