When I was a little kid, my grandmother used to show me a lot of photos and mementos of her experience being abroad back in the 70s. Sitting at her feet listening to her tell of the journey to England, although I knew that the story would never change, about the commendable development of the Western society and its people’s kindness, it had somehow sparked my interest in wanting to explore the life overseas. The reality that I experienced years later, however, was not always as picturesque as it’s often been portrayed in her framed keepsakes.
I’d tried to change myself, became cautious and well-aware of every word I uttered, every action I took, and every piece of clothes I put on myself. I vaguely heard distant uncomplimentary remarks on my ability, that as an international student, I should have learnt how to express myself in English precisely instead of trying to get involved in leadership, that my experience was too little to take part and make any contribution to certain domains. At some point, the place once I truly enamoured has filled with the feeling of alienation and bitterness. And I still hear that question ringing in my head, querying me whether I’m good enough to go out there and to support other people when the comments occurred to me that it’s myself who need assistance most. I woke to dreary mornings, feeling timid and self-conscious. But that’s what made me cultivate an even deeper appreciation for the coming sunshiny days. Several months that followed have reinstated my optimism, unlocked opportunities and filled my journey with values in a way that I could never have imagined for myself, thanks to the opportunity of me becoming a Diversity Ambassador.
It was my first day showing up as a Diversity Ambassador. The hallway was buzzing with the excitement of new students of all backgrounds, skin colours and languages, in preparation for an orientation. Together with Gabriela, the former Intercultural Mentorship Program Coordinator, I had the chance to share my experience within the program as a Global Mentor in front of hundreds of new students. Whatever words I can grasp, however, will never reach the significance of the mentorship that I wanted to emphasize, which is also one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from my time being an ambassador, being open to learning and sharing, and not being afraid to ask for support when I need. I couldn’t see myself be able to overcome every little twist and turn without having people holding the hands out and showing me the way. There are not any skills like empathy, grit, flexibility or the ability to interpret and respect different points of view that could be learned without the opportunity of my mentors and me sitting down and listening to each other’s stories. The mentorship program has helped me and will help you to understand that we all have the capability of making a positive impact in someone else’s life. That could be you who will give the others the confidence to be themselves; that could be mentors who will be an inspiration for us to find the courage to become whomever we aspire to be, or with whom we will be exposed to all kinds of new ideas and experiences that could help our dreams become a reality.
Talking to lots of students, together creating bonds of friendship and building bridges of understanding to let go of stereotypes and misconceptions, the feeling that I had throughout many orientation sessions was almost indescribable. These conversations lifted me to a higher understanding of who I am, and who I can be.
I enjoy immersing myself into stories of people from all walks of life and all kinds of backgrounds. Students, who are also parents, decided to leave everything behind to come here with a burning desire of building up a better future for their children, a future without arms and violence. Students who graduated with master’s degrees in their home countries but still decided to continue their education, and willing to work overnight in pursuit of a brighter future for their family and themselves. Being an ambassador, I did not only give away but also got a lot out of it. Those people that I met with their spirit of resilience and optimism, their diligence along with an unwavering belief in the future are astonishing that they made me feel inspired. Their energy and determination keep me focused and be empowered when encountering negativity and doubters. Their stories and obstacles helped me to recognize those I defined as my weaknesses could actually be my strengths. As the journey continues, it’s our stories that make us different. It’s the challenges that solidify who we are. It’s the unceasing generosity of other people’s support and mentorship that helped me to pick myself up and realize that I do belong just as much as anybody else.
As with everything I’ve done so far, all these miracles would not have happened without the tremendous assistance of many people. A special thanks to Vera Godavari, the Mentorship Program Coordinator, who has provided me with incredible support and opportunities that make my experience while studying here an extraordinary one. Thank you, Gabriela Ludusan, for believing me and encouraging me to believe in myself no matter the obstacles I faced. And there is no way I could have fulfilled my duties without Norlan Page and Lauren Konrad, the warm-hearted Student Integration Coordinators who gave me the opportunities to get involved in activities and assume roles that I’d thought I wouldn’t be able to. Thank you to all amazing staffs and friends for your support and motivation that helped me to embrace my true identity. I’m deeply grateful and thank you all once again for being a part of my story.