Prepared by Naomi Ahmad, Volunteer, Global Hamilton Connect.
Hoa Luan (Henry Luan) moved from Vietnam two years ago to begin a two-year Financial Services Program at Mohawk College. Since then he has made Hamilton his home, got involved in the community and reached out to help others, while also making new friends. Here is his Hamilton story.
“To be honest, when I first moved to Hamilton, I thought Hamilton was rather quiet compared to my hometown in Vietnam. I felt very sad and frustrated at first because I couldn’t go out at all during the winter. I grew up in a very warm and sunny country and I really missed feeling the sun all year around.
Initially, I also struggled with academics, finding it difficult to get used to the new education system. At the very first day of college, I was quite upset because I could not keep up with my classes. It took me at least three months to get used to the new college environment. However, I kept at it and even though it has been hard, I have finished my program on good academic standing.
I also took initiatives to help me keep up good grades. During the academic year, I participated in the SURGE program at Mohawk College every Wednesday to learn more about entrepreneurship. It was an amazing journey and I learnt so much more about the real business world from many successful businessmen who were invited as guest speakers. I’m also proud to have won an international leadership scholarship as well as the second price for the “Explore Canada from A to Z Competition 2014” held by The Embassy of Canada in Hanoi and the Consulate General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City.
There were other challenges in Hamilton too. Language barrier and the cultural differences made me feel isolated during the first few months of my move to Hamilton. It took me at least two to three months to adapt to new ways of communication and a different culture.
However, during my first summer, I slowly started to explore downtown Hamilton and found it to be a very green and friendly city. Hamiltonians are very friendly and nice and the diverse cultural mix in Hamilton helped me to gradually fit in.
To improve my communication skills and understand more about the Canadian culture, I decided to engage with my community and volunteered at a number of different college initiatives. I found that the more I got involved, the more I felt comfortable with people. I still remember the first day I volunteered at Mohawk College; it was on Mohawk College Orientation Day. It took me about 15 minutes to walk around and calm myself before I could muster the courage to approach and help students who were confusedly looking at the school map.
Fortunately, I managed to get over my fear and start the conversation. Yes, on September 2, 2014, I said “Hi” to a stranger and I am proud of it!
My advice for other international students is: get involved! There is no better way to improve yourself academically and socially. There are many ways to get involved. It can be through your school, through community organizations or though the Global Hamilton Connect.
From my personal experiences, I can vouch for the value of volunteering. Volunteering has given me many opportunities to improve my team building skills as well as communication skills.
Because of my involvement with the community, I successfully won a ticket to the 2015 WEDay – a celebration of youth making a difference in their local and global communities. WEDay was the highlight for me that year!
I am excited to complete my program at Mohawk College. After my graduation, I would like to become a customer services representative in one of the five big banks in Canada. I want to work towards becoming a financial advisor and obtaining my CFP license. I chose the Financial Services Program at Mohawk College because I am passionate about how finances work and how it affect people’s lives.
I want a career in the business industry, which will also provide me with opportunities to help people. I am excited about the future and look forward to an interesting career!