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An unlikely teacher: what the pandemic taught me

When mapping out my journey as an international student and beyond, let’s just say a global pandemic was not on the list. As everyone around me knows, I spent years working towards my goal of studying in Ontario where I already had friends and acquaintances, but in the blink of an eye, I was blessed to somehow end up in Nova Scotia, where I knew no one (and no one I knew, knew about). This turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made, and in trying to focus on the positive in an otherwise gnarly situation, I like to think that COVID-19 fits in this story in an unexpected way. 

Despite being your average perfectionist and struggling with high-functioning anxiety, one recurring theme these past two years has been being open to new experiences. This was my approach when choosing to come to Nova Scotia, and it has been no different while adapting to COVID-19 times. From having a quiet Sunday birthday, followed by cancelled events, closed borders, online classes, limited job prospects, having to find new living accommodations, being away from my family, and—to top it off—my oldest sister and 6-year-old nephew testing positive for COVID-19, this global pandemic has been a lesson in adaptability and flexibility. Things changed in the blink of an eye but, taking a page from my own book, I accepted this challenge with arms wide open. After all, God has never taken me down a path that doesn’t lead to greater things and I am blessed to be able to shelter in place without the risk of going hungry or homeless. 

They say that the grand essentials of happiness are having something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. These three pillars have proved to be a lighthouse in the fog during these uncertain times. Leaning on my faith, having the support of the people in my life, and being able to be in a position to bring a sense of normalcy to my fellow international students has been instrumental in my ability to keep moving forward. The timely and unwavering support of the NSCC International team provided the stitches that were needed to seamlessly transition the efforts of the International Student Ambassador Program to an online platform. Ever since NSCC made the sensible decision to close all campuses to stop the spread of the virus, our team has continued to build community and keep all international students connected and engaged. Despite the circumstances, I’m glad that we’re able to bring a glimmer of hope through our online Facebook group, giveaways, the NSCC International Students FAQ, our webinars on mental health, and the support of our International Student Advisors and other collaborators. 

It goes without saying that the International Student Ambassadors have been the backbone of our Facebook group, as they’re the links that connect the different clusters of international students at NSCC. In my role as the Coordinator of the ISA Program, I have personally witnessed the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to plan events and activities for our students, so we weren’t happy about having to cancel all the events we had planned for the remainder of this year’s winter term. However, our International Student Ambassadors have continued to fulfill their goals and contribute to our online efforts with flying colours. It’s important to highlight that many of our ISAs are also essential workers, but at the end of the day, they still get on their computers to engage with other students with a smile on their faces.

I once read somewhere that if you can’t change the direction of the wind, you should adjust your sails. This may sound cliché to some, but it is very appropriate when you’re in Canada’s Ocean Playground. These past few weeks have not only been challenging because of the global pandemic, but also due to the events that have transpired in Nova Scotia. I’ve often heard people talk about the resiliency of international students, but I think this may be one of the similarities between us and Nova Scotians. Despite everything that has been happening, Nova Scotians still wake up every day and continue to sing, dance, and help each other in any way they can. 

Despite being a health crisis, COVID-19 has also been a catalyst for change and I like to think that some of these changes may be positive as this situation has given us some time to slow down and look at the bigger picture. As graduation approaches, I have gotten the chance to reflect on my journey so far and I realized that I probably wouldn’t have gotten all the wonderful opportunities that Nova Scotia has afforded me had I gone to another province. If given the chance, I would erase this virus from our history. As for everything else, I would do it all over again. 

Enilda Pérez,

ISA Program Coordinator 2019/2020

Graphic and Print Production student

Ivany Campus

Dominican Republic

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