When Zahid Hassan first came to Thunder Bay in 2008 the community of international students at Lakehead University was nearly non-existent.
Now the population is thriving five years later with nearly 500 people.
The Lakehead University International Club hosted an International Students Culture Display inside the Mariners Hall at Prince Arthur’s Landing to showcase the size of the international student population as well as the range of home countries.
Hassan, who hails from the United Arab Emirates, was one of the students present and more than willing to answer questions about his homeland from interested residents.
“Canada is very diverse, and Thunder Bay is becoming diverse. I’ve been here since 2008 and I was one of only two international students at Lakehead then, and now there are hundreds of us,” Hassan said.
In addition to the UAE, the event featured student representatives from China, South Korea, Ukraine, Finland and Pakistan.
The purpose of the event is to help introduce the university’s international students to the general public in Thunder Bay, and develop mutually beneficial relationships that help share both local and international customs.
“I would like to learn the local community celebrations,” Peipei Wang said. “It would be wonderful if I could celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving from the local family instead of being alone on campus. It would make us feel a lot better.”
Wang has been in Thunder Bay for just over three years, and she said at first it was difficult to adjust to her new setting and the differences.
Wang, who is from China, said it is important for the new international students to get connected to members of the local community to help feel a sense of inclusion.
Another key component of the event is to raise awareness about different countries that people in the city have not had an opportunity to become familiar with.
Hassan, who is studying business, had found that his homeland was a mystery to many of the people he met in Thunder Bay, and people have enjoyed learning about his part of the world.
“Many of my friends never knew about the UAE until they met me and I told them about us,” Hassan said. “They were really interested and happy to learn a new culture, and I’m happy to embrace my culture here.”
The international students have organized a variety of events to help newcomers to the community get acquainted and comfortable, including an orientation hike to the Sleeping Giant earlier this month.
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