Life is non-linear and realizing this sooner can take you a long way and give you a distinct perspective in life that brings out the best in you!

Graduate Mahfooz Azeez (BSc Co-op '22) tells us about his experience as an international student at the University of Lethbridge. Mahfooz came to Canada from Kerala, South India, and made the most of his studies in Canada. He will receive his BSc in computer science and geographical information science this spring.

What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?

It is hard to think of only one. Academically it has to be the milestone of securing 3 co-operative education internships in 3 consecutive years out of which two of them were self-initiated, which as an international student, I consider especially incredible. The Co-operative Education department including Jasminn Berteotti, Lynette Harty, and the rest of the team assisted me in finding and securing a job in Canada; all my gratitude towards them. This lead me to be the Co-op Brand Ambassador in Fall 2020. Another memorable experience would be attending Dr. Derek Peddle’s remote sensing field technique course and Dr. Craig Coburn’s spatial modelling course which provided me with a practical and hands-on experience for my academic studies. For leisure, all I could think of was Sunday soccer with my soccer friends at the University. We played every Sunday regardless of weather conditions. We organized a Futsal tournament in Fall 2019. Prior to Covid-19, I was co-captain of an intramural soccer team with my fellow players Sirhaan Bhanji, Tanzim Haque, Abdulla Mouslli, Kudus Ariwoola, and others. I will miss the Sunday Funday time!

Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?

Firstly, I would like to thank my parents and my siblings for their relentless motivation, encouragement, support, criticism, and guidance during my university studies. Secondly, I would like to thank my professors for their encouragement and for channelling a career path for me during my time at the University.

Most importantly, my friends at the University played a huge role and gave me fantastic memories that will last longer than my student loans! LOL!

I would like to take this opportunity to show special gratitude towards my International Student Advisors- Imarú Baquero, Karis Dykstra, and the rest of the team. Ima and her team were compassionate, kind, and responsive to questions regarding study permits, post-grad permits, and other general inquiries. Also, my academic student advisors in the Faculty of Arts & Science, Jennifer McArthur and Carla Buziak, assisted and guided me in planning the program and updating my program guide when courses were not being offered. They were helpful and supportive and helped me graduate without delay.

Finally, I would like to thank my good friends at the Agility Innovation department, Brandy Old, Ashif Rahman, Kevin Roelofs, and Layla Lahiji for organizing workshops on emerging technologies in Spring 2020.

What is the most important lesson you learned?

No matter how hard you get hit in life, one has to be resilient to bounce back with a fighting spirit and keep pushing forward. Life is non-linear and realizing this sooner can take you a long way and give you a distinct perspective in life that brings out the best in you! Most importantly, it is the people that matter most. It is understood that University studies pressure and stresses you out during exam times. But if you have the right network of people around you, the ship can sail smoothly amidst the tough tides. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainties and leveraged distinct dynamics in terms of studies and work. I have learned to be flexible and adaptable to the changes and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Finally, I am mastering the art of patience and perseverance to get stuff done. There is a time for everything and everything in its time!

What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I am a live-in-the-moment person and enjoy little things in life. The pandemic has thrown a lot of things up in the air and made planning a challenge. Having said that, professionally I am aligning more towards being an analyst in the data field related to my discipline and hopefully climb up the ladders. Furthermore, having professional experience in distinct industries during my program, I am positive and optimistic to find an opportunity soon amidst the pandemic.

Personally, I plan to be a better human by being kind and compassionate as there is very little competition and a lot of opportunities!

What advice would you give to students who are about to begin their graduate studies journeys?

My quick reflection on the last three and a half good years has taught me one of the best life lessons in Canada that I would like to pass on. University studies have a lot of uncertainties and challenges for upcoming students.

Seek support for assistance and make use of the resources that are available at the University.

Always, keep your family close by as they are your backbone and support for your success. Secondly, chase after opportunities as they don’t come your way, and you have to hunt them down. Finally, always have the fire inside you and remember the reason why you planned to pursue university studies in the first place. I would highly encourage you to make a good friends circle and encourage you to work in a team environment, apply for Co-op programs, and spend time volunteering. Having said that, do enjoy your university experience to the fullest so when you look back 10 years down the line, you know that you have lived one of the best times of your life!

Did you receive scholarships during your time at uLethbridge, and if so, how did they help you?

I was fortunate enough to receive the Alexander Barnhill Bursary in Spring 2019 prior to finding work in Canada. Though I had family support, the bursary was means of survival and personal savings during the harsh extreme weather in Canada. It is said that you learn the value of eye’s when you lose them. Now I plan to pay it forward. My best friend and good samaritan Fatima Liaqat gave me the idea. Inspired by the passion and resilient nature of my grandma who I watched while growing up throughout her life in Kerala, South India, I plan to create the NAFEESA Resilience Award. I am working closely with the scholarships and advancement departments hoping to see the award listed on the University website soon.

This would be one my happiest moments, one that I can cherish for the rest of my life!

How did studying in Canada at ULethbridge change you or change your life?

University studies and life in Canada have made me very resilient altogether. Having a prior degree made the transition smooth for me and there were a lot of lessons learned during my studies. Having a good friend circle is crucial, both for academics and for leisure. I was fortunate enough to have study buddies and playtime buddies. Being a people person, having a connection with them was important for me. Secondly, I talked to professors, attended workshops and sessions, and developed hard and soft skills thanks to the events hosted at the University. Studying in Canada has embraced the grit in me and I looked forward to challenges and ways to tackle them during my time at the University.

I see Canada as a land of opportunity, and I am eternally optimistic and excited to see what the future holds for me!

Congratulations Mahfooz!

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