By: Justin Humphries
Venturing into a foreign land can be an exciting or scary experience, but for Jose Antonio Alvarez Fierro, it is a way to start a new life.
Fierro, an international student from Spain, is currently on his second trip in Canada. Now 39-years-old, it has been 18 years since his last visit.
Fierro worked as a journalist in Spain for 11 years. In 2001 he owned an online newspaper which was eventually awarded 3rd place for freelance papers in Spain.
“I sold my paper in 2011,” said Fierro. “The economy in Spain isn’t doing so well. I decided to sell my paper so I could move here with my wife and start a new life.”
According to Fierro, the Canadian lifestyle is ideal for living and starting a family. Not only is it a safe country, but we enjoy many social services such as free health care.
“It’s great to be able to go anywhere and have people you’ve never met smile on the streets,” said Fierro. “I love Spain, but I feel like the people there have lost their heads. It’s all about how many cars you own or how many houses you own. In Canada, people will be happy with a more modest life.”
Although a lot of people see the weather as a negative, Fierro doesn’t mind the chilling Ottawa winters. To him, it’s all comes with the experience of living in Canada.
“The cold doesn’t bother me,” said Fierro. “You can’t exactly take more clothes off in public if it’s too hot, but you can always put something on to deal with the cold.”
Although the weather isn’t a negative factor to Fierro, it isn’t surprising he’s in the minority. Nini Wang, a student from China, isn’t so sure if she came at the right time of year.
“Some friends told me that this year has been much colder than the last years, so I guess I’m lucky?” said Wang with a laugh. “I had to shovel my homestay mom’s driveway, and I thought it would be fun, but it wasn’t at all. My back hurt for like a week.”
Wang is currently studying events management and serves as a mentor for other Chinese students who are having trouble fitting in. Since she studied in Malaysia before coming to Canada, she was put into an English friendly environment and learned the language quickly.
According to Wang, stores in China close much later than they do in Canada.
“Unlike Ottawa the shopping malls will close very late in Beijing,” said Wang. “Most places here will close around 6 p.m. and it drives me crazy.”
For Wang, Ottawa is a quiet place compared to China. She is looking forward to her chance to visit downtown when the weather warms up.
“Ottawa doesn’t have that large of a population and most places don’t feel so crowded,” said Wang. “I really like the quiet lifestyle of Canada, and I’m the kind of person that blends in well.”
Ankush Aggarwal, and event management student from India, has been in Canada for 3 months. According to him, every day he learns something new about Canadian culture.
“I want to travel the world and experience different cultures,” said Aggarwal. “Canada feels a little easier to live in than I thought it might be, since I see students and people from India all over Ottawa.”
Aggarwal also found some things surprising about the way students here live. He couldn’t believe it when several Algonquin students didn’t have financial support from their parents.
“People in Canada in general are more independent than they are in India,” said Aggarwal. “There are a lot of students here working part-time jobs while also attending school. I couldn’t imagine doing that much work.”
Hamza Siddiqui, another student from India, studies international business management and comes from Mumbai, which is the most densely populated city in the world. Coming to a much smaller city was a big change for him.
“It is true that Ottawa has the best shawarma in the world,” said Siddiqui. “Being from Mumbai the amount of people made every day feel like a holiday, so it was surprising to see so few on the streets of Ottawa. Later I realized the reason was winter.”
Siddiqui loves to party with his friends, but it was really surprising to see how young the people he was partying with were.
“It was really surprising to see people crossing the bridge and going to Hull,” said Siddiqui. “I’m sure everyone here thinks this but what’s the point of having different ages if Ottawa is right next to Quebec?”
“Through my English and accent it was difficult for my classmates to understand me,” said Siddiqui. “Everyone in Canada has been extremely supportive of me. Coming here all alone and studying has been an experience I will remember forever.”