I left home to pursue my dreams. But little did I know that returning home would become my ultimate dream. Each memory of my footsteps back home fills me with a restless longing.
From Night 1 to Night 365, I immersed myself in fantasies of achieving my goals and dreams, striving for self-improvement to ensure every task counted. As an international immigrant, especially as a student, my mission was clear: to represent my homeland with pride and honour, making my loved ones thousands of miles away proud, but most importantly, making myself proud.
Concordia University of Edmonton is almost the size of a high school, yet it holds a prominent place in the city of Edmonton, where I now reside. Edmonton, while not the brightest city, is my new home, nestled near downtown, which can sometimes be a bit shady. The distance from Edmonton to my hometown, Dhaka, spans approximately 11,000km.
My major is Psychology, and the first year introduced me to basic courses that piqued my interest. I eagerly anticipate the challenges ahead. The professors and faculty I have encountered so far have been both fun and supportive.
The institution allows students to evaluate their professors at the end of each semester, which I found really significant, as it indicates that the institution truly cares about its resources.
The library isn't always the busiest spot on campus. People are engrossed in their devices, buried in books, sneaking in a power nap, or indulging in midday snacks while watching something on their phones.
One of the most engaging aspects of university life is the various clubs. Students join them to forge new friendships, become active participants in the university legacy, or organise events, all of which serve as a recipe for skill development.
International students are pretty much everywhere, as we get to meet them in clubs in universities, university courses, at jobs and so on. As of 2023, it's evident that Canada's economy depends on international students, contributing as much as 23% of its revenue to colleges and universities.
The transition from a third-world country to a first-world one is not without its challenges. Cultural shocks, adapting to local laws and systems, and weather adjustments were part of my early struggles.
However, despite a rough start and grappling with accommodation and other new life issues, pieces of hope slowly started to come back together. Working a minimum-wage job didn't seem so bad after all.
Adapting to a busy schedule made me feel like a fully independent adult, responsible for everything I had never encountered before. Multitasking and managing it all made me connect with the real world outside.
My day may not always begin with the most optimistic thoughts, but once I'm in the flow, it keeps my inner drive alive. Whenever I encounter someone from Bangladesh, whether from my institution or another, or even those who migrated here decades ago, an unexplained sense of connection and a grin come naturally.
My admiration and affection for my Bangladeshi university classmates and other close friends who have made the journey to Canada double in an instant.
While Canada may not have fundamentally changed me as a person yet, except for acclimating to its winters, it has exposed me to the real world at an early stage, an experience I might never have had if I had stayed back home for further studies.
Navigating my battles, fighting demons, and occasionally shedding tears, have propelled me forward. My new life has taught me to find the silver lining in everything, to be more grateful for what I have, as we often fail to appreciate something's true value until it's gone.
Over the past 365 days, every event on the calendar that I once celebrated with friends and family back home has struck a chord deep within me. Scrolling through my gallery and reminiscing with friends through technology is all I can do now.
As I bid farewell to my debut year, it's time to infuse more enthusiasm into this ongoing journey, rather than feeling depressed. I'll make the most of every moment, continue creating cherished memories, and store them for my next stage of life when I'll inevitably miss these days.
Md Ahnaf Shahrier Rahman moved from Bangladesh to Canada, to pursue his bachelor's degree. As he enters his second year at Concordia University of Edmonton, he reflects on his debut year abroad.