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Débora Jesus: Enjoying all that Hamilton offers

Prepared by Naomi Ahmad, Volunteer, Global Hamilton Connect.     

Débora Jesus moved from Brazil to Canada and is now completing her masters at McMaster University. She loves how nature surrounds Hamilton, enjoys hanging out at James Street North, and hopes to live and work for Hamilton’s development. Here is Débora’s Hamilton story.


Débora Jesus

“I first came to Hamilton on an academic exchange program at McMaster University. I stayed in Hamilton from 2012 – 2013 and worked during the summer as a research assistant. After my graduation, I wanted to continue working with my supervisor and came back to McMaster University to do my masters in Communication and New Media.

When I first moved to Canada it was really hard for me to get use to Hamilton. I am from Sao Paulo, the biggest city in South America. So I wasn’t used to living in a city with so few people! However, when I went back to Brazil I couldn’t stand to live in a crowded place anymore. Now I really love and appreciate how Hamilton offers its residents the city life, as well as the experience of living surrounded by beautiful nature.

Initially, I found it a challenge to adapt to the Canadian educational system and the school year. In Brazil, I was used to having five to six months in a term, while the Canadian school term is only four months. The number of weekly assignments, my responsibilities as a teaching assistant, and my workload as a research assistant was very challenging; but at the same time also very rewarding.

My masters program has a small cohort. The fact that we are just a few students helped us to stay connected and share our experiences with each other. Besides this, I also got involved with the Organization of Latin American Students at McMaster University in order to keep practicing salsa and bachata. Allowing myself to have time for physical activities helped a lot with schoolwork.

Hamilton has so much to offer, but I’m definitely a fan of the waterfalls and all outdoor activities. This is one of the main reasons why I decided to come back to Canada.

Although I’m from a country with large forests, I never had the chance of experiencing nature like I do in Hamilton. At the same time, Downtown Hamilton has so many different stores. I love the coffee shops, art galleries, restaurants and clothing stores at James Street North!

My advice to other international students is to not be afraid. Hamilton is a welcoming city with affordable living costs and very friendly people. There are many international students that you can connect with at school and they can help you based on their experience. I also learnt a lot from my Canadian friends! My experience in Canada has definitely helped me become a better person.

After graduation I would love to stay in Hamilton. All the friends I’ve made since I moved here have become family for me. I would love to work here and help contribute to Hamilton’s economic development.”

Did you enjoy reading Débora’s Hamilton story? If you are an international student in Hamilton, share your experiences and be featured in our new series of international student profiles. Submit your story here.

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Phuong Hoang: Making Hamilton Home

Prepared by Naomi Ahmad, Volunteer, Global Hamilton Connect.        

Phuong Hoang moved from Vietnam to Canada last year. She is now completing her masters at McMaster University, volunteering in the community, and slowly making Hamilton her home. Here is Phuong’s Hamilton story.

Phuong Hoang

Phuong Hoang

“After working for over five years as a college lecturer in Vietnam, I felt like I needed to take a step forward in personal and professional development. I got the opportunity to join the masters program in Communications and New Media at McMaster University and am now completing my research. Before moving to Hamilton, I only thought of the city as a smaller version of Toronto. However, I gradually discovered lovely parts of Hamilton that the big city cannot offer.

When I first moved here, my biggest challenge was that I didn’t know anybody. However, I didn’t expect to get so much help from everyone either! My professors, new friends, the McMaster community and its extensive alumni network have given me many chances to establish my life and connect with others. I have made many wonderful friends in Hamilton. When I have free time, there is nothing I love more than going out for a walk, bubble tea or movie with friends.

Hamilton provides international students with useful resources that they can rely on and thrive on. Participate in activities and you will soon find this place your home. Right now, I am getting involved in volunteering opportunities in Hamilton, hoping to understand more about our community.

My advice for international students is to reach out. Sometimes you are afraid to ask for help, but you never know how much help you may receive. Get to know as many new people as you can, you will learn and grow.

After graduation, I would like to work in the fields of communication and media, or education and non-profits. I also have a passion for learning about new cultures and people. I have travelled to 25 countries and I hope to travel to as many countries as my age.”

Did you enjoy reading Phuong’s Hamilton story? If you are an international student in Hamilton, share your experiences and be featured in our new series of international student profiles.

Submit your story here.

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Ehima Osazuwa: Driving change in Hamilton

Prepared by Naomi Ahmad, Volunteer, Global Hamilton Connect.

Ehima Osazuwa moved from Nigeria to Canada more than five years ago. He is now the President of the McMaster Students Union and is a key figure driving change in Hamilton. Here is Ehima’s Hamilton story.

medium_Square_Ehima“When I first came to Hamilton as an international student, I thought the city was perfect – it was not too big, yet it is not too small and isolated like other cities. Moving to a new city is always a challenge. At first, I found that the transit in Hamilton was difficult to navigate, however, I had friends who had been here longer than I had been and they were kind enough to help me settle in.

While studying at McMaster University, I was looking for a way to get more involved in Hamilton and the opportunity to run for the president of McMaster Students Union opened up for me. I was interested in this opportunity, as the position allowed one to bring about positive changes to improve the lives of students. I decided to give this a shot and ran for presidency.

In 2015, I became the president of the McMaster Students Union. In my role, represent over 22,000 full time undergraduate students at McMaster University. I am glad to be able to say that I look out for the welfare of students and have been able to make positive changes in their lives.

I encourage others to take a chance with various leadership positions. There is no harm in trying out something new, the worst that can come out of it is that you will figure out what you do not like. The best that will happen is that you will find something that you are truly passionate about. Getting involved in extra-curricular activities – whether it’s with a sports team, student government, a club, or within the greater Hamilton community – is the best way to develop skills. There are numerous opportunities here at McMaster University and at Hamilton for you to grow as a person, have fun, and positively impact the lives of others.

Hamilton is a city with so much potential and great places to visit.  My advice to other international students is, explore Hamilton!

Whether it is one of the numerous waterfalls it has, the city’s vibrant nightlife or the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, there is something for everyone in the city to experience. I have had great memories in Hamilton but some of the best ones were of soccer matches at the Pan-Am Games hosted by the city. I was fortunate enough to attend a few of the games. The atmosphere in the stadium was mesmerizing and electric.

I have now graduated from the Chemical Engineering and Management program at McMaster University. I chose my program because I was always fascinated in improving the world by building and inventing things. Engineering offered me the chance to do so. In the future, I would love to pursue a career in politics, engineering or management. All that matters to me is that I am doing something I am passionate about and leaving a positive impact in the lives of people.”

Did you enjoy reading Ehima’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.

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Summer job opportunity: Business Development Intern

City of Hamilton’s Global Hamilton office is hiring a Business Development Intern for summer 2016.


Under the direction of the Senior Project Manager of the Global Hamilton Office, promotes business in Hamilton by providing information resources and consultation services that will enhance and increase small business in Hamilton. Responsible for consulting and outreach to support the Hamilton small business community, with a particular focus on local immigrant and ethnic communities.

Deadline to apply: February 22, 2016 by 4 p.m.

Submit your application to:

Sarah Wayland, PhD
Sr. Project Manager
City Hall, 71 Main St. W., 7th floor
Hamilton, ON L8P 4Y5

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Joseline Nicholas: Falling in love with Hamilton

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.

IMG_20160126_154616“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.

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My Winter video series

“My Winter” is a video series by Global Hamilton Connect featuring newcomers to Canada and their personal winter season reflections.

WHEN: Saturday, February 6, 2016; 3:30 – 5 p.m.
WHERE: Hamilton Waterfront Trust Theatre, 47 Discovery Drive

FREE event. No registration required.

This event is part of Tourism Hamilton’s Winterfest, Feb. 6-15. For full schedule of events and activities during Winterfest, click here.


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Henry Luan: Getting involved in Hamilton

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.

Henry Luan

Henry Luan

“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!

Did you enjoy reading Henry’s Hamilton story? If you are an international student in Hamilton, share your experiences and be featured in our new series of international student profiles.
Submit your story here.
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Pathways to Permanent Residency in Canada

It has been one year since the government has made major policy changes to the pathway to permanent residency in Canada. How have these changes impacted international students and other applicants seeking to stay? Come and hear Elizabeth Long speak on her last year working with PR applicants and her critical reflection on the efficacy of the Express Entry System in meeting Canada’s demand for skilled immigrants.

FREE event. Details below.

Monday, 25 January 2016 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (EST)

Hamilton City Hall – 71 Main St. West Hamilton, ON L8P 4Y5 CA

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“Be the change, you want to see in the world.”

Our exec member, Harin, addressed new citizens in a Canadian Citizenship Ceremony at Mohawk College on October 14, 2015

citizenship harin

HOla – Bonjour – Namaste – Ciao (Chow) – Assalamualaikum – Annyeonghaseyo – Sat sriaakal

Good Afternoon – ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Mohawk College Canadian Citizenship Ceremony.

Before I begin, I want to talk to you about family.

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam” – is a Sanskrit phrase which is an integral part of my Indian Culture. “vasudhāiva” means our earth indeed is; and “kutumbakam” means a family; meaning – “the world, indeed is one family”. It is a philosophy to foster an understanding that the whole of humanity is one family and everything is interconnected; the whole existence is one unity which my parents and teachers instilled in me at a very young age.

Bringing different cultures, ideas and backgrounds together allows us to develop new friendships, forge new beginnings and to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other.

East Indian by birth and a ‘Can’ Indian by heart, I moved to Canada as an International student to study Health Wellness and Fitness after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from India.

My core values of Empathy, Care and Respect helped me evolve as a global citizen through my education and understand my peers better.

Today I look around this theatre or any work place that I visit across Canada, or walk in any Canadian city – I see diversity. Diversity which makes me proud to live in a multicultural nation such as Canada.

Historically, Canada has proven to be a cultural mosaic. A mosaic – where citizens, – or global citizens, if I may say, coexist in a multicultural society, showcasing global citizenship on daily basis, celebrating that UNITY in Diversity. It is a wonderful time to live and work here and I congratulate you for your new beginning and thank you for the contribution that you bring with you, from your diverse backgrounds – be it your skills, your talents, or your customs – your Bravery – which it undoubtedly takes, along with enthusiasm, to embrace life in a new country – but I also want to thank you now for what you WILL contribute as you continue your life’s journey, here in Canada.

As Mother Teresa famously quoted,” It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” And I do believe, that Love is indeed a universal language which knows no boundaries

In my time here, I was involved in plenty of events, supporting my peers and student services as a student ambassador. I started to volunteer to learn the Canadian culture and to improve my interpersonal skills in various non-profit organizations, be it at the Canadian Red Cross Society helping seniors with “Meals on Wheels” program, or at the YMCA working with the children, as a cofounder of Mohawk Student Debate Club, or as a Human Book Speaker with Historica Canada, I have been an active contributor at Mohawk and the Brant – Hamilton community alike, speaking and sharing (spreading) that universal language of Love.

In addition to working for Mohawk International, assisting our international students successfully integrate into the college, I also head the Community and Outreach subcommittee for Global Hamilton Connect as one of the 8 founding members, enabling international students and young newcomers to be fully aware of and have access to opportunities to live, work, and play in our ‘Ambitious’ city – Hamilton.

So on this auspicious day, let’s be ambitious and pledge to change ourselves from spectators into participants as Mahatma Gandhi famously quoted, “Be the change, you want to see in the world”.

On behalf of my Mohawk family and Global Hamilton Connect, I’d like to extend a warm welcome and congratulate you all on your new beginning.

Thank you.

Harin Dalal
Mohawk College International

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International student profile series

There are many international students that call Hamilton “home.” No matter where they are from, international students bring with them a wealth of experiences and perspectives to the city.
We invite you to share your experiences, interests and work in this series of international student profiles. We hope that you will take this chance to talk about your background, your experiences in Hamilton as well as advice for fellow international students.

Upon submitting your responses, a writer will contact you to follow up. Submissions will be published on Global Hamilton Connect’s website.

If you have any questions, please contact Global Hamilton Connect at

Thank you for your submission. We look forward to sharing your stories.