Nour Kanaa, valedictorian for the Teachers of English as a Second/Foreign Language (TESFL), is pleased with her time at Algonquin. Photo credit: provided by source

Nour Kanaa wants people to know that starting from scratch is really difficult.

But her in case, having a clear goal has helped her to stay focused on what she wants to do in life. As the valedictorian for the Teachers of English as a Second/Foreign Language program at convocation this fall, this was message she had for her fellow students.

Kanaa, 22, was born in Syria and went to elementary school and some of high school there. But when the war began, she and her family had to moved to Saudi Arabia for safety. There she was able to complete high school, but could not apply to university.

Instead she started taking online courses and teaching herself social sciences and health sciences. She eventually completed one semester of university there, but stopped because she had to move again to Canada with her family.

That was two years ago. She wanted to pursue an undergraduate degree but her background in English wasn’t very strong so she had to study English first. Algonquin College was the best choice to improve the skills that she needed before taking an undergraduate program.

“I remember when I first started, I was so overwhelmed,” said Kanaa, who speaks Arabic as her first language. “I thought I wouldn’t succeed in the course because I didn’t take the previous level as my friends. Starting from level 2 was overwhelming for me but as time went by, things got better and I started to feel like I can do it.”

Because Kanaa has always liked reading books, so she didn’t have difficulties in terms of reading. Speaking English on the other hand, was a challenge for her because she didn’t have the opportunity to communicate with anyone in English. All of her friends speak Arabic, so she didn’t really have to use the language until she moved here to Canada.

At Algonquin, Kanaa made many new friends along the way. She found the diversity and the supportive environment was very interesting in her program.

“During my study period, I met so many people from different cultures and backgrounds,” she said. “I learned about the Canadian culture as well as so many different cultures that were all new to me. This helped me to understand, respect and embrace the differences between people.”

Reem Srour, one of Kanaa’s classmates from her program, enjoyed the convocation and her friend’s speech. “She did it perfectly,” Srour said. “Also, I agree that the teachers at Algonquin College have helped and supported us through our studying journey to succeed.”

Now that she has graduated from TESFL, Kanaa is currently a student at Carleton University and is taking neuroscience and mental health with a minor in American Sign Language.

“I’m so grateful because now I’m studying exactly what I wanted to study,” said Kanaa. “Starting at Algonquin College was a really good choice for me.”