By Tara Deschamps
Speaking to a crowd of about 300 international students at Ryerson University on Thursday, Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam encouraged students to fall in love with Toronto.
“I want you to fall in love with the city,” she said. “I want you to fall in love with the neighbourhood.”
Wong-Tam— an immigrant from Hong Kong — was a special guest at Ryerson’s welcome party for international students hosted by the university’s International Student Services (ISS).
The annual event featured food, games lead by Ryerson president Sheldon Levy and a Polynesian dance performance, and allowed students from the 110 countries represented on campus to meet one another.
“It’s a busy time and a new student would naturally feel lonely and scared,” said ISS coordinator Diana Ning. “With this event, we want to tell students around the globe that they are welcome [at Ryerson].”
Sonia Urmee, a third-year architecture student from Bangladesh, said the event is like frosh for international students.
“International students are new to a country so this is like a first step,” she said. “They get to interact with new people and some from their own country.”
Huner Sharma, a first-year aerospace engineering student from India, said she thought attending the event would help her adjust to being at university away from home.
“It’s important for us (international students) to feel comfortable before we start with our courses,” Sharma said. “We are new here and everything is new so it’s important to meet people from different countries and speak to them.
Sharma is one of the estimated 1400 international students at Ryerson— a number that has been steadily increasing each year.
In fact, Wong-Tam said, “when you walk down the street or down the hallway at Ryerson University, every second person you pass came to Toronto from another country.”
It’s these international students that Wong-Tam also attributes with bringing diversity to Ryerson and Toronto.
“In today’s global-based economy, diversity is the energy. It’s the renewable energy that drives creativity and innovation,” she said. “It’s the essential ingredient for success.”
PHOTO: Mohamed Omar