My International Student Experience: From Aruba to Toronto

Every two weeks, we’ll be sharing blogs written by students and alumni. If you’d like to learn more about why other students have chosen Ryerson, visit to hear their stories.

Raised in a tiny island in the Caribbean, I always wondered what living in the “real world” was like. Sure, Aruba’s beaches are beautiful, the weather is spectacular and its people are lovely, but I constantly saw myself living a big city. Elementary and middle school went by and next thing I knew I was in senior year. By fall of that year I had applied to six universities in the United States and one in Canada. In the end, I followed my instincts and went with the only school I applied to up north: Ryerson University.

I eagerly counted down the days, but when the day to move into residence came, I began to feel overwhelmed and nervous. I had never truly done anything on my own. I had never walked in a big city on my own, rarely had taken public transit, didn’t know how to use Google Maps, hadn’t really cooked for myself, never had to start in a new school… the list goes on. I had to start from scratch, without my parents, while figuring myself out. My friends back home knew me, my interests and accomplishments, but in Toronto I would have to start building these friendships again.

Although these thoughts filled my mind as I moved into residence, I immediately felt at home when I met the people around me. I remember the first thing I thought to myself was, “it’s true, Canadians are really nice!” I constantly felt like people checked up on me, while giving me enough space. From the moment I arrived, there were other students at the front of the International Living/Learning Centre helping me unload my belongings and showing me around my new home.The following morning, I was going for breakfast with absolutely no idea where I was going. As the elevator doors were closing, I saw someone stick in their hand so that they wouldn’t miss the elevator going down. He gets in, recognizes me and asked me, “Where are you going?” I sheepishly answered that I was going to get breakfast. He said, “All by yourself?” And I nodded. He decided to come with me and we went to one of his favourite breakfast places. I look back and think, it’s amazing how one persons “Hi, where are you going” can start such a profound friendship. We are still best friends.

My best friend and me!

I had similar experiences in my courses. In class I didn’t feel on my own. I noticed everyone wanted to help each other so that we could all succeed. I definitely experienced the “Ryerson vibe” I had seen in all the online videos. I felt that truly supportive community that accepts you no matter how different you are. I knew that the best way to feel like I belonged and to get to know people was to get involved on campus. Since first year I have worked with Residence Council, campus newspapers, Student Life and have joined student clubs like Studio 2 and Ryerson Catholics for fun.

Feeling excited, overwhelmed or nervous are all OK. Everyone goes at their own pace, but not alone. Just remember that as soon as you arrive the Ryerson campus, you belong.

Learn more about Melissa’s story! 

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