By Melissa Salamo
Despite having no funds for post-secondary education, Abhi Raheja, a first-year journalism student from India, made his dream of becoming a Ryerson University student a reality.
Raheja arrived from the small town of Hisar this school year, which is about a two day travel away, to begin his studies at Ryerson this fall.
He decided to apply to Ryerson because it was his dream to attend what he considers “the best journalism school” in Canada. However, applying was not the most difficult part about achieving his dream.
“My dad’s business collapsed last year and he went through a major financial crisis. His business partners took away his assets and all his savings,” Raheja said. “It was my time to start looking for universities and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to go to university.”
Raheja then took the initiative to start an online fundraiser and reach out to businesses and government agencies in India for financial support. The federal education minister of India was one of many to reply recognizing Raheja’s hard work.
After also receiving an entrance scholarship from Ryerson, he had finally collected enough money to pay for his tuition.
“A lot of people didn’t want me to come study in Canada. They thought that if I actually got here I would become a more successful person than them,” Raheja said. “It became about me proving to the world that if I can dream something, I can do it.”
He said that just like a lot of people back home, he was very curious about what life in North America would be like. This curiosity, he said, actually made his transition smoother.
“I had gotten so obsessed with this dream of mine that I would spend hours and days and weeks researching about life in Toronto, so when I came here there wasn’t really a cultural shock,” Raheja said.
Over any materialistic thing back home, Raheja said he feels the most difficult part of leaving India was saying goodbye to his mother and his best friend. He said he is waiting to build a new life here so that he can bring them to live in Canada as well.
Although Raheja said he is feeling well integrated into the city, but he has faced other challenges besides his financial burdens.
“There still are people in this country, I feel, who have negative feelings towards immigrants, who think we don’t deserve as much as other Canadian workers,” Raheja said.
He is currently working at a restaurant to make ends meet. Raheja said a lot of his Canadian colleagues have gotten increments in their salaries as well as job promotions, but he has not.
“They’re not really concerned…because at the end of the day they probably think of me as a ‘brown boy’ who is just cleaning dishes,” Raheja said.
However, he said he sees situations like these as learning experiences and as opportunities to grow as an individual.
Raheja’s advice to international students is to leave behind preconceived judgements and push towards making connections with people outside of their own culture.
“As an international student you should be ready to learn the new culture and lifestyle,” Raheja said. “You can only find yourself when you visit these different doors.”