Graduate Sirhaan Bhanji tells us about his experience as an international student at uLethbridge. Sirhaan came to Canada from Tanzania and made the most of his undergraduate studies in Canada.
What is your most memorable uLethbridge experience?
Academically, my most memorable experience was the final project in my Training & Development course with Dr. Richard Perlow. He had us prepare for a two-hour Training Presentation where we had to bring awareness to the class audience on how to network effectively. We had to create two different scenarios and film ourselves enacting in a networking event showcasing what should and should not be done when speaking to industry professionals.
Non-academically, my most memorable experience would be when we were able to register a soccer team for the uLethbridge soccer intramurals. I remember how my friend, Sareena Kassam volunteered to give some of us a ride to and from the venue. We even made it to the knockout stages, only for the pandemic to cancel the tournament. Nonetheless, it gave me a chance to know my soccer mates more closely and create unforgettable memories.
Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your uLethbridge experience?
There are a few individuals who had an important influence on my experiences at the university. Dr. Richard Perlow being one; he always imposed an open-door policy. Whether it was for seeking help with an assignment or just for having a conversation, he would always welcome me warmly. He also offered some advice for any of the upcoming courses I had enrolled for which proved to be beneficial in my success.
International Student Advisors, Claire and Karis, also played a big role in my success at the university. They offer immense support to all the international students. They definitely made me feel like I am at home, despite being a thousand miles away from home. They gave me some tips about Canadian culture and how to deal with the harsh winters of Canada.
Finally, my mates from the soccer field had an important influence on me. Playing soccer with them on Sundays helped relieve any school work stress I had and we also managed to put together a soccer team which consisted of international students for the uLethbridge soccer intramurals. I was able to captain the team throughout the tournament and received a great deal of support from my co-captains, Tanzim Haque, Abed Mouslli, and Mahfooz Azeez, and all my other teammates.
What is the most important lesson you learned?
University is all about making the right connections, being disciplined, and adaptable. The Canadian education system is different from the one in Tanzania, and so if I was not able to adapt to the demands of having to work on multiple deadlines at a go, I would for sure have failed in my endeavors. By being disciplined, I was able to create a strict plan for myself on how I would tackle the upcoming week and set certain goals to be achieved in a specific time. Lastly, it is very important to make the right connections because it can make or break your experiences. Joining a club or volunteering for events will definitely go a long way. Also attending networking events is one way to get yourself recognized and make your post-university experience easier.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
It was unfortunate due to the ongoing pandemic that I could not get an opportunity for doing a co-op in my field. I now plan to continue to network with individuals across different industries and allocate some time for volunteering activities. I hope to find a position in the field of Human Resources in the near future, where I will be able to invest my firm course knowledge combined with my work experience to help my potential employer reach their goals and vision.
What advice would you give to students who are about to begin their post-secondary journeys?
The next four or five years are very crucial for your professional life. My advice would be to continue networking and try to allocate time for volunteering activities. It is important to be adaptable as no one strategy will work every time. Get familiar with your professors and always ask how you can improve. There will be days where you feel like quitting and that is the real test, if you can show resilience through that moment then your post-secondary journey will be easier than you think. Always remember there is no substitute for hard work.
Did you receive scholarships during your time at uLethbridge, and if so, how did they help you?
I was fortunate enough to receive an International Continuing Award (2019) and Students' Union Quality Initiatives Scholarship (2019). These awards helped me a great deal in paying for a few courses' tuition. It made me feel confident in the efforts I had invested so far in my journey. It is clearly an indication that you are doing something right and that you need to keep working hard in order to get the right results.
How did studying in Canada at uLethbridge change you or change your life?
University of Lethbridge was the only university that offered me a second degree program. The university saved me a great deal of time and money.
Thanks to the support system I built at the university through professors, advisors, friends and family, I was able to adjust to the Canadian education system fairly quickly.
I also received valuable advice from peers and mentors. I am now able to use my firm course knowledge from uLethbridge and contribute to almost any endeavour I engage into. I can also advise my parents on how to recruit better talent for their business back in Tanzania. Studying in Canada and uLethbridge has definitely made me a better, more capable and independent version of myself and I am ever grateful for that.