The chance to go abroad is something many people dream of. Whether it’s just for a short-term visit or to permanently set down roots, the appeal of experiencing the unknown is something many fantasize about. For some, like Paulette Brindis, this dream has become a reality. Brindis is an international student from Querétaro, Mexico who is currently studying at Edmonton’s MacEwan University.
As Brindis explains, “I wanted to study outside of Mexico for university… Originally I wanted to go to Germany, but at the time I didn’t speak German, so I couldn’t do that.” As she researched the possibility of studying overseas, Brindis discovered that her Mexican passport made it tough to go to Europe. “Because I have a Mexican passport, I would have to pay a lot of money to go to Europe. Like they ask you for a financial guarantee, so that was not doable.” The United States (US) was also an option, however it too was expensive. “I’ve lived in the US before as an exchange student when I was 16, so my other option was the US, but it was insanely expensive. So I was like okay, Canada is a good option now.”
Brindis had visited Canada before and was happy to consider it as an option for university. “I like Canada. I had been here before when I was 11 with my parents. I went to Toronto, but I still thought it was very nice. Canadians are really open and there’s a lot of immigration here in Canada, so I’ve experienced a lot of warm people here toward that.”
So how did Brindis come to choose MacEwan University from all of the possible universities available in Canada? “I was looking into other universities, and I really liked MacEwan’s program, because I originally wanted to go into journalism, but I wasn’t sure yet because I still wanted to do communications. So the way MacEwan’s program was, with like a major in communication but also minor in journalism, was perfect for me.”
Overall, Brindis has thoroughly enjoyed her experience as an international student. “I like being an international student. I’ve met a lot of international students, and you can kind of relate with each other, which is pretty nice.” Being away from her family, however, has created some homesickness for Brindis “You do miss your family; like there’s a point where you’re like, okay it’s someone’s birthday today, or its Independence Day, and you see pictures of everyone being together and then it’s only you who isn’t there. Like my grandfather died and it’s like everyone is at the funeral together and I couldn’t be there with them. I think like those times is when you struggle the most being away from family and from people you know. So that gets pretty sad and lonely. But other than that, I’ve loved being an international student so far.” Since starting her studies at MacEwan, Brindis has been back to Mexico to visit twice. “I’ve been there once during the summer and once during the winter, and this year I’m going during the winter again.
When it comes to the notorious Canadian weather, Brindis explains that nothing can really prepare one for minus 40-degree weather. What she found the most challenging, however, was the reduction in sunlight during the winter months. “Mexico is super sunny. We have sun all the time, even in winter. So here, when the sunset is at 3 PM and the sun rises at 9 AM, it’s like super depressing… but I think now I’m used to it.”
Although she has enjoyed her time as an international student, she does wish some things were different. In her experience, the required paperwork was cumbersome and she wishes that there was less focus on the type of passport one travels with. “I think it’s still a little racist because I had to struggle a lot because I’m from Mexico and it’s not equal. Like I have friends from Lebanon that also struggled a lot because they have a Lebanese passport, but they are just like you and me, they’re all the same.”
If Brindis has learned anything from her experience as an international student, it is this, “If I have anything to say to someone going abroad, I will say completely do it. It’s amazing. You learn a lot about yourself, and that changes you as a person, and you get to grow a lot. So if anyone is thinking of going abroad for your studies or even just as an exchange student, I would completely advise to do it.”
As for her plans following graduation, Brindis plans to remain in Canada for the foreseeable future. “I don’t want to go back to Mexico. I love my country, and it will always have a special place in my heart, but I think Mexico is not for me anymore.” Brindis explains that due to how dangerous Mexico currently is, with journalists and women being murdered, she feels better knowing that she can find a career, and potentially permanent residency, here in Canada.
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