When Sheridan’s international students wheel their suitcases into the arrivals hall at Pearson International Airport, they’re greeted with their first taste of Canada – images of the CN Tower; announcements in English and French; and weather reports heralding sun – or snow. But what’s beyond the doors to the parking lot? Which bus takes them to campus? What will classes be like? How will they make friends?
Ganesh Neelanjanmath and Reshma Banu have the answers. Both alumni came to Sheridan from India, and they’re using that experience to help others.
Neelanjanmath is the founder of iCent, an app that helps international students get information on life at postsecondary schools in Canada.
Things like tuition costs, how to find housing, get health insurance and submit their government-issued study permits electronically. It’s a friendly app, too. It sends a notification welcoming students to Canada once their plane lands, and students can link up with fellow users to chat. Neelanjanmath says making the app personal was important because he remembers the loneliness of starting life in a new land.
“I walked the (arrivals) ramp. I looked left and right to see if somebody I knew was there. It was a little odd feeling.”
“I think the great thing about Sheridan is that it’s so multicultural and the students here understand where I’m coming from.”
Banu knows plenty about feeling isolated in a new place, too. She was seven years old when she emigrated from India to New York City, where she was bullied for looking and sounding different. Five years later, she moved back to India, where her Western accent and customs now made her a foreigner at home. She crossed the globe again to study in Sheridan’s Immigration and Refugee Worker stream of the Social Service Worker program because she wanted to use that experience to help others who have left home. As a student, she was a peer mentor and started the International Students’ Association at Davis Campus because no matter where students come from, they all face the same challenges.
“They had the same problems of integrating, the same culture shock, the same isolation, the same homesickness,” she says. “It brought back memories for me, and I (thought), well I’m in a position where maybe I can help.”
Today, Banu is an International Services Coordinator in customer service at Sheridan’s International Centre, answering questions from current students, as well as those who are still at home, about things like program courses they’ll take. She also tries to link people with resources they may need because she knows they’ll all feel at home at Sheridan.
“I think the great thing about Sheridan is that it’s so multicultural and the students here … they understand where I’m coming from. All these people are different, but they still understand me.”