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Simon Fraser University Burnaby Campus
Original photo by Vanshita Sethi

A Reflection of My First Month As An International Student

I made it.

That’s what I told my parents when I landed in Vancouver. Cocooned and safeguarded, I’ve spent my entire life being under the guidance of others. However, that ended on September 16th. Since then I’ve been what most of my friends dream about: free.

Freedom is a funny concept. In this past month I haven’t felt free as much as I’ve felt responsible. I’m not whining in fact I’m quite fond of the burden that’s bestowed upon me. I remember the first few days of my arrival. Jet-lagged and confused, every movement felt like a hundred eyes watching me. It was as if someone was wishing me to just stumble and fall.

But I didn’t.

I looked in the eye of the storm and went on. It was simple things like activating my bank account that seemed like a laborious job. Even taking the transit from SFU down the mountain to Metrotown mall left jitters down my spine. The first time I navigated myself via bus from downtown Vancouver to my university, I couldn’t stop gaping out the window. There was a distinct smile on my face. It was the kind of smile that made your eyes sparkle and your skin dazzle just a bit more than usual. I was proud of myself and I dashed to my room to share it with my family. 

 From buying supplies from Walmart to casually shopping at H&M, I didn’t realize that I was building myself. I was becoming my own person and it is still as euphoric as it first was.

There is an open place right above the Transportation Centre at SFU. A rectangular area overlooking the Terry Fox Field. The silhouette of the entire city shows itself on a clear day. I never pass that area without slowing my pace and asking myself, “How did I land here?” I remind myself of who I am and what I can do. 

Vancouver is not slow-paced, its peaceful at its core. It isn’t a monotonous surrounding, but a comforting paradise. There is a place for everyone. When beauty encircles you from all sides, sensory adaptation occurs. After a point, you don’t feel like it’s something unique or different. Vancouver is the sweet taste of maple syrup and it is also as grand as a black bear.

However, there will always be places in the city that you find first and in turn discover yourself. The city makes you want to stop hustling. It reminds you that there is more to life than just running behind something. It teaches you to take solace in silence. So, when you truly wake up you know exactly what you want.

Vancouver isn’t a place; It is an experience. That experience is multiplied exponentially with people. While I still can’t fathom how people don’t understand what a ‘marker’ is (Sharpie is what it’s called abroad), they elevate the place. My theory is that the city has a ripple effect on whoever comes here. It certainly has on me. 

This past month has in effect made me feel more connected to myself than ever before. I’ve found friends, learned to take care of myself, and begun on the journey of making a mark. It is okay to be scared as long as you look past that to the silhouette of the city waiting for you.

Just a girl of color who wants to make a mark in the world.
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