Prepared by Naomi Ahmad, Volunteer, Global Hamilton Connect.
Joseline Nicholas moved from Malawi to Canada five years ago. Since then, she has volunteered, formed lasting friendships and fallen in love with Hamilton. She is now studying at Wilfrid Laurier University and is looking forward to working for Hamilton. Here is her Hamilton story.
“I came to Hamilton alone, at the age of 19. It was my first time so far away from my family; I barely knew anyone in Hamilton and felt terribly lonely. My English was poor and so it was difficult for me to go out and engage in conversations. I remember spending the first few holidays alone in my room.
I also had very little idea about winter in Canada and no one to really explain how to dress. I actually learnt how to dress in layers for the cold weather from one of my professors during my first year at McMaster University! I was in a night class and my professor noticed how I came to class under-dressed for the weather. Knowing that it was my first Canadian winter, he took me aside and explained how I have to dress in layers and buy appropriate winter clothes to keep warm.
While studying, I started volunteering with McMaster University and the city of Hamilton. I became a member of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), an organization that sponsors refugee students to come and study at McMaster University. I also worked with the International Student Services (ISS) at McMaster University. The list of organizations that I worked and volunteered with is endless; but the point I am making is that I got a chance to practice and improve my English through these opportunities. The friends I have made volunteering and working in Hamilton have now become family.
I have two pieces of advice for other international students. First, get involved and volunteer! People in Hamilton are super friendly and getting involved in different activities helps to make friends. Second, be PROUD of speaking English as a second language. When I first moved here, my English was not as smooth. I had a strong accent and I felt very conscious of it. However, after I started getting involved in different activities at McMaster, I became more confident and I realized that having an accent is not a weakness. It is actually a strength! Now I do not mind having an accent; it just means I can speak more than one language!
I love Hamilton because it is such a multicultural city. I meet regularly with a group of Christian students at McMaster University and other community members. This has been important to help me settle in Hamilton. Being able to maintain my faith in a different country is just one of the reasons why I absolutely LOVE Hamilton!
After my graduation from McMaster University, I am now enrolled in the Masters of Arts in Business Economics program at Wilfrid Laurier University. I enjoy economics – growing up in a developing country, I have always wondered why some countries were rich while others were poor, why standards of living were higher in some countries and lower in others.
Economics answers some of the questions I have about factors that contribute to a country’s economic growth. I love economics because it is challenging, yet rewarding at the same time. I enjoy coming up with economic solutions to solve various problems faced by the world today.
After I graduate I would love to work for Hamilton. I will look for opportunities to work with the City of Hamilton’s Economics Department or any other department that would benefit from my skills and expertise. I look forward to contributing to Hamilton and building up this wonderful city!”
Did you enjoy reading Joseline’s Hamilton story? If you are a current or former international student in Hamilton, share your experiences and be featured in our new series of international student profiles. Submit your story here.