Imagine you’ve just come home from the best year of your life. You’re on an international exchange, you’ve grown as a person, you’ve tried some of the best food in the world, rode the world’s largest roller coaster and even found love. Then you’re told to go back to the way things were a year ago…This is the situation I found myself in when I came back from my year abroad in Valencia, Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to be back. However, at the same time I felt in some way that the world was disregarding the ways I had grown.
But, I decided to keep growing despite everything else around me seeming stagnant. I came across ISSO at 3:45 on a Monday, September 12th. And I was granted a position with them.
My expectations were different than the reality, I expected a loving circle of international friends whom I could reminisce about the joys of being an international student with. Instead, I found myself part of something much more beautiful. It was also much more practical and useful moving forward in my professional degree. I was put in a position to help international students feel at home in Canada by organizing events to do so. We had parties, visited museums, did pumpkin carving, and went hiking, skating as well as biking. My position also asked that I help domestic students prepare for their upcoming year abroad.
I got to know an international team of passionate and creative people. We worked with interesting ideas, always learning about cultures along the way. I got to show people what it’s like to carve a pumpkin and show them how to bob for apples. I saw people try skates on for the first time. It was truly was something special. The sound of a cheer when the Sens get a goal is something you can’t describe, it’s something you feel and I got to give them these feelings. I’m currently planning how to do the opposite, prepare students to move to a place that will offer them these experiences you feel.
Fill out the risk assessment form, call the venue, get the tickets, put your hours in the drive, connect with residence, create a poster, find a speaker, make sure people come, brainstorm January events. These were just some of the tasks that I’d write in my agenda any given week. These “experiences you feel” ended up harbouring a lot of work behind them. However, I quickly learned who to call for help, which ideas worked and which didn’t, and how to plan a functioning event for up to 50 people.
The ISSO didn’t just give me magical events, it taught me how to organize and plan for the unexpected and inevitable. It’s been an amazing year so far, and I can’t wait to continue the journey.
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