Sheridan ‘real home’ for international students
Abhishek Hastir recalls the first time he entered the lobby of Sheridan’s Davis Campus, its doors sliding open as he stepped into a world far removed from his hometown in Punjab, India.
“You know, it feels normal now, but I still remember when I walked up to those doors and they opened automatically. At that time, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a magical place!’ And I saw all these students from different backgrounds – Indians, South Asians, Chinese, South African, domestic students – all in one place. I was just amazed by the idea that I’d be gaining so much knowledge from this place, and how many doors it’d open for me,” he recalls.
It was Orientation Day and as Hastir toured the campus, he noticed every little detail. “Even the walls were beautiful, and there were all those inclusive words everywhere that made you feel at home. And the library: I had never seen a library in my life and on top of that, Sheridan has a beautiful library spread over an entire building. The classrooms had projectors and whiteboards, and not the blackboards I was used to. And then, when I saw the robots which I’d get to study in my program, I knew Sheridan was the best thing to ever happen to me,” he says, fondly recollecting his first visit to the College .
“Colleges are the first lens through which international students look at Canada and a good college like Sheridan provides that positive perspective. It makes a huge difference to the progress of the students,” he says.
Education opens up doors
It’s now six years since that day when Hastir opened the doors to the education, diversity and global experience that Sheridan offers its students. Not only did he complete his advanced diploma in Electromechanical Engineering Technician program, he also found full-time employment as a Mechanical Designer at Hatch, a global management, engineering and development consultancy, right after graduation.
The co-op program offered by Sheridan was instrumental in Hastir’s success, since he worked in the organization for two terms as a student. "When Hatch hired me for the first co-op, I thought, ‘These guys are going to kick me out, I know nothing!’ I’ve never been the best student in the class, nor the most technically advanced student, or the most knowledgeable student in terms of academics. But then Hatch hired me for the second term too, and I realized they look for people who are willing to learn, have good communication skills, work well in teams and propel others toward success,” he says.
“Given the large numbers in which international students arrive in Canada every year, graduate from some of the best programs, become citizens and find great jobs, they are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, CEOs and political leaders.”
Sheridan also gave Hastir the opportunity to become a student advocate, occupying positions on the Sheridan Student Union’s Board of Directors and then becoming a student member of the College’s Senate. He continues to devote himself to student welfare as a member of the governing body of the International Student Association, working to advocate for students at all Canadian universities and colleges. He also has his own YouTube channel and an Instagram account, which have become hugely popular resources for international students and graduates looking for guidance and support.
Search for world-class education
Hastir says his experiences bind him to many students who arrive in Canada just as he did – from distant shores in search of an education that’d bring them on a par with the best in the world, and driven by the determination to prove themselves through hard work and the will to succeed.
“I come from a remote town in Punjab and growing up, we didn’t have much money. I don’t recall our family ever taking a vacation or going out to a restaurant. My father hasn’t bought a new vehicle in his life and used a second-hand two-wheeler scooter to commute to work. He made so many sacrifices so that my sister and I could study in the best private school in the city. He wanted nothing more than for us to succeed,” Hastir says.
The big city school was a major strain on the family’s resources, but it gave Hastir excellent English language skills, considered a prerequisite to success in his hometown. Curious by nature, he wanted to know more about far-off places, beyond his country and the continent, that promised discovery and innovation. Hastir’s thirst for knowledge, paralleled by his father’s conviction that a foreign education was a stepping stone to success, finally brought him to Sheridan as an international student in 2016 .
“Co-op gave me a completely different experience. It opened up a whole lot of opportunities for me.”
Hastir says his story after landing in Canada is similar to that of many international students, who not only aspire to get good grades and make their families proud, but also want to have some income on the side to help their parents back home. By the end of his first week in Canada, he had filed nearly 35 applications at various employment placement agencies, searching for a job.
Co-op at Sheridan gives stability, career
Over the next few months, Hastir took up any job that came his way – as a security guard, in restaurants, a bakery production line, and in an automobile workshop. However, the co-op placements at Hatch he secured through his program at Sheridan changed all that, helping him gain invaluable hands-on work experience as well as money.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunities I got through the co-op program. Had co-op not been there, I wouldn’t have even known the existence of Hatch. Without co-op, how would I have known which companies to apply to? Co-op gave me a completely different experience. It opened up a whole lot of opportunities for me and I realized that international students can have better jobs than what they look for when they arrive in Canada,” he says.
Despite all the challenges, Hastir found his home at Sheridan. He enjoyed campus life and learning from professors who cared for their students. “I would have slept at Sheridan if I could have! I really liked being on campus. I had always wanted to study in an academic institution which had top-of-the-line technology, top-of-the-line buildings, state-of-the-art facilities. Sheridan had all that,” he says.
Advocating for international students
Over time, Hastir realized not all international students were forthcoming about the challenges they faced while learning in a new land, as they felt it would imply a failure on their part to live up to the expectations of their families and friends back home. He decided to help break that silence, and build supports for students. He got elected to the SSU Board of Directors, as also to the Sheridan Senate. (The senate has since been replaced by an Advisory Council .)
“The best thing about Sheridan is that they listen to their students and take action to fix their problems.”
“I started taking part in meetings where I’d highlight the concerns of international students and many of those issues have since got resolved. It wasn’t as if I came up with creative ideas; I just noticed basic things and brought them up. The best thing about Sheridan is that they listen to their students and take action to fix their problems. I realized that's all it takes for the College to listen, and believe me, somebody will listen and they will act,” he says.
Hastir believes his success is just one small example of the bright future many international students have in Canada. “Given the large numbers in which international students arrive in Canada every year, graduate from some of the best programs, become citizens and find great jobs, they are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, CEOs and political leaders. I think they're going to make a big difference in the future,” he says. “The majority of international students are working hard day and night to get good grades while also holding good jobs and sending money back home. They should be respected for that.”
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